A simple, cheffy technique turns vegetables and fruit from ho-hum to holiday.

By Food & Wine Editors
December 02, 2019

The point of holiday gatherings is, obviously, spending time in the charming company of loved ones and also Matt from the accounting department. When the food is good, that's great. When the food is thoughtful, special, and made with love—that's where the magic comes in. It doesn't take much to add a little dazzle to some party staples, just a few extra minutes and some top-quality ingredients.

Sarah Crowder

For example, rethink the crudite tray. There's nothing wrong with some cut-up vegetables and a bowl of dip, and guests are actually grateful for the brief respite from the endless parade of irresistible baked goods and blowout charcuterie boards. But a smart host can actually improve on nature's bounty in a few simple steps, by taking a tip from the pros.

Sarah Crowder

World-class restaurants like The Nomad and Eleven Madison Park use a simple trick to make vegetables the star of the show. Borrowing from the classic French combination of radishes, butter, and salt, the chefs enrobe perfect vegetables in clarified butter and sprinkle them with sea salt for a perfect one or two bite snack. We loved it so much, we took the technique home in a tinfoil swan to share with our own guests.

The method couldn't be simpler. Stack the deck in your favor by scouring the market for lovely, colorful, in-season fruits and vegetables. We used the classic radishes, and added vibrant radicchio leaves, and a rainbow of carrots, as well as lovely local apples and pears, but feel free to use what's fresh near you. Scrub the carrots and radishes, leaving the stems on so there's something to hold, and separate and wash the radicchio leaves. Let the vegetables soak in cold water while you tend to the butter.

Sarah Crowder

Grass-fed Irish Kerrygold butter is the ideal companion here, because with so few elements in the mix, each one has to be the best of the best. Melt the butter slowly in a double boiler, or float a metal pan in water on low heat, letting the butter soften. In a pinch, you can pop it in the microwave until it's just beginning to melt.

Take that off the stove and set it aside. Pat the vegetables dry, then dip them into the butter, leaving a little room at the top for guests to grab, and place them on a paper-lined baking sheet, taking care not to let them touch one another. Carefully place the tray into the freezer for a few minutes until the first coat has hardened, then repeat the dip-and-chill until the butter has built up to your liking. On the last coat, sprinkle flaky salt for crunch, and add any other seeds or spices you might like. Black sesame seeds are a visual treat, and smoked paprika brings a kiss of heat. Chill the vegetables and place on a pretty platter just before serving. Guests can pick them up at the unbuttered end, and eat the tops if they'd like.

Sarah Crowder

Apples and pears tend to brown quickly, so scrub and slice them right before dipping, and swap the salt for crunchy sugar, and whatever baking spices you'd like. They may be a bit trickier to pick up, so have a few cocktail picks at the ready. It's like a buttery, one-bite pie, and be prepared to see them at every party your guests throw throughout the season.

Sarah Crowder
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