Archive for the 'Make Ahead Appetizers' Category



Bacon Onion Cheddar Biscuits

Whew.

After hosting book club last week (Kielbasa Black Bean Chili and White and Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding with Irish Cream Sauce!), making sugar cookies for my sorority alumnae group’s white elephant party, making appetizers for my gourmet club, and hosting my mom at my house for a week (including a Runza lesson), I’ve been doing an awful lot of cooking and not a lot of blogging.  I’m sneaking this hour between starting a new batch of cookies for a party tomorrow and going to the store for a brunch I’m having on Sunday.  Does anyone out there know if you can teach a cat (or a husband) to cook?

Anyway, I’m ready to talk bacon, cheese, and the gooey goodness that is Pioneer Woman.  My friend Katie chose her recipes as the theme for gourmet club this month, so I did a bit of experimenting before the big day.  My primary goal (as it almost always is) was to find ridiculously appetizing food that could be made ahead.  Her Bacon Onion Cheddar Biscuits fit the bill.  Here’s how I made them:

First, I fried up 10 slices of thick-cut bacon, drained it on paper towels, and chopped it into small pieces.  (Crumble it if you want; I was in a chopping mood.)  I drained off most of the bacon fat and then sautéed 1 cup of finely diced onion in the same skillet until browned (about 5 – 7 minutes over medium heat).  I transferred the onions to a plate to cool.

With the cooked ingredients ready to go, I sifted together 2 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, and 3/4 teaspoon of table salt.  Using a pastry cutter, I cut in 1/4 cup of Crisco until everything was combined.  (The mixture should look a bit like coarse meal.)

In a large bowl, I whisked together 10 tablespoons of whole milk, 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil, and 1 egg.  I added the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, along with the bacon, onions, and 1 cup of grated sharp cheddar cheese.  (PW is normally about fresh-grated cheese, but she says the cornstarch coating in packaged grated cheese can help suspend the cheese in this batter.  I used packaged cheese.)  I stirred the mixture gently to combine.

The original recipe calls for full-size muffins, but I thought mini muffins were more appropriate as appetizers.  I greased my 24-cup mini muffin pan with butter and then used my cookie scoop to portion out the dough.  (With slightly heaping scoops, there was about a muffin’s worth of dough left over.)  I baked the muffins for 20 minutes at 375F and cooled them in the pan for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack.  Since mine wouldn’t be served until later in the day, I cooled them completely and transferred them to an airtight container.  If you’re ready to eat, though, serve them warm!

Bacon Onion Cheddar Biscuits

This is just another one of those recipes where it’s practically impossible for the results to be bad because only delicious things went into the batter.  (Cheese?  Bacon?  Sautéed onions?  Heaven.)  Initially, I was actually pretty worried that these wouldn’t work as a make-ahead appetizer because PW made them sound through-the-roof delicious when they’re warm.  I enjoyed them warm (of course!), but I almost felt like I could taste the bacon and cheese better when they were room temperature.  Texturally, they were slightly crusty on the outside and fantastically moist on the inside.  Mmmm.

Although I think it worked really well to make them ahead, they’re definitely best the day they’re made.  After spending the night in an airtight container in the refrigerator, they lose that yummy crispness on the outside.  If you want to make them ahead AND serve them warm, I’d recommend wrapping them in foil and heating them in the oven for about 15 – 20 minutes at 300F when you’re ready to eat.

TIPS:  If you try this recipe, I would strongly recommend reviewing Pioneer Woman’s step-by-step instructions before you attempt the printable recipe.  I’m sure it was an accidental omission, but the printable recipe doesn’t say a word about sautéing the onions.  Somehow, I don’t think raw onion in the batter would taste quite as good. 😉

Recipe link: Bacon Onion Cheddar Biscuits

Pita Bread

I can’t believe how long it’s been since I posted an actual recipe!  The twelve days I spent away from home last month (in addition to the four I spent this past weekend) have cramped my cooking style a bit, but I’m ready to get back into my routine.

