hors d'oeuvres

PuPu Platter Chicken Wings

What I am about to say may acknowledge me as a dinosaur but here it is: I remember the time before there was a Superbowl. 

I remember the first Superbowl. 1967.

I didn't watch. It was sort of a big deal, but not nearly the kind of nationwide (worldwide?) event it is today.

I can't recall what people served at Superbowl get-togethers. Or even if there were Superbowl get-togethers.

But I do remember that over the course of time, people everywhere used the occasion not only to watch football or bet, or both, but as time for a relaxed day with good friends and casual food. Like chicken wings.

I can remember before Buffalo Wings became a thing. And that after they did, wings of all sorts became one of the popular Superbowl foods.

For me -- wings were always a thing. The best part of the chicken. My mother told me they were the best part mostly because of the soft soft meat between the two narrow bones in the middle part of the wing.

She made chicken wings for us often.

I have made chicken wings often too. My mother was right. They are the best part of the chicken! Whether or not you serve them for Superbowl.

But if you do, how about these?

 

PuPu Platter Chicken Wings

  • 15 chicken wings
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoons crushed crystallized ginger
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
  •  

Cut the chicken wings at the joints, wash and dry the pieces and set them aside. Combine the red wine, soy sauce, brown sugar, crystallized ginger, lemon juice and garlic in a large container. Add the wing pieces and let marinate for at least 2 hours. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the wings in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Turn the wings and bake for another 15-18 minutes or until crispy.

Makes 30 pieces

 

 

Smoked Salmon and Avocado Toasts

At the end of each year food professionals discuss fads and popular trends in the culinary world and often make predictions about what's to come.

I don't know what's coming but I can say that as far as I know, one food trend this year was: avocado toast. Which is basically guacamole sandwich. Which is basically mashed avocado with some lime or lemon juice and anything else you might want in your guacamole, like tomatoes or chili pepper and so on.

I also know this: there's a good reason that avocado toasts became a thing. They're scrumptious. They're easy to prepare. They are incredibly versatile, as in you can use them as a base for a whole host of hors d'oeuvre, which might come in handy for New Year's get togethers.

For example: these avocado toasts on melba rounds topped with chopped salmon and some seasonings. 

Honestly, it couldn't get much easier than this and they do look pretty don't they?

They're on my menu for my New Year pre-dinner cocktail hour.

And btw, I buy salmon "scraps" that (fortunately) my local supermarket sells -- the leftover but still good pieces of salmon that the lox cutter cuts away to get those perfect slices. Because you chop this salmon up, so why not buy the cheap stuff?

 

SMOKED SALMON AND AVOCADO TOASTS

  • 24 toast rounds (or packaged Melba rounds)
  • 2 small avocados, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1-1/2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped scallion
  • 2-3 tablespoons lime juice
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 pound smoked salmon pieces
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives
  • pinch or two of cayenne pepper

If using bread, cut out small circles with a cookie cutter, or use packaged Melba rounds. In a bowl, mash the avocados. Add one tablespoon olive oil, the scallion, 2 tablespoons lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly and add more lime juice if desired. Spread the avocado mixture evenly over the bread. Chop the smoked salmon, add the remaining 1-1/2 teaspoons olive oil, the chives and some cayenne pepper and mix ingredients thoroughly. Spread equal amounts of the salmon mixture on top of the avocado mixture.

Makes 24

 

Mom’s Fried Chicken Wings

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MOM’S FRIED CHICKEN

  • 12 chicken wings, cut into pieces
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • shortening or vegetable oil

Rinse the chicken pieces and set them aside. In a large dish, mix the flour with the paprika, salt, garlic powder and black pepper. Coat the chicken pieces with the seasoned flour. Place them on a cake rack to air dry for 25-30 minutes. Heat the shortening or vegetable oil in a deep saute pan over medium-high heat (should be about 1/2-inch) to 365 degrees (a bread crumb will sizzle quickly when you add it to the pan). Add a few chicken pieces at a time (adding too many will make the cooking oil too cool) and cook, turning the pieces occasionally, for 8-10 minutes or until crispy and golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

 

Makes 12

 

Herb and Cheese Gougeres (Choux Puffs)

