Getting the party started

Cole Porter used to say — anything goes when it comes to hors d’oeuvres. Many in the Capital Region

Webster defines “appetizer” as a small portion of a tasty food or a drink to stimulate the appetite.

Jay Larkin defines the word as “barbecued shrimp.”

Or Buffalo chicken dip. Even miniature cheese balls rolled in chopped salami and skewered with a straight pretzel.

It’s like Cole Porter used to say — anything goes when it comes to hors d’oeuvres. Many in the Capital Region will chill and warm plates and platters full of finger foods as 2009 closes a long run and 2010 conducts a holiday premiere party.

“You can be simple with dips or spreads on crackers straight up through something like chicken or fish, a shrimp dish,” said Larkin, a technical specialist in the Schenectady County Community College school of Hotel, Culinary Arts and Tourism. “What it often comes down to is who you’re entertaining and what type of entertaining you’re looking at.”

Favorite foods can always be reduced in size and portion. Deviled eggs, shrimp in a cocktail concoction and assorted cheeses can all be considered starters. Larkin said imagination should be considered in their preparations.

“There’s really no limit,” he said. “It’s the tried-and-true items that will have the greatest appeal.”

Looking to the sea

Gavin Gibbons, director of media relations for the National Fisheries Institute in Mclean, Va., knows shrimp is tried and true when appetizers are on the menu.

“It’s America’s favorite seafood, it is number one,” Gibbons said. “Americans on average eat 4.1 pounds of shrimp every year and a lot of that comes over the holidays. It’s healthy and versatile and that’s what makes it a very popular seafood choice. It can be the center of the plate, a side dish, an appetizer.”

Other representatives from the sea get diced and wrapped for New Year’s gatherings.

“You’ll see folks using clams and even oysters over the holidays and come up with some really interesting appetizers,” Gibbons said. “Another is scallops. We see bacon-wrapped scallops; they’re the smaller ones or larger ones cut into fours.”

Swordfish is generally considered an entree. Gibbons said a little creativity makes the fish a starter food. “They’ll cut them into squares and intersperse them with different vegetables, small squares the size of a dice,” he said.

Say cheese and smile

Cheese, soft and spreadable or solid and for slicing, is another choice.

“You can do fondue, you can do hard cheeses with vegetables on them; there are tons of options,” said Melissa Osgood, a spokeswoman for the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council in Syracuse.

Port wine or garlic-flavored cheese spreads on crackers are simple. But they’ll disappear from plates quickly. “They’re tasty, but they don’t take a lot of work,” Osgood said.

Some cheese details are easy enough for children to prepare. If young revelers invite friends over to celebrate the New Year — at least until 10 p.m. or so — cheese and crackers are simple foods they can serve.

Barbecued Shrimp is one of Larkin’s favorites.

“It’s a versatile item,” he said. “You can use it for a holiday dish or a cocktail party, all the way up to an appetizer for a sit-down meal.”

Larkin said the recipe is full of Southern influence that comes from three years he spent in Nashville, Tenn. The zing in the recipe comes from the homemade sauce, made with Tabasco and Worcestershire sauces, fresh chopped onions, paprika and cayenne pepper.

“If you use store-bought sauce, you’re not going to get that same taste,” he said.

And after last week’s holiday shopping, maybe people want to stay out of stores anyway.

Barbecued Shrimp

20 large shrimp (16/20 size), peeled and de-veined

1 ounce canola oil

5 teaspoons green onions, chopped

2 ounces dry white wine

1 teaspoon fresh chopped garlic

4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

1⁄2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1⁄2 teaspoon paprika

8 ounces butter, salted

Wash and de-vein shrimp, rinse again.

In a large cast-iron skillet, heat oil on high. Add shrimp and cook until they are just done. You may have to do these in batches if you do not have a large skillet. Remove shrimp and set aside.

Add green onions and cook for 1 minute.

Add white wine and reduce the volume by half (any good dry white will work).

When the wine is reduced by half, add the chopped garlic, Worcestershire, Tabasco, cayenne pepper and paprika. Shake the pan well. Cook for 1 minute. Reduce the heat to low.

Cut butter into small chunks and slowly add into pan, shaking fast to melt butter. Continue to add butter until it is all added and shake until butter is melted. Add shrimp back into pan and toss well to coat shrimp with butter and to heat the shrimp.

