Tuesday, December 19, 2006

"Hors D'Oeuvre and Canapes" (Beard) & "Quick & Easy Recipes: Appetizers" & "The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook" (Garten) & "Feast" (Lawson) - 4 appetizers

Date I made these recipes: December 16, 2006 and December 31, 2005

Hors D’Oeuvre and Canapes by James Beard
Published by M. Barrows and Company, Inc.
© 1940 (my version is the 9th printing, December, 1953)

Recipe: Roquefort Spread – p. 83

Okay, a show of hands…how many of you know what a hors d’oeuvre is but don’t know how to spell it? Exactly. So people, let’s just call a hors d’oeuvre what it really is – an appetizer – so we can all relax and get on with life. (And note: thinking of it as a “horse do-vers” doesn’t help with the spelling as so many Home-Ec teachers promised)

For those of you who don’t know, James Beard was the male version of Julia Child. He authored many a cookbook in his day, Hors D’Oeuvre and Canapes being his first, and had such a profound effect on the culinary world that his former home in Manhattan is now a shrine that houses the James Beard Foundation. His name is also attached to one of the most prestigious awards an author can ever achieve – The James Beard Foundation Awards - for excellence in several cook book categories.

Despite its difficult-to-spell name, the appetizers in the book are fairly easy and straightforward which seems to be a hallmark of Beard’s cooking career. I do, however, have to take issue with the man on one of his instructions: “Force one-half pound of Roquefort cheese through a fine sieve with one-quarter pound of butter and the same quantity of cream cheese.”

Hmmm….I was perplexed because the type of sieve in my kitchen is so fine that I didn’t think that anything would actually get through it. The visual image of how to do this also escaped me. But I am nothing if not resourceful, so instead of using a sieve, I broke up the Roquefort cheese in my Cuisinart and then creamed the cheese, butter and cream cheese in my KitchenAid as I would a cake batter. Note that the color of the cheese changed from its distinctive blue and white to mostly blue which was slightly unappetizing but don’t worry, the flavor stayed the same. (All I could think of was that the cheese would turn the color blue as the soup featured in the movie, Bridget Jones’ Diary, but it never even got close. Whew!)

This recipe was a hit at the dinner party I recently attended, and a friend commented that she liked it because although she likes blue cheese, she doesn’t LOVE blue cheese and the other ingredients in the spread provided a nice balance.

Roquefort Spread
½ pound Roquefort cheese
¼ pound butter
¼ pound cream cheese
½ tsp dry mustard
2 T Cognac
(Note: Beard listed variations including adding a tablespoon of chopped chives or two tablespoons of chopped, raw mushroom after the dish is creamed. He indicated that if you substitute these ingredients, use the spread at once.)

Force one-half pound of Roquefort cheese through a fine sieve with one-quarter pound of butter and the same quantity of cream cheese (or break up the cheese by lightly pulsing in a food processor). Cream the cheeses then add one-half teaspoonful of dry mustard and two tablespoonfuls of Cognac. This may be stored in a glass jar or stone crock and kept for a couple of weeks.

Although Beard doesn’t suggest it, I would bring the cheese spread to room temperature before serving to make it easier to spread. I used crackers rather than bread and also think that was a good idea as even warm, the spread managed to crack a few crackers, hahahaha….

Quick & Easy Recipes: Appetizers – Food Writers’ Favorites
Edited by Barbara Gibbs Ostmann and Jane Baker
Published by: Dial Publishing Company
ISBN: 0-911479-05-8

Recipe: Horseradish Cream for Asparagus Roll-Ups – p. 31
Submitted by Constance Hay, Free-Lance Food Writer, Columbia, MD

If you love horseradish, as I do, you’re going to love this recipe. It’s very easy to make and the author notes that it can be used to accompany meats and even fish. The recipe says you can use roast beef or ham but I’ve always associated horseradish sauce with beef so I went with the beef.

There are several types of horseradish out on the market but I went with a creamy concoction rather than some of the chunkier brands that are out there – your preference. How much you add is also a matter of taste. I went with the full amount (4 tablespoons) although had I any of my maternal grandmother’s homemade horseradish on hand, I doubt I would have used even a tablespoon full. Let’s just say it took the hair off your chest…if you had hair on your chest…not that I did, but you get my drift…. She died many years ago but the woman knew her way around the kitchen and definitely knew how to make some mean horseradish sauce from scratch.

