It might be abominably indelicate and neglectful not to present some form of pre-dinner nibbly-bits for your guests and family to munch on while they are catching up on the year’s activities. What better way to pique the appetite for the main event than with some avant-guard cocktails and some of these amazing appetizers before and the wolves pounce to devour the lovingly prepared dishes at the table?
CARAMELIZED ONION DIP
This is a killer dip and a way better option than anything you could possibly purchase already made. Make it a day or two ahead, as the flavors will intensify. Once you make this dip, you’ll want to serve it at any occasion where you have a gathering, it’s that outstanding!
2 large Vidalia or Sweet Maui onions – chopped finely
1 TBSP balsamic vinegar
4-5 strips of crumbled cooked bacon
1 pkg of cream cheese – softened
½ cup of mayo
¼ cup of brown sugar
3 TBSP olive oil
¼ cup of water
1 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
¼ TSP Aleppo pepper
½ TSP dry mustard
½ TSP kosher salt
PREHEAT OVEN 400F
In a deep skillet heat up the olive oil and add the chopped onion and a pinch of salt and sweat them for about 2-3 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar, sugar and the water and simmer for about 35/40 minutes stirring often until the have caramelized and achieved a golden color. Set aside.
In a mixer with a paddle, add the cream cheese, mayo, Worcestershire, Aleppo pepper (or red pepper flakes), dry mustard and blend for a few minutes. Incorporate the caramelized onions and add the salt.
Place in an ovenproof ramekin and sprinkle some parmesan cheese on top and add the crumbled cooked bacon. Heath through for about 15 minutes and serve with pitas, chips or sliced crostini.
If making ahead, remove from the fridge and let it stand for about 1 hour, add the parmesan, the crumbled bacon bits and place in the oven before serving.
DEVILED EGGS WITH BACON AND JALAPEÑO
These are rather lovely nibbles that don’t necessarily have to adorn a summer picnic table or a tailgate party. They are good all-year-round. The addition of the Boursin cheese might seem unorthodox but don’t be skeptical, these will be the most creamy, dreamy deviled eggs you’ve ever presented. Personalize them by topping them with some bacon, smoked ham, Serrano ham, smoked salmon, jalapeño slices for a kick or a small pickle slice. Either way, these will be a winner. You might want to fly stealth and omit telling your guests about the Boursin addition – that’s between you and me.
10 hardboiled eggs
1 jalapeño – sliced in half from top to bottom and seeds removed
¼ cup of mayo
2 TBSP Boursin cheese – garlic and fine herbs flavor
5 cornichons – finely chopped
1 minced shallot
4 slices of Applewood smoked bacon
2 TSP Dijon mustard
1 TBSP chopped chives
Good pinch of Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.
Cook the bacon and set aside. In a large saucepan, cover the eggs with cold water and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from the heat and let the eggs stand in the hot water for 10 minutes. Transfer the eggs to an ice water bath until chilled, about 5 minutes. Peel and slice the eggs in half and carefully remove the yolks adding them to a working bowl.
To the yolks add the mayo, Boursin, cornichons, Dijon, shallot and a TSP of chives. Season with salt and pepper and blend till smooth.
With a teaspoon, or if you want to be fancy in a piping bag with a medium tip, fill the egg white cavities with the mixture. Top with a piece of crispy bacon and a jalapeño slice. Sprinkle with some paprika if desired and additional chives.
PUMPKIN CREAM CHEESE CROSTINI
These are rather a lovely and different offering to the appetizer lineup. The mixture of cream cheese is extravagant with pumpkin puree and you may even want to present these at Xmas time, as they’ll be very well received!
8 oz of cream cheese – softened
4 pieces of Applewood bacon – cooked
¾ cup of pumpkin puree
Orange blossom honey for drizzling –
1 Anjou pear – peeled and cut into small pieces
½ cup of toasted walnuts
1 baguette – sliced and toasted in the oven
Combine the softened cream cheese and pumpkin puree together and mix well together, adding a pinch of sugar, salt and a small drizzle of honey.
Place the slices of baguette in the oven to toast. Spread the pumpkin-cream cheese on top of each toast, add some chopped pear pieces, walnuts, the crumbled bacon and finish with a drizzle of honey.
The flavor of the orange blossom honey makes these crostini particularly special.
The quintessential party fave. You can prepare just this and forego any other starter. This platter is sure to please even the finickiest nibblers! You can personalize it however you please.
1 Jar of marinated artichokes
1 jar of pepperoncini’s
1 jar of Kalamata olives
1 jar of Manzanilla olives
Goat cheese log
Fried fruits – such as dried dates, apricots, raisins
! bag of Spanish Marcona almonds
1 jar of roasted pimentos
Cheese – cut into squares of wedges
Selection of crackers
In a decorative wooden board of large platter, arrange the different pieces arranging them in a decorative fashion.
ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP
If the choice requires for a formal starter, this cream of butternut squash soup will curl your toes and your taste buds will be exploding a flavor bomb. It’s a perfect do ahead, as the flavors will intensify and develop the second day. Don’t serve too much, otherwise your guest will be full for the main meal!
1 large butternut squash – cut in half
2 Granny Smith apples – peeled, cut and cut into small pieces
1 large sweet onion
3 cups of chicken broth (or vegetable if vegetarian)
1 cup of ½ and ½
2 TBSP unsalted butter
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of fresh sage (leave t whole as its easier to remove before blending)
Pepitas to garnish
PREHEAT OVEN TO 425F
Place the two halves of squash on a cookie sheet lined with foil, cut side up. Don’t scoop out the seeds as that’s easier when it has roasted. Brush with some olive oil and season aggressively with salt and pepper.
Roast for about 45 minutes till very soft. Remove and allow it to cool. Remove the seeds with a spoon and scoop out the flesh and transfer it to a bowl.
In a large Dutch oven, add the butter and sweat the onions with a pinch of salt with the chopped apples, bay leaf, sage and cook for about 15 minutes. Add the roasted squash, the broth and bring to a boil, reducing to a simmer and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Cool and remove the bay leaf and the sage sprig. Using an immersion blender start pureeing the soup, being careful not to splatter. Add the cream blend a few more times and check for seasonings.
Serve in bowls with a swirl of cream, chives and some toasted pepitas on top.