Holiday Hors d'Oeuvres

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smoked oysters.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

Smoked Oysters with Fennel and Lemon

(approx. 4-6 hors d'oeuvre servings)
Rediscover the retro magic of smoked oysters! The dressing is highly acidic so you don't want the oysters to sit in it too long, or it will ruin their luscious texture.
  • 1 can smoked oysters (preserved in olive oil)
  • 2 T finely minced fresh fennel bulb (anise)
  • 1 T finely minced fennel fronds
  • 1 T finely minced fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley
  • Finely grated zest from ½ medium size lemon
  • 1 T fresh lemon juice

Combine all dressing ingredients (can be done in advance).  Drain most of the oil from the can of oysters and discard. Gently toss drained oysters with the dressing and about 1 T of the remaining oil just before serving.

Serve oysters in a dish with toothpicks, or in asian soup spoons for a more exciting presentation.

Stuffed Mushrooms with Brie and Fresh Herbs

(approx. 5-6 servings)

Another classic with a twist. Molten, mushroomy brie fills these mushroom caps, with an herbaceous, punchy kick to keep the dish bright. I like rosemary the best, but use whatever you prefer. You can use the mushroom stems and juice in a mushroom duxelles or similar type of puree.

  • 10 small cremini mushrooms (whole)
  • Salt, pepper
  • 3 oz brie cheese
  • 1-2 tsp finely chopped fresh herbs of choice (rosemary, marjoram, thyme etc.)

Wash the mushrooms, remove the stems for another use, and dry thoroughly. Season caps with salt and pepper, and roast at 400 degrees on a lightly oiled baking sheet for about 15 minutes, or until cooked through. Pour off the mushroom juice that collects in the caps and reserve juice for another use.& Chill the cheese thoroughly, then cut off the rinds and dice the inside portions into ¼ inch pieces.  Chop fresh herbs very finely.

Fill each mushroom cap with cubes of cheese, then top cheese with a pinch of fresh herbs. Broil on a lined baking sheet for 5 minutes to melt cheese and warm through; serve warm.

procuitto.jpgPersimmon Bites
(approx. 6-8 servings)

  • 1 medium size Fuyu persimmon
  • 3 oz aged sheeps' milk cheese (such as Manchego)
  • 2 T fresh thyme leaves

Slice persimmon like an apple (there is no core), with each slice at least 1/8 inch thick. Set aside some thyme florets (the crowns) as garnish, for as many slices of fruit as you have. Chop the remainder of the thyme leaves rather coarsely. Slice or shave the cheese into as many slices as you need for the persimmon. Try to make the cheese slices not too much larger than the persimmon slice. On the serving platter, arrange the persimmons in your chosen location. Top each with a pinch of fresh thyme leaves, then with a slice of cheese. Garnish each piece with a thyme floret.

Prosciutto with Sweet Potatoes and Rosemary Mustard

(approx. 6 servings of 2 pieces per person)

  • 6 pieces thinly sliced prosciutto or other cured ham
  • ¼ cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 T finely minced fresh rosemary leaves
  • 2 medium size orange-fleshed sweet potatoes or yams

Peel sweet potatoes and chop into 1½-2 inch pieces. Toss with a bit of vegetable oil and salt, and roast on baking sheet at 400 degrees until soft, stirring occasionally. Cool. Meanwhile, combine mustard with rosemary and stir well. Cut each prosciutto piece in half lengthwise, giving you two long strips per piece.  Spread mustard on one side of each strip. Wrap prosciutto strip around each piece of sweet potato and secure with a toothpick.

Butternut Squash Crostini with Caramelized Bacon (or Pomegranate Seeds)

  • 2 cups roasted butternut squash (roasted with chopped thyme, salt, olive oil)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1-2 T crème fraîche (to taste)
  • Thin, toasted baguette slices
  • 2 slices of bacon
  • 1/8 cup granulated sugar

Roast butternut squash with olive oil, salt, fresh thyme at 400 degrees until soft.  Mash with a fork and season with salt to taste.  Add crème fraîche to taste and whisk until thoroughly combined.  Set aside until ready to assemble canapés.

Cut bacon into ¼ inch pieces crosswise and fry until crisp in a non-stick pan.  Discard most of the bacon fat, then add sugar and continue cooking, stirring frequently until the bacon is coated and the sugar has begun to caramelize a bit.  Remove from heat and drain on paper towels until cooled.  (Keeps several days at room temperature in closed container)

Build canapés just before serving or the bread will get soggy.  Top each slice of baguette with a generous smear of squash puree, then garnish with a piece of caramelized bacon (or pomegranate seeds, for variety and vegetarian options).

baked brie 1.jpg
    Baked Brie with Cranberries and Almonds
    (approx. 8-10 servings)

    • Piece of brie cheese
    • ¼ cup dried red fruits (cranberries, cherries, or mixed red fruits)
    • ¼ cup cognac
    • 1/8 cup whole skin on almonds, toasted and chopped coarsely

    Soak the dried fruit in the cognac at least 12 hours, until softened and plumped up.  When the fruit is ready, cut the brie in half horizontally and place on a sheet of plastic wrap.  Spoon out the soaked fruit to make a sandwich with the two halves of the cheese.  Wrap the "sandwich" tightly in the plastic wrap and let the cheese sit for a few hours, turning every couple of hours to let any cognac fruit juice run all around. 

    When ready to serve, wrap the brie tightly in aluminum foil, paying close attention to the seams, and topping with a fresh spoonful of soaked red fruits & their cognac.  Bake on lined baking sheet for 5-10 minutes at 380 degrees to warm the cheese through.  Let it cool a few minutes before unwrapping, as the brie will be very runny.  Scoop out the cheese onto a serving platter and garnish with the chopped almonds.  Serve with crackers or thin slices of toasted baguette.

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