And so before I get too welled up here (from the memories or the horseradish cream I’m eating as we speak)…

Horseradish Cream for Asparagus Roll-Ups
1 pound cooked asparagus (fresh or canned)
1 pound thinly sliced roast beef or cooked ham
1 c. heavy cream
Juice of 1 lemon
2-4 tablespoons prepared horseradish, to taste
1 tsp salt
Cayenne pepper, to taste

Wrap each asparagus spear with a slice of roast beef or ham. Arrange on a platter. Note: the asparagus I bought was on the thin side, it being December, so rather than include a scrawny piece of asparagus in a huge slice of roast beef, I wrapped 5 per bundle. I used up most of my asparagus and all of the beef and the portion size was perfect. I also bought just asparagus tips since that’s the part I like best, anyway.

In a large mixing bowl, combine cream, lemon juice, horseradish, salt and cayenne. Beat on high speed of electric mixer until cream forms stiff peaks. Serve the cream with the roll-ups.

I made this recipe the night before to let the flavors combine and it was just fine but I’m not sure I’d make it any earlier than that or the whipped cream might start breaking down.

This makes 2 cups.

The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten
Published by: Clarkson Potter/Publishers (http://www.randomhouse.com/) or http://www.barefootcontessa.com/
ISBN: 0-609-60219-5

Pan-fried onion dip – p. 53

I made this appetizer for a New Year’s party last year (2005) and never mind the champagne, bring on this dip! All four of us at this dinner party took a bite at the same time, paused and gave each other that “oh my god, this is wonderful” look, and then proceeded to inhale the entire thing without saying another word. Bowl scrapping may or may not have taken place.

And I’ve got to tell you people, I was relieved because the previous year’s appetizers just didn’t work out as I planned (which is not to say we didn’t eat them because we’ll eat just about anything but we didn’t enjoy them as much as this dip). So, thank you, Ina, thank you! (By the way, I’ve met Ina and had her sign my cookbooks, and she is just a wonderful lady. If you haven’t seen her show, The Barefoot Contessa, on the Food Network, tune in right now. I mean it!)

Pan-friend onion dip
2 large yellow onions
4 T unsalted butter
¼ c. vegetable oil
¼ tsp ground cayenne
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
½ c. sour cream
½ cup good mayonnaise (Or, as the TV commercial used to say, “Bring out the Hellmann’s and bring out the best.”)

Cut the onions in half, then slice them into 1/8-inch-thick half-rounds. (You will have about 3 cups of onions).

I would go one step further than Ina and cut the rounds in half, otherwise, some of the onion pieces can get rather long and a bit more difficult to eat. But that’s just one woman’s opinion.

Heat the butter and oil in a large sauté pan on medium heat. Add the onions, cayenne, salt and pepper and sauté for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 more minutes, until the onions are browned and caramelized. Allow the onions to cool.

Place the cream cheese, sour cream, and mayonnaise in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment and beat until smooth. Add the onions and mix well. Taste for seasonings. Serve at room temperature. Makes 2 cups (which is hardly enough once you taste how positively delicious this is).

Ina suggests serving this dip with homemade potato chips, fresh vegetables or crackers. I didn’t quite picture myself making homemade chips so I went with crackers.

Feast – Food to Celebrate Life by Nigella Lawson
Published by Hyperion Books – http://www.hyperionbooks.com/
ISBN: 1-4013-0136-3

Recipe: Parma Ham Bundles – p. 393

In addition to Ina Garten’s onion dip, I also made these ham bundles for the same dinner and they were also inhaled.

I love watching Nigella on her cooking shows because the woman just loves food and loves to eat, and given how obesity-trans fat-no foi gras obsessed we are, it’s a nice change of pace. Good food is meant to be enjoyed so enjoy this recipe. I know I did!

Parma Ham Bundles
14 oz sliced Parma ham (not sliced ultra-thinly)
1 ½ c. dried mission figs or other dried figs (get more if you do like I do – one fig for the recipe, one for me, one for the recipe, one for me….)
½ c. mild soft goat’s cheese

Cut or tear each slice of Parma ham into two or three strips. Scissor each fig in half (you may need to quarter them if they’re really large) and spread a teaspoon of goat’s cheese onto the cut half of the fig. Place the piece of fig cheese-side down on to the center of a strip of ham and then make it into a bundle. Sit each bulging pink parcel so that the darkness of the fig is hidden plate-side down. Makes 25

As good as Nigella’s instructions are, here’s how I ended up doing them:

Most ham slices yielded only two strips and I used a knife to cut them as it was the easiest method for me.

Scissoring each fig was fraught with problems, namely sticky scissor blades, so I cut them with my knife, and yes, I probably am slightly knife-obsessed.

Spreading the goat cheese onto the cut half of the fig was also a “no-go.” The cheese kept falling off so I spread the goat cheese, but not without some difficulty, on the ham slice itself. That seemed to be the easiest way to go.

And because I ate many of the figs that were supposed to go into the recipe, let’s just say that a yield of 25 bundles is a little high. Be thinking 15 and you’ll probably be on the mark. Make that 10….

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