Monday, December 28, 2009

A Trio of Tasty Appys

If you’re anything like me, you like to ring in the New Year with a few good buds at a house party featuring fine wine, gourmet goodies, and the latest and greatest playing over the sound system. This year’s end-of-the year party is no different, except that for a lot of people it’s been one heck of a year. It reminds me of the last words uttered by the Wicked Witch in the movie The Wizard of Oz: “Look what you've done! I'm melting! Melting! Oh, what a world! What a world!”

Yes, old girl. What a melt down world we’ve lived in this year.

Perhaps the end of 2009 calls for lower key homey comfort in place of the normal razz matazz. Move over iPod, Dick Clark’s back on the tube. With just a little inspiration your New Year’s Eve celebration can be both festive and comforting by tweaking a few of our traditional Southern favorites.

My Open Face Tomato Sandwiches with Candied Bacon are based on simple tomato sandwiches made with white bread, a slather of mayo and a red, ripe, salted slice of tomato. They’re a bit soggy and a tad messy, but whether it’s now or when they’re in season this summer, you just can’t get enough.

I’m sure you have attended at least one party that included stuffed potato jackets as a pass-around appy. My version of this treat roasts fingerling potatoes and tops them with velvety cream and succulent salmon. Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Smoked Salmon and Dill is a perfect make ahead yummy.

Every tried and true Southern hostess boasts her version of pimento cheese. Mine comes from the recipe files of a good pal, adding almonds and a crunch of bacon to the spread. Almond and Bacon Spiked Pimento Cheese Triangles is my tweak on this staple.

Ease your way a long, long way away from 2009 by inviting your pals to nibble and nosh on a few easy-to-prepare Southern inspired appys. Pop open the bubbly and ring in 2010. Let’s wish for a very good year – for all!!

Almond and Bacon Spiked Pimento Cheese Triangles

You can make the spread a day or two in advance and sit back while the flavors improve in the fridge.

Yield: 30 appys
Prep Time: 15 minutes

2 ounces sliced almonds, about ½ cup
1/3 pound bacon (about 6 slices), cooked and crumbled
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated, about 2 cups
2 to 3 green onions, thinly sliced, about 1/3 cup
1 cup good quality mayonnaise
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 (17-ounce) package Westphalian Style Pumpernickel bread
¼ cup pimentos, diced

Place the almonds, bacon, cheese, green onions and mayonnaise into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Pulse again.

Place 15 slices of bread onto your workspace. Spread each slice with pimento cheese. Cut in half diagonally. Top each triangle with diced pimentos.

Flavor Hit
Add a dash of oomph to your pimento cheese dip by blending in a dash (or two!) of hot pepper sauce.

Open Face Tomato Sandwiches with Candied Bacon

Sweet and crunchy bacon adds a new dimension to traditional Southern inspired tomato sandwiches in this yum-in-the-tum appy.

Yield: 30 appys
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes for candied bacon

1 pound thick-sliced Hickory-smoked bacon
1 cup dark brown sugar

1 (1-pound) package sour dough party bread
1 (1-pound) package Campari tomatoes, thinly sliced
½ cup good quality mayonnaise
½ cup fresh basil leaves, sliced into thin strips

Preheat the oven to 325°. Line two lipped baking sheets with parchment paper. Dredge each bacon slice in brown sugar and place onto a baking sheet. Bake the bacon until golden brown and crisp, about 20 minutes. The bacon will continue to crisp after you remove it from the oven. Cool to room temperature and crumble.

Use a round biscuit cutter to form circles in 30 slices of party bread. (Reserve remaining bread for another use.) Spread each slice with mayonnaise. Top with 1 to 2 slices of tomato. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Top with crumbled candied bacon and basil.

Make It Yourself Tip
To prepare your own mayo, place 2 egg yolks, ¾ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon powdered mustard, a pinch each of granulated sugar and ground pepper, and 3 teaspoons lemon juice into a blender, or the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal chopping blade. Pulse for 15 seconds. With motor running, slowly drizzle in 1/4 cup light olive oil (or use moderately high blender speed). As mixture begins to thicken, continue adding up to 1 ¼ cups additional oil in a fine steady stream. As the mixture thickens, alternate the oil with ¼ cup warm water until you reach the desired consistency. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Simple Sub
I chose Campari tomatoes for this dish because they are the perfect size to fit on a round piece of bread, ripe, sweet and juicy. You can substitute with ripe plum tomatoes or several small cherry tomatoes that are thinly sliced.

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes Topped with Smoked Salmon and Dill

These bite-size buddies burst with flavor while brightening up your appy platter.

Yield: 30 appys
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes

15 (1 ½ -inch long) fingerling potatoes, about 1 ½ pounds
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 (7.5-ounce) container Crème Fraiche
1 (4-ounce package) wild Alaskan smoked salmon
Fresh dill sprigs

Preheat the oven to 400°. Place the potatoes onto a baking sheet with lip. Toss with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until the potatoes are tender, about 12 to 15 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Cut the potatoes in half, lengthwise. Spread the cut side of the potato with Crème Fraiche. Layer with a piece of salmon and top with a dill sprig.

Make It Yourself Tip
You can make Crème Fraiche by combining 1 cup whipping cream with 2 tablespoons buttermilk in a glass jar with lid. Let stand at room temperature (about 70 degrees F.) for 8 to 24 hours, or until thickened. Stir well and refrigerate for up to 10 days. Use as directed above or in soup recipes, as Crème Fraiche will not curdle when boiled.
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