It was my turn to host the Gourmet Club meeting in September, and I chose a Greek theme.  Dr. O and I absolutely adore Greek food, but we haven’t really eaten it on a regular basis since our time in Lincoln.  (Parthenon, we miss you!)  After a half-failed moussaka attempt (the flavor was fantastic, but the bechamel layer couldn’t have possibly looked less appetizing; I just can’t bring myself to serve ugly, especially when it takes three hours to produce it), I decided on a menu of Grilled Greek Chicken Kebabs with Mint-Feta Sauce, Greek Garden Salad, Greek Potatoes with Lemon Vinaigrette (coming soon!), and Pita Bread (today’s recipe).  I was particularly excited about the pita bread because (1) I’ve never made it before, and (2) I’ve had such a great time making bread and pastry dough from scratch during these past couple of weeks.

I got the recipe from The Olive and the Caper by Susanna Hoffman, which is a book I picked up at the Highlands Ranch library.  I couldn’t find a link to the recipe online, so here it is:

Ingredients:

2 cups warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
2 packages active dry yeast
6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup olive oil, plus extra for coating the dough

Method:

Stir together 1 cup of the water and the sugar in a small bowl.  Sprinkle the yeast over the top and set aside until bubbly, 15 minutes.

Place the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Make a well in the center and pour in the 1/3 cup oil, the yeast mixture, and the remaining 1 cup water.  Stir with a wooden spoon until crumbly, then knead in the bowl until the dough can be scooped into a ball.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic and no longer sticky, about 5 minutes.  Lightly coat the dough with oil, return it to the bowl, cover with a cloth, and set it aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down the dough and let it rest for 20 minutes.

Divide the dough into 12 portions.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out each portion to make an 8- to 9-inch round about 1/8 inch thick.  Set the dough rounds aside (without stacking them), and cover them with a damp cloth so they don’t dry out.  Let them rest for 30 minutes to 1 1/2 hours.

While the dough is resting, preheat the oven to 500F.

When you are ready to bake them, place as many dough rounds as will fit on an ungreased baking sheet without overlapping.  Place the sheet in the oven and bake until the pitas are puffed up, 3 minutes.  Check the oven, and rotate the baking sheets if the pitas are baking unevenly.  Continue baking until the pitas are beginning to turn golden on the bottom but are not at all crisp, 2 minutes.  Carefully remove the pitas, being watchful to avoid the escaping steam.  Stack the pitas and wrap them in a towel.  Repeat until all the pitas are cooked.

Serve right away, or let the pitas cool completely, wrap them in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for up to 3 days (or freeze for up to 2 months).  Reheat before serving.
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Everything went as planned for me until I got to the point where I was supposed to transfer the individual rounds to the baking sheet.  Despite the fact that I floured my surface well before I let them rest, they stuck.  And when I say they stuck, I mean they STUCK.  Each one completely lost its shape as I pulled it from the counter, which was especially awesome since Gourmet Club was set to begin in a matter of hours.  I decided to just wad up the dough and re-roll each round as it was time to put them in the oven.  I didn’t think the pitas would turn out because I was agitating the dough, but I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

Lo and behold, they turned out anyway!  I was able to get two dough rounds on each baking sheet, and after 5 minutes in the oven, they were puffed up, browned, and perfect.  I used a thin spatula to remove them from the baking sheets and then stacked them and wrapped them in a clean kitchen towel as the recipe instructed.  Before serving, I divided them into two batches, wrapped them in foil, and reheated them in the oven at 300F for 10 minutes.

Pita Bread

The pita bread was seriously delicious and definitely worth the trouble.   This recipe doesn’t produce the dry, pocket-style pita bread you might be used to buying in the grocery store.  This was moist, chewy flatbread, which was perfect for dipping in the mint-feta sauce that accompanied the chicken and for sopping up the potato vinaigrette.  Mmmm.  I think store-bought pita is forever ruined for me.

