Seasonal Food Note: Chef Tracey’s Holiday Appetizers

gp5This is the time of year when everyone needs a couple good appetizer tricks up their sleeve and most people don’t have much time to throw them together, so let’s keep it simple.  Crostini are alwasy a good bet.  Get a loaf of baguette, slice it up, brush olive oil on one side and toast.  For a topping, try white bean & smoked sturgeon (purée 1 can cannellini beans, 8oz smoked sturgeon, 1T capers, 1T chopped dill, 1T roasted garlic & juice of 1 lemon in a food processor, drizzling in extra virgin olive oil until it’s the right consistency), spread on the crostini and serve with a nice, soft bubbly, such as Toffoli NV Prosecco $17.  Another crowd pleaser is bacon-wrapped, blue cheese-filled dates.  Stilton makes a great stuffer as it’s dry and tangy and can hold its own against the sweet of the date and the salt of the bacon.  Use a half slice of bacon around the date and hold the little treasure together with a toothpick.  Pop a tray of these in a 450 degree oven for 6-7 minutes or until the bacon is sizzling.  To drink with this, I’d again recommend bubbly, but I’d go with something drier, such as a Spanish Cava:  Casteller NV Cava $14 is delicious and a good value, especially if you’re serving a large group.

Want to up the ante?
Serve a blue cheese savory tart.  I served this last year (and will again on Dec 19) at our Holiday Port Tasting, and people asked again and again for the recipe.  This tart is not difficult to prepare, but it requires a little more prep.  Start by making a crust.  Purée 2C Ritz crackers, 1C walnuts and a stick of melted butter.  Press into a springform pan and bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes.  Let cool.  In the meantime, blend together 2 packages of cream cheese, 1.5lbs of blue cheese & 2 eggs (all at room temp).  For the blue cheese, try Valdeon.  It’s a tangy, Spanish blue that works great in this dish.  Pour the filling into the crust and bake at 350 for about 45 minutes or until the center of the tart is set.  Serve room temp with figs, dates, fruit crostini (available at most grocery stores) and of course port.  I’d recommend a nice tawny with this:  Dow 20 year old Tawny $62.  It’s a splurge, but well worth it … and as you drink this dessert wine with discretion, the bottle lasts a long time.  Right?

Contributor – Tracey Stoner, Chef, Portalis Wine Bar

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