Christmas is less than 3 weeks away and as holiday party season hits full swing, hosts are looking for different kinds of hors d’oeuvres and appetizers to tantalize and impress the palates of their guests. Warm apps tend to be well received whether your guests have just arrived (and haven’t eaten about 2 lbs of cheese) or at the end of the night when people are ready for round 2 of nibbling after a few cocktails. Here are two of my current front runners for warm apps.
One of my go-to hors d’oeuvre choices are stuffed mushroom caps. I’ve been making them for years. Ironically, I rarely have a chance to sample the fruits of my labour as those mushroom caps disappear as soon as I serve them.
Stuffed Mushroom Caps
12 med/large size cremini or white mushrooms
3 strips bacon chopped
½ cup asiago or romano cheese
3 cups spinach
¼ cup breadcrumbs
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. With a sharp pairing knife cut around the gills of the mushroom. Using a small spoon or pairing knife scoop out stem and most of the meat of the inside of the mushroom, chop stems then reserve with the rest of the meat. Place mushrooms cap side down into oiled baking dish and cook for 5 minutes or until soft. Chop bacon into small cubes, sauté over medium heat until fully cooked but not crispy. Drain most of the fat from the bacon, add mushroom meat, sauté until fully cooked. Add spinach, stir until wilted then add cheese and cook till cheese is melted. Take mushrooms out of the oven. Fill each mushroom with mixture using a small spoon. Sprinkle breadcrumbs on top of each mushroom. Place mushrooms back into the oven and bake for 10 minutes. If your guests are vegetarian you can always substitute pine nuts, walnuts or sundried tomatoes for the bacon.
Now, I just may be olives number one fan, and olives are very in vogue right now. Specialty shops are popping up everywhere carrying a plethora of olive offerings: various products made of olive oil, high end oil, or flavour infused olive oils, all of which fed my inspiration for my latest creation: fried olives. I made them for a dinner party I hosted this past weekend and I managed to sample one before they disappeared. In fact, they were such a hit that I think I may have to leave some for Santa and Mrs on Christmas eve with a glass of cheer.
Deep Fried Olives
12 large or queen olives pitted
100 grams goat cheese
2 cups panko bread crumbs
½ cup flour
2 cups vegetable or canola oil for frying
Dry off olives then, using a small spoon, fill with goat cheese. Set up breading station. Fill first bowl with flour, the second with egg, then the third with panko breadcrumbs. Roll each olive in flour, then egg, then dredge in panko breadcrumbs. If the breadcrumbs don’t stick you can always repeat the process however you’ll end up with rather large olives. Heat the oil in a medium size pot. Drop in a couple of breadcrumbs to ensure that the oil is hot enough so you don’t end up with soggy breading around the olives. Once the breadcrumbs start to sizzle, the oil is hot enough. Ensuring the oil is hot enough will also ensure cooking time is shorter, thereby reducing the risk of causing the cheese inside the olive to liquify. Drop in the olives 2 – 3 at a time, be sure not to overcrowd the pot. Cook until the breadcrumbs turn golden brown then turn olive over to brown the other side (usually about 10 seconds per side). Remove with a slotted spoon and place on paper towel lined plate. Serve immediately. The olives can also be stuffed with roasted red pepper, garlic, anchovy or prosciutto. They can be made up to a day in advance and reheated just before serving.