The arrival of November got me thinking about entertaining so I thought that I would share some ideas for pre-dinner party nibbles. I like to save the heavy hors-d'oeuvres for cocktail parties and simply serve a couple of light savory bites before a sit-down party. We call that having "just a little something" before dinner.
White Cheddar Cheese Straws
On top of being light, crispy, and spicy, these are also extremely quick and easy to make. This recipe is based on one published in Southern Living in 2007.
6 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, cut into cubes
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into four pieces
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper ( I use 1/2 tsp. for spicy straws)
1 tablespoon half and half
Combine the first 4 ingredients in a food processor and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add red pepper flakes and half and half and process until dough forms a ball, about 10 seconds.
On a well floured surface, roll into a rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick