Drinks · Sunday Family Dinner

A Week of Holiday Cocktails – The Spiced Apple Pie

The Spiced Apple Pie

I barely survived Thanksgiving weekend.

After a marathon meal and 18+ hours of Black Friday shopping (no, I’m not exaggerating), my sibs and I dived into a delish fall/harvest themed Family Dinner.

November 2013 Family Dinner

Since we were all consumed with preparing Thanksgiving dishes (times two for my sibs since they also had Thanksgiving with their in-laws), we wanted a menu that was pretty low maintenance.

For starters, we had a charcuterie and cheese platter to munch on. Then we moved on to roasted bone marrow – utterly decadent over toasted baguette slices and then topped with an herbaceous gremolata. For the entree, a slow-braised, saffron beef ragu. It’s a lovely spin on my seester’s delectable ossobuco that is slow cooked over a few hours. After the initial searing, you let the beef do it’s own magic with little babysitting. Perfect for recuperating shoppers. We served the rich ragu over a quick, yet utterly creamy parmesan polenta from Ina Garten.

The Spiced Apple Pie

To add some veggies to the dinner, I made a salad from dark hearty greens and topped them with homegrown pomegranates (from my seester’s in-laws) and thin starfruit slices from our mother’s old tree that now resides at our auntie’s house. I also threw in some Asian pear slices, goat cheese and a drizzle of a light Dijon based vinaigrette.

And for dessert (because there’s always room for dessert!), big sis made spiced-white wine poached Bosc pears that we enjoyed with vanilla ice cream. Quite a wonderful way to end the meal.

The Spiced Apple Pie

With a fall/harvest themed dinner, I created a cocktail that celebrated the flavors of the season. For this- and to kick off our Week of Holiday Cocktails, I’m delighted to share with you all the Spiced Apple Pie. It’s made from cider, warm spices and spiced rum. Truly apple pie in liquid form—with boozey goodness, of course 🙂

Another Family Dinner done and in the books and I can’t wait for December’s Family Dinner where all 5 Nguyen Siblings (and their fams) will be present! Totally a Win-Nguyen!

And here’s to the start of our Week of Holiday Cocktails!


The Spiced Apple Pie
Serves 2


8 ounces unfiltered, apple cider
2½ ounces dark spiced rum
½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
pinch ground allspice
pinch ground clove
dash vanilla extract
cinnamon sticks
apple slices

Fill a large cocktail shaker with ice and add all the ingredients except the cinnamon sticks & apple slices. Shake vigorously for 15-20 seconds and strain the contents between 2 glasses that have been filled with ice. Garnish with cinnamon sticks and apple slices. Cheers!

Condiments/Sauces · Sunday Family Dinner

Saffron Aioli

Saffron Aioli

I kind of blew it.

When I posted the recipe for my Croquetas de Chorizo with Saffron Aioli dipping sauce—I seemed to have left out the recipe for the aioli. DOH!

Croquetas de Chorizo

So here it is….


Quick, easy, deeply floral from the saffron and wonderfully creamy to dunk the croquetas in. And if you should find yourself with a bit leftover, it’s absolutely delicious in lieu of mayo in potato salads, deviled eggs, or even in sammies.

Just keep in mind that if you’re wary of eating raw yolks, you’ll want to use pasteurized eggs.

And with that–Happy Monday!


Saffron Aioli
Makes approximately 1½ cups


1 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 pinches saffron threads
½ tablespoon minced garlic
2 large egg yolks
½ tablespoon Dijon mustard
½ tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced parsley
2 pinches Spanish smoked paprika
kosher salt and black pepper

In a small bowl, place 1/2 cup olive oil and saffron threads. Stir and allow the saffron to steep for 15 minutes.

Add garlic, egg yolks, mustard and lemon juice into a blender. Pulse several times until the items have mixed together. Turn the blender on low and slowly stream in the saffron steeped olive oil. Stop to scrape down the sides and continue to blend on low to stream in the remaining olive oil Add the parsley, paprika and season with kosher salt and pepper as needed. Pulse to combine. Refrigerate, covered for at least 30 minutes before serving. Optional: Before service, sprinkle with additional parsley and a saffron threads.

Appetizers/Small Plates · Pork · Sunday Family Dinner

Croquetas de Chorizo & Our Tapas themed Family Dinner

Croquetas de Chorizo

Truth be told, my sibs and I have had to handle our share of road bumps these past few years. Things way out of our control—which is a real pain for a family full of Type A personalities.

We’re cute–but Type A through and through.

May 2013 Sunday Family Dinner-Tapas

So we started our monthly Sunday Family Dinners.

It gave us an opportunity to spend the day shopping for groceries, catching up, venting to each other, sipping cocktails, teaching the kids kitchen tips, gorging on food and well–just spending quality time together.

May 2013 Sunday Family Dinner-Tapas

We began by just throwing together menus of dishes we liked to eat and now it’s morphed into different monthly themes covering cuisines around the world. We’ve thrown caution to the wind creating dishes we’ve never attempted before with just the shells of recipes and our kitchen instincts. Pretty extensive menus if I do say so myself.

May 2013 Sunday Family Dinner-Tapas

We’ve had a lot of memorable times through our Sunday Family Dinners from a full-on Cajun Seafood Boil in the backyard to a small kitchen fire from roasting our Porchetta to a Japanese Spread that would probably even make my favorite sushi chef, Tenchu, smile.

May 2013 Sunday Family Dinner-Tapas

And before we knew it, our 1 year anniversary of Fam-Din had arrived. Unfortunately our brother and his fam couldn’t fly back from NY but our sis P was able to make the trip down.

To celebrate one year of delicious eats and new foodventures, we put together a scrumptious Tapas Dinner.

May 2013 Sunday Family Dinner-Tapas

We started off with a few pitchers of my Red Wine Sangria that had steeped overnight. This liquid goodness is no joke, Friends. Sweet, fruity, and packs a punch!


Next on the menu were Spanish Chorizo Stuffed Mushrooms.

Chorizo Stuffed Mushrooms

Spanish Chorizo gets its hue and rich flavor from the smoky Spanish paprika.

Chorizo Stuffed Mushrooms

Then came the Grilled Flank Steak drizzled with an herbaceous Salsa Verde.

Flank Steak with Salsa Verde

And then there were Baby Octopus seasoned with Spanish paprika, lemon zest, parsley and olive oil.

Baby Octopus with Paprika and Lemon

Did you know that when simmering octopus you should throw a wine cork in the pot to help tenderize it while still maintaining its toothsome texture? Supposedly it has something to do with the enzymes breaking down the octopus tissue.

Is it true? Um…not 100% sure but if European grandmas have been doing this for centuries–who am I to disagree?

Baby Octopus

Then we had the sleeper dish.

The dish we all underestimated and didn’t think much of until we took a bite– Saffron Clams. HOLY COW!

Of course big seester cooked the clams perfectly so that they were still wonderfully tender but it was the broth that was the kicker. Mind-blowingly fragrant and multi-layered from the saffron threads, white wine, lemon and herbs.

Total underdog and one of the MVPs of the night.

Saffron Clams

And what’s a Tapas dinner without Paella? This is a tried and true recipe we’ve done many times before but it’s just so-darn-wonderful!


And you know who prepared the Paella?

My 14 & 13 year old nieces– Nina and Nini!

Yup, I’ll wait while you scroll up and take another look at the Paella photo………..

Impressive, right?

May 2013 Sunday Family Dinner-Tapas

And because we all have quite a sweet tooth—other big seester made homemade Churros con Chocolate.

Crispy fried dough dunked into a rich chocolate sauce? YES, PLEASE!!!

