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A fresh fall feast

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Creamy Pumpkin Polenta

FALL FLAVORS The Creamy Pumpkin Polenta from Peace Meals is a decadent dish that feels like fall. (Photo courtesy of the Junior League of Houston)

Cooking Buzz is produced in partnership with the Junior League of Houston, a women’s charitable and education organization founded in 1925.

It’s hard to believe that spring and summer have come and gone. Nothing has been normal this year. The last moment that I felt truly connected with the seasons was in March. Then the coronavirus stole our routines and celebrations. There was no big Easter brunch, Memorial Day barbecue or American flag-themed cake for the Fourth of July.

Celebrations help us navigate the present, and even if there isn’t a big guest list, they are more important than ever. With that in mind, let’s celebrate fall.

Not only are cooler temperatures here, but a new set of fresh flavors are available to grace our plates. From the garden comes pumpkin, butternut and acorn squash. In the Gulf of Mexico, fall is the best time for wild-caught redfish. Come November, fresh venison is on the menu.

Start the party off with a savory and sweet appetizer with Venison Meatballs in Sherried Chutney Sauce. The hot Italian sausage mixes with the venison to create simple, bite-sized meatballs that pack some zing. 

For the main course, Redfish in Creole Sauce brings together a mild fish with a complex, tomato-based sauce. For our side, we went with a Junior League favorite; the Creamy Pumpkin Polenta is rich and creamy and nothing but decadent. 

No party is complete without a signature cocktail. Pomegranates are in season from the end of September through November. Marry the flavor with champagne in Champagne Pomegranate Punch.

Venison Meatballs in Sherried Chutney Sauce

From Stop and Smell the Rosemary

1½ pounds ground venison or lean ground beef
1 pound ground spicy sausage
Flour
1 cup light sour cream
1 jar (8 oz.) mango chutney
½ cup dry sherry

Combine venison and sausage. Roll venison mixture into 1½-inch meatballs. Roll in flour to lightly coat. Sauté meatballs in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until cooked. Drain.

Combine sour cream, chutney and sherry in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until blended. Add meatballs and heat thoroughly. Sauce may be thinned with extra sherry. Serve warm in a chafing dish. Makes 75 cocktail meatballs.

Redfish with Creole Sauce

From Houston Junior League Cookbook

½ cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped celery
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ cup cooking oil
2½ cups canned tomatoes
2 cans (8 oz. each) tomato sauce
1 cup cold water
1 redfish or Gulf red snapper (about 5 lbs.)
Salt
Freshly ground pepper
Cayenne
Chopped green onion tops
Chopped parsley
1 lemon, thinly sliced

In a heavy pot, sauté onion, celery and garlic in oil for 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and tomato sauce. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add water. Cook for 20 additional minutes. Meanwhile, fillet fish and season with salt, pepper and a few grains of cayenne. Arrange fish in baking dish. Pour tomato mixture over fish. Bake in 325-degree oven for 30 minutes, basting often. Garnish with onion tops, parsley and lemon slices. Serves 6.

Creamy Pumpkin Polenta

From Peace Meals

2½ cups milk
2 cups water or vegetable broth
¾ cup canned pure pumpkin
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1¼ cups instant dry polenta
1 cup fresh-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
¼ cup mascarpone cheese
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
¼ cup freshly shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Bring the milk and water to a boil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the pumpkin and salt. Reduce heat to low and gradually whisk in the polenta. Cook for 1 minute or until thickened and remove from heat. Add the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, mascarpone, cinnamon and basil, stirring until the cheese melts. The consistency should be thick but creamy. Serves 8.

Champagne Pomegranate Punch

From Peace Meals

3 liters ginger ale, divided
½ cup brandy
1 cup pomegranate juice
1 cup peach schnapps
3 bottles brut Champagne or sparking wine

The night before or at least 6 hours prior to serving, make ice cubes or an ice ring by pouring 1 liter of ginger ale into the desired container and freezing. Pour the brandy, pomegranate juice, and schnapps into a large punch bowl. Just prior to serving, gently add the Champagne and the remaining 2 liters of ginger ale. Float the prepared ice cubes or ring in the bowl. 

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