Gougeres are the easiest and also the hardest hors d’oeuvre to cook.  I say that because they are easy to make once you get the knack. But I admit, they’re a little tricky for first-timers, so you need a few pointers. Which I am going to give you here.  Then once you make them a couple of times you can practically do it in your sleep.  Also, gougeres are extremely useful. I serve them plain, heated to a crisp. But sometimes I serve them at room temperature, cut open and stuffed with all sorts of fillings from plain old egg salad to toasted nuts with cheese or smoked salmon tartare.  And sometimes I fill them with things like mushroom ragout or ratatouille and serve them hot.  Of course, if you make the gougere dough without the herbs and cheese they are …. profiteroles. Which you can fill with ice cream!  Or you can make bigger ones and fill them with ice cream, whipped cream or custard, the way my mother did, and call them Cream Puffs.  It’s all the same dough. The method is the same, so once you get the knack you have this extraordinarily versatile recipe.  I always have gougeres in my freezer. Just in case company comes. Like my daughter Meredith, who loves them and always heats up a few for herself when she’s here.  Or for dinner company or weekend guests, which I am having this weekend.  Or to celebrate Bastille Day, tomorrow, because, well, this is a French recipe. Called  choux .      Herb and Cheese Gougeres (Choux Puffs)   1 cup minus 2 tablespoons water  1/4 pound unsalted butter, cut into chunks  1 cup all purpose flour, sifted  3/4 teaspoon salt  4 large eggs  1-1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh mixed herbs, or 1-1/2 teaspoons dried  1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Gruyere cheese  pinch cayenne pepper  egg glaze: 1 large egg mixed with 2 teaspoons water, optional  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cook the water and butter in a saucepan over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the flour and salt all at once. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture is well blended and begins to come away from the sides of the pan. Remove pan from the heat and let the mixture cool for 2-3 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition.* Add the herbs, cheese and cayenne pepper and blend them in thoroughly.   Butter and flour a baking sheet. Drop 3/4 to 1-inch mounds of dough from a teaspoon onto the sheet. Leave space between the mounds for the puffs to rise. For a shiny surface on the puffs, lightly brush the tops of the mounds with some of the egg wash. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the puffs are lightly brown and crispy. Lower the heat to 300 degrees and bake for another 5-6 minutes. Turn off the heat but leave the puffs in the oven for 3-4 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature. Or cut them open and fill them. Makes about 60  *Incorporating the eggs is what most people find difficult. Be sure to add them one at a time. Use a sturdy wooden spoon to help you. The mixture will be sticky and at first you think it will never come together, but keep mixing and you’ll see that it does come together. After each egg is incorporated the mixture becomes softer and pastier and stickier. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Gougeres are the easiest and also the hardest hors d’oeuvre to cook.

I say that because they are easy to make once you get the knack. But I admit, they’re a little tricky for first-timers, so you need a few pointers. Which I am going to give you here.

Then once you make them a couple of times you can practically do it in your sleep.

Also, gougeres are extremely useful. I serve them plain, heated to a crisp. But sometimes I serve them at room temperature, cut open and stuffed with all sorts of fillings from plain old egg salad to toasted nuts with cheese or smoked salmon tartare.

And sometimes I fill them with things like mushroom ragout or ratatouille and serve them hot.

Of course, if you make the gougere dough without the herbs and cheese they are …. profiteroles. Which you can fill with ice cream!

Or you can make bigger ones and fill them with ice cream, whipped cream or custard, the way my mother did, and call them Cream Puffs.

It’s all the same dough. The method is the same, so once you get the knack you have this extraordinarily versatile recipe.

I always have gougeres in my freezer. Just in case company comes. Like my daughter Meredith, who loves them and always heats up a few for herself when she’s here.

Or for dinner company or weekend guests, which I am having this weekend.

Or to celebrate Bastille Day, tomorrow, because, well, this is a French recipe. Called choux.

 

Herb and Cheese Gougeres (Choux Puffs)

1 cup minus 2 tablespoons water

1/4 pound unsalted butter, cut into chunks

1 cup all purpose flour, sifted

3/4 teaspoon salt

4 large eggs

1-1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh mixed herbs, or 1-1/2 teaspoons dried

1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Gruyere cheese

pinch cayenne pepper

egg glaze: 1 large egg mixed with 2 teaspoons water, optional

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cook the water and butter in a saucepan over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the flour and salt all at once. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture is well blended and begins to come away from the sides of the pan. Remove pan from the heat and let the mixture cool for 2-3 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition.* Add the herbs, cheese and cayenne pepper and blend them in thoroughly. 

Butter and flour a baking sheet. Drop 3/4 to 1-inch mounds of dough from a teaspoon onto the sheet. Leave space between the mounds for the puffs to rise. For a shiny surface on the puffs, lightly brush the tops of the mounds with some of the egg wash. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the puffs are lightly brown and crispy. Lower the heat to 300 degrees and bake for another 5-6 minutes. Turn off the heat but leave the puffs in the oven for 3-4 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature. Or cut them open and fill them. Makes about 60

*Incorporating the eggs is what most people find difficult. Be sure to add them one at a time. Use a sturdy wooden spoon to help you. The mixture will be sticky and at first you think it will never come together, but keep mixing and you’ll see that it does come together. After each egg is incorporated the mixture becomes softer and pastier and stickier. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Egyptian Hummus with Tahini

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What’s the most popular hors d’oeuvre?