TIPS:  I tried the recipe using baking sheets and a pizza stone; both worked equally well.  Also, you can make the dough several hours (and up to three days) in advance if you want.  Just bring it to room temperature before using it and resume the recipe by dividing the dough into individual rounds.

Creamy Chipotle Shrimp Tostadas

It’s back to the grind!  My parents came to stay with us this past week, so we had our first houseguests in the new place.  We really enjoyed their visit, but I think one of the best things that came out of it is that I felt compelled to cook again.  Now I just need to feel compelled to *photograph* what I cook again…

Here’s my cooking rundown for the past week.  Last Saturday, I made pulled pork sandwiches, a two-bean salad, and strawberry spinach salad; Monday, I made a sausage and sundried tomato strata; Tuesday, I made a challah French toast with mixed berry jam; and last night, I “practiced” for an upcoming Gourmet Club meeting by making four different Mexican dishes from Rick Bayless’s Web site.  The recipe I want to share today is one of the appetizers from the Rick Bayless site: Creamy Chipotle Shrimp Tostadas (a.k.a. The Only Recipe I Managed to Photograph 🙂 ).  It’s quick, easy, delicious, and full of perfect summer flavors.

To make the shrimp mixture, I started by prepping my ingredients.  I cored and seeded 1 large red tomato, cut it into 1/4-inch dice, and placed it in a medium bowl.  Next, I opened a small can of chipotle chiles in adobo (you can find them in the ethnic food aisle at the grocery store) and added 2 tablespoons of the canning sauce to the diced tomato.  I removed 2 peppers from the can, slit each one open, scraped out the seeds, chopped them finely, and added them to the bowl as well.

To finish my prep, I finely diced 1 medium red onion, finely chopped 1 scallion (green parts only), minced 1 teaspoon of fresh thyme (leaves only), and chopped 2 1/2 tablespoons of fresh cilantro.  I added these ingredients to the bowl along with 3/4 cup of sour cream.

We can’t have shrimp tostadas without shrimp, right?  The recipe calls for 1 pound of tiny salad shrimp, but my grocery store didn’t have any (fresh *or* frozen!), so I just bought some cooked shrimp from the meat counter, removed the tails, and chopped the meat.  (I did locate salad shrimp at Safeway this morning, so I’ll have some tomorrow when I make it “for real.”)  I added the shrimp to the mixture, stirred everything together gently but thoroughly, and seasoned with salt to taste.  (I ended up using about 1 teaspoon of kosher salt.)

The recipe said to serve the mixture on homestyle tortilla chips or Guerrero-style chalupitas.  I just wanted to make sure the chip would be thick and sturdy enough for the shrimp mixture, yet small enough to be finger food.  I looked at Sunflower Farmer’s Market and King Soopers, and the best I could do was a bag of On The Border Premium Rounds.  So commercial and so *not* homemade, yes, but they worked out beautifully.  I finished the tostadas with a sprinkling of Mexican queso fresco.

Creamy Chipotle Shrimp Tostadas

I was a bit wary of the heat these might have since the last time I cooked with chipotles in adobo Dr. O and I couldn’t even finish our dinner (it was sad!), but removing the seeds made all the difference.  I loved the smoky flavor of the adobo sauce, the fresh bite of the scallion and cilantro, and the creamy coolness of the sour cream.  I think the tostadas will be a big hit at my meeting tomorrow, and I definitely plan on making them for parties at our place this summer.

TIPS:  This might be obvious, but just in case: You can make the shrimp mixture a couple of hours ahead, but don’t assemble the tostadas until just before you plan to serve them.  No one likes soggy chips!

Recipe link: Creamy Chipotle Shrimp Tostadas

Twice-Baked Potato Bites Look a Lot Like Dessert…

When you make them with purple potatoes.  (Especially when they’re only once-baked at this point.  Throw the plate on a pink napkin and the effect doubles!)