Churros con Chocolate

As for me, my other contribution to our dinner were crispy Croquetas de Chorizo –because I’m the family’s Potato Monster.

Croquetas de Chorizo

To make these Spanish themed croquettes, I start off by mashing up a few boiled Russet Potatoes.

May 2013 Sunday Family Dinner-Tapas

After adding some spices, herbs, and other goodies, I begin forming the little potato logs and stuff them with Spanish Chorizo and cheese. Depending on how you get your Spanish Chorizo, you can either cube it, slice them, or even mince them up.

Croquetas de Chorizo

After the croquetas have been formed, toss them in the refrigerator so that they can chill and firm up. This helps them keep their shape during the frying process.

Croquetas de Chorizo

Next, enlist your 8 year old niece (like Maya) to help you dredge the croquetas. After they’re well coated, fry them until golden brown.

Don’t worry, I fried them 🙂

May 2013 Sunday Family Dinner-Tapas

Once golden brown, serve them up with this floral and rich Saffron Aioli.

Saffron Aioli

Was our Tapas Dinner delicioso? Absolutely!

But the best thing about it (other than hanging out with the Fam while sipping Sangria) is that the kids played such a huge role in the preparation of our dinner. Although it’s bittersweet to see them grow up so quickly, we’re all so proud of them!

May 2013 Sunday Family Dinner-Tapas

Moral of the story? When life gives you lemons–cook every delicious thing in the world with your family.

I can’t wait for what the next year has to come.

Now if I could only convince one of my seesters to let me to dig a hole in their backyard to make an imu to roast a pig. Wouldn’t that be rad??

This Month’s Family Dinner Menu

Cocktails: Red Wine Sangria
Appetizers: Croquetas de Chorizo with Saffron Aioli
Tapas: Baby Octopus, Grilled Flank Steak with Salsa Verde, Spanish Chorizo Stuffed Mushrooms, Saffron Clams, Paella
Dessert: Churros con Chocolate


Croquetas de Chorizo
Makes approximately 16 croquetas


3 medium sized Russett potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
3 eggs, divided
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons finely minced Italian parsley
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika, divided
¾ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
¼ teaspoon white pepper
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon onion powder
8 ounces cured Spanish Chorizo, diced
4 ounces shaved Manchego or Parmesan cheese
vegetable oil
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 cup flour
1 cup bread crumbs
chopped chives, to garnish

Add the potatoes to a large pot of water. Partially cover the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Carefully drain the pot and mash the potatoes (or put them through a ricer). Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

Beat one egg together with the olive oil. Add the mixture to the mashed potatoes with the parsley, 1/8 teaspoon paprika, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, ¼ teaspoon white pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. Mix until combined.

Take about a golf ball sized amount of the potato mixture into one hand. Flatten it out into your palm in an even, oblong shape that is about ¼ inch thick. Add a few pieces of the chorizo and cheese in the center. Mold the potato mixture into a log shape, folding the sides to enclose the filling. Place the croqueta on a large platter and repeat the process until all of the croquetas have been formed. Cover the platter with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.

Fill a large, heavy bottom pot with 2 inches of vegetable oil. Heat until the oil reaches 350 degrees F.

In a shallow dish, whisk together the remaining two eggs. Place the breadcrumbs and flour into two separate shallow dishes. Season the flour with the remaining kosher salt, paprika and black pepper.

Take one croqueta and dredge it into the flour. Gently shake off the excess flour before dipping it in the egg wash. Roll the croqueta in the bread crumbs and gently shake off the excess. Set aside. Continue dredging the croquetas until you have enough to fit in the frying pot.

Fry the croquetas for 3-4 minutes, turning them from time to time until they become golden brown. Remove the croquetas and drain them on a rack or plates lined with paper towels. Optional: Once they come out of the fryer, sprinkle the croquetas with additional paprika. Continue the process until all of the croquetas have been fried. Garnish with a sprinkle of fresh chives and serve with the Saffron Aioli.