I think it has to be hummus. I don’t have any scientific proof but I once counted the kinds of hummus sold at one of my local supermarkets and stopped when I reached 38.

Thirty-eight kinds of hummus? That’s almost as many varieties as potato chips!

Of course there aren’t actually 38 different flavors. There are several brands and some of them are the same flavor, brand to brand — like garlic flavored or spicy, olive, tahini.

But there are also some that I will call post-modern versions because I can’t think of another word for it. Like Sabra’s chipotle or Buffalo style hummus or Tribe’s hummus topped with Cilantro Chimichurri. Wow, that’s what I call fusion cuisine!

Sorry, but when it comes to certain foods, I am a purist. Like with hummus.

In Egypt, hummus is still blessedly kind of pure and simple, so I’ve been eating it every day with breakfast and dinner. It’s basic stuff: pureed chickpeas mixed with spices, olive oil and lots of tahini. Mix it all up in a food processor, garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and a few cooked chickpeas and it’s yummy enough. You don’t need to make it more complex or add any sauce or topping. That way you can actually taste the hummus.

Try this version — it’s easy to make, cheaper than store-bought and you won’t have to make a decision about which of the 38 (or more) flavors to buy.

Egyptian Hummus with Tahini

  • 1 pound can chickpeas
  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • pita bread

Drain the chickpeas but reserve the liquid. Set aside a tablespoon of chickpeas. Place the remaining chickpeas in a food processor with the tahini, 2 tablespoons olive oil, lime juice, garlic, salt and 1/4 cup of the reserved bean liquid. Process until the ingredients form a smooth puree (turn the machine off and scrape the sides of the work bowl once or twice). If you prefer a thinner hummus, add some more of the bean liquid. Spoon the hummus into a serving bowl. Garnish with the remaining tablespoon olive oil and the reserved chick peas.

Makes about 1-1/2 cups

Scallion Cakes

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If the Giants or Jets aren’t playing I’m not much interested in the Superbowl. It might have been okay if the New England Patriots were in it, since I live in New England, sort of (a lot of Yankees consider us lower Fairfield county folks New England-imposters). And maybe even if the Bears were in it because I went to college at Northwestern, in Evanston, Illinois and spent 4 years cheering on Da Bears, Cubs, White Sox, etc.

Frankly, Green Bay and Pittsburgh? Not interested so much. 

But we always go to my brother and sister-in-law’s house on Superbowl Sunday. It’s been a tradition for years and years now, whether or not we watch the game or just switch TV channels occasionally to see who’s winning. They have an enormous TV that makes you feel as if you are in the stadium. Jeff makes the best fireplace fire and also the best popcorn (he uses an entire stick of butter). Eileen will surely make a turkey breast and fixins. So I guess my contribution will be hors d’oeuvre.

Instead of the usual guacamole or salsa, I’ll bring Scallion Cakes. They’re crispy wedges of fried dough filled with little bits of chopped scallions sprinkled judiciously with crunchy particles of kosher salt. Believe me, these things are like potato chips. You can never eat just one. I better make a double recipe to have in my freezer for when my kids come to visit. You don’t even have to defrost them — reheat them in a single layer in a preheated 425 degree oven for a few minutes on each side until they’re hot.

Scallion Cakes

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/3 cup cold water
  • vegetable oil
  • 4-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 scallions, finely chopped

Place the flour in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the boiling water and mix at medium speed until a rough dough has formed. Let cool for 2-3 minutes. Pour in the cold water and mix until the dough forms into a ball. Knead for 4-5 minutes or until smooth and elastic (you can do all this in a food processor). Divide the dough into 6 pieces. Using a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface, roll one piece of dough into a 10-inch circle. Brush the dough with about 1-1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil. Sprinkle with about 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Sprinkle with about one tablespoon of the chopped scallion. Roll the circle jelly roll style. Form the rolled dough into a coil. Press down on the coil to flatten it slightly. Roll the coil into circles about 1/8-inch thick (don’t worry if some of the dough breaks and the scallions pop through slightly). Repeat with the remaining dough, salt and scallions. Keep the circles separated. Heat a small amount of vegetable oil in a skillet large enough to hold the circles. Cover the pan and cook each circle, one at a time, over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes per side, or until browned and crispy. Add more vegetable oil to the pan as necessary for each circle of dough. Drain the fried circles on paper towels. Cut each circle into 8 wedges. Serve hot. Makes 48 pieces