Twice-Baked Potato Bites Made with Purple Potatoes

I didn’t do this deliberately…  For some reason, Sunflower Market only had 2-pound bags of creamer potatoes last week, and each one had a assortment of red, white, and purple potatoes.  A couple of my guests (particularly the one who won’t eat onions unless they’re well disguised) approached the purple potatoes with caution, but in the end, they went oven better than the red and white.  (Perhaps because they were more exotic?)

Anyway, they were delicious.  Perhaps I’ll use purple potatoes on purpose next time…

Recipe link: Twice-Baked Potato Bites
Original post: Twice-Baked Potato Bites

Twice-Baked Potato Bites

I’ve been a bit of a blog slacker this past week, but I’m hoping to pick things up a bit after tomorrow’s dinner party.  Today’s recipe – Twice-Baked Potato Bites from the June 2008 issue of Everyday Food – is actually a side dish that I’m making for the party.  For the main course, I’m making a stuffed pork loin that cooks at 450F, and I wanted to find something that could cook at the same temperature during the pork’s resting time.  Just to make sure they actually came out of the oven hot after 15 minutes (even after a day in the refrigerator), I made them as a side dish with dinner on Thursday night.

The original recipe serves eight people, and I actually did make the full recipe just to make sure everything would go as planned for the party.  Just cut it in half if you’re cooking for four.

These twice-baked potatoes are “bites” because they’re made with red new potatoes.  I started off by scrubbing and halving 2 pounds of potatoes (about 14 potatoes).  Next, I cut a thin slice off the bottom of each potato so the potatoes would sit flat.  I lined a rimmed baking sheet with foil, placed the potatoes on the baking sheet, and tossed them with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  I seasoned with salt and pepper, rearranged the potatoes to sit bottom side down, and baked them at 450F until they were tender and lightly browned (35 minutes).

After the initial baking time, I let the potatoes cool on the baking sheet until I could safely handle them.  Using a measuring spoon, I scooped about 1 teaspoon of flesh from the center of each potato and transferred it to a large bowl.  I added 3/4 cup of reduced-fat sour cream and 1/4 cup of snipped fresh chives, mashed the mixture together, and seasoned with salt and pepper.  I stuffed the filling back into the potatoes, arranged them on the baking sheet, covered them with plastic wrap, and stuck them in the refrigerator.

The real test of the recipe was to see if the potato bites would indeed come out hot using the original baking time of 15 minutes, despite spending the night in the refrigerator.  I removed the plastic wrap, baked them (uncovered) for 15 minutes at 450F, and – voila! – they came out piping hot and ready to go.

Twice-Baked Potato Bites

I forgot to add extra scallions as a garnish this time around (I’ll get it right tomorrow!), but I still think they looked and tasted great.  I loved the creaminess and tanginess the sour cream added to the potato mash, and I’m so excited about how easy these were to finish after I had done the initial preparation and stashed them in the refrigerator.  They’re going to be perfect for my party.

TIPS:  Chives can be a bit hard to come by in the grocery store, depending on where you shop.  If they’re available, they’re usually by the fresh herbs in the produce area.  Sunflower Market here in Denver seems to have them pretty consistently.  If you can’t find them, scallion (green onion) tops offer a similar flavor; they’re just much bigger in diameter.

Recipe link: Twice-Baked Potato Bites

Fresh Salsa

This is a short one but a good one. I get rave reviews every time I make Fresh Salsa from Pampered Chef’s All the Best (except from my friends who don’t like raw tomatoes – I have a few!). The recipe is quick, easy, and flavorful.

I started by seeding and finely dicing 6 plum tomatoes (1 1/2 cups). I put that in a bowl and added 1/4 cup of finely chopped onion, 1/4 cup of snipped fresh cilantro, 1 1/2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice, 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt, and 1/8 teaspoon of ground red pepper. The recipe says to let the salsa stand for 10 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. I usually end up covering and refrigerating mine for anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours before serving.

fresh_salsa1.jpg

If you’re looking for zippy salsa, this isn’t it; I suppose you could seed and chop a jalapeño and add it to the mixture for heat. I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to super spicy foods, though, so this recipe suits me just fine. 🙂




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