Any size shrimp can be used for this depending on the need — from the smallest shrimp to be put out on a platter and served by toothpick to larger shrimp that can be placed on a mound of mashed potatoes and served at the table.

Recipe courtesy of SCCC.

Easy Classic Deviled Eggs

6 hard-cooked eggs

1⁄3 cup shredded taco-seasoned cheese or cheddar cheese

1⁄4 cup mayonnaise

1⁄4 cup sour cream

3 tablespoons minced green onions

Cut eggs in half lengthwise. Remove yolks to small bowl. Reserve whites.

Mash yolks with fork. Add cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream and green onions; mix well.

Spoon 1 heaping tablespoon yolk mixture into each egg white half. Refrigerate, covered, to blend flavors.

Makes 12 servings.

Recipe courtesy of American Egg Board and its Web site

Grilled Shrimp With Prosciutto

1 pound medium-sized fresh Tropical Shrimp

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh garlic, chopped

1⁄2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

1⁄2 pound prosciutto — sliced very thin

Salt and pepper

Peel and de-vein the shrimp, leaving tails on. In a large bowl, combine oil, rosemary, garlic, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Add the shrimp and toss to coat well. Let marinate in refrigerator for one hour.

Preheat grill and coat with oil or cooking spray to prevent sticking.

Slice the prosciutto in half lengthwise. Remove the shrimp from the marinade and tightly wrap each in a slice of the prosciutto. Place the shrimp on the hot grill and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes per side until the shrimp is opaque (cut to test). Do not overcook. Serve with lemon wedges.

Recipe courtesy of Tropical Aquaculture Products and the National Fisheries Institute’s Web site.

Hot Pizza Dip

6 ounces light cream cheese

1⁄2 cup light sour cream

1 teaspoon oregano

1⁄2 cup pizza sauce

1 cup shredded low-moisture, part-skim mozzarella cheese

1⁄4 cup diced red peppers

1⁄4 cup sliced green onions

1⁄2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Whole wheat bread sticks or crackers

Combine cream cheese, sour cream and oregano in bowl; stir until smooth. Spread cream cheese mixture evenly into 9-inch pie plate or quiche pan.

Top with pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, peppers and onions. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Serve with whole wheat bread sticks or crackers.

Makes 10 servings.

Recipe courtesy of American Dairy Association and Dairy Council.

Ragin’ Cajun Bean-and-Cheese Dip

1 (14.5-ounce) can chili-seasoned diced tomatoes

1⁄4 cup water

1 teaspoon hot sauce

2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning

2 (16-ounce) cans pinto or red kidney beans, rinsed, drained and mashed with a fork.

1 cup chopped green bell pepper

1⁄2 cup diced reduced-fat smoked sausage

Cooking spray

4 cups (16 ounces) freshly shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese, divided

Baked tortilla chips

Combine tomatoes and next six ingredients. Spoon mixture into a 2-quart casserole dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Top with cheese; bake an additional 5 minutes or until cheese melts. Serve with baked tortilla chips.

Makes 16 servings.

Recipe courtesy of American Dairy Association and Dairy Council.

Tomato And Mozzarella Caprese Crostini

For crostini:

1 baguette bread sliced into 18 (1/4-inch thick) slices

3 tablespoons olive oil

1⁄2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

For tomato and mozzarella caprese:

6 ripe plum tomatoes

2 (8-ounce) packages fresh mozzarella

Fresh basil (enough for each crostini)

1⁄2 cup balsamic vinegar (if desired)

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (if desired)

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange baguette slices on baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil over both sides of bread slices. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake in oven until golden, approximately 8 to 10 minutes.

While crostini is baking, prepare other ingredients; slice plum tomatoes and mozzarella. Arrange a tomato on a toasted crostini. Place a slice of mozzarella on top of the tomato. Place a basil leave on top of the mozzarella. If desired, drizzle a little balsamic vinegar on top of the stacked crostini and then a little extra-virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Do this with the remaining crostini; arrange crostini stacks on platter.

Serves 18.

Recipe courtesy American Dairy Association and Dairy Council.

Categories: Life and Arts

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