LOOKING for: Appetisers For Fearless Em
Over on the progressive dinner thread, Fearless Em noted that she only had one T&T appetiser in her whole cooking arsenal. "So I am looking forward to future weeks where I can snag some good appetizer recipes," she said.
I don't see any reason she should have to wait weeks and weeks. Figured we could all start posting ideas and recipes for her now.
For starters (yes, I do have a punning license), let's look at some concepts.
Appetisers should be small, easily handled, and tasty. The whole idea is to get the juices flowing, to prepare the stomach for the feast ahead. Appetisers should also promote good conversation among the guests.
Just as with the main dish, itself, you want appetisers to compliment the flavors of what's to come, rather than conflict with them. Typically (but not always) this means a totally differnt type of food. If you're serving beef as the main course, appetisers should be fish, or fowl, or straight vegetarian most times. A hot (as in spicy) main course should not be preceeded by a hot appetiser. And so forth.
Give some thought to how you can convert main dish recipes into bite-sized morsals. Do that, and you have an incredible repetory of possibilities. You'll find that your cookie cutters can be invaluable in this regard. With them, you can create equal-sized pieces of chicken breast or fish filets, or shape forcemeat, or cut pastry, veggies, etc.
Got a favorite meatball recipe? Reduce the balls to the size of marbles, and poof! There's an appetiser.
Won ton wrappers can be an invaluable aid to preparing appetisers. use them as designed, to wrap around foodstuffs. Or combine two of them, to produce ravioli type dishes. Or bake them in muffin tins, to create individual, edible serving cups you can then fill with whatever.
Here are ways to use each method: Pan fry some ground pork with appropriate spices. Add some chopped onion, grated cabbage, and bean spouts. Let cool. Fill a won ton wrapper, fold over, and fry. Make a mushroom filling (I've posted this before) and sandwhich it between two wrappers. Cut into rounds and either boil, bake, or fry. And from Ann T comes the idea of filling a won ton cup with guacomole topped with a sauteed shrimp.
Vertical presentations are almost always more appealing. So, while keeping the total amount small, pile things upwards. For instance, I make reduced-size lamb patties, which are placed on a sweet-potato round, and topped with minted aioli. A mint leaf towers over the whole thing. Where appropriate, criss-cross items to build height, and use garnishes in a manner that accentuates the visible appeal as well as taste.
Finally, something every cook probably knows. But it bears repeating: Anything tastes better wrapped in bacon.
Here's one of my appetisers you might find appealing. It's a classic case of reducing a main dish entree into a starter:
Hot browns were first served at the Brown Hotel, in Louisville, Kentucky, back in the '20s, and have become a staple in the Bluegrass State. Nowadays mostly served with a cheddar sauce and garnished with tomatoes, the original used a Morney sauce, and garnished with mushrooms.
Make a thick Mornay sauce: Saute 1-2 tbls minced onion in 3 tbls butter. Add 3 tbls flour and cook for another minute. Slowly pour in 2 cups heated cream, stirring. Add salt, pepper, flecks of parsley, and a dash of mutmeg, and let cook down until very thick. For each 2 cups of sauce add 2 egg yolks (tempering them first). Stir until reaching boiling point. Remove from heat and add 1/2 cup grated Parmesan and 1 tbls butter.
Cut bacon into lardings and fry until browned. Drain on paper towels and reserve.
Carve a small mushroom cap for each hot brown. Gently saute in butter.
Toast slices of bread (I prefer oatmeal bread for this). Using a 2 1/2-3" cookie cutter (I use a fluted one), cut the bread into rounds. Use the same cookie cutter to cut 1/4" thick slices of chicken breast into the same sized rounds. Make the same number as bread rounds. Then go down a size and cut an equal number of chicken rounds. Finally, cut out tiny buttons of chicken (I use a length of 1/2" pvc for this), making 3 for each big piece.
On each bread round lay a large piece of chicken. Then center a smaller round on it. Top that with 3 buttons, in a slightly overlapping triangle. Top with a dollop of Mornay sauce, sprinkle with Parmesan, and pop under the broiler until they sauce gets suntanned.
Decorate each tower with bacon lardings, and top with a mushroom cap.
How about the rest of you? Let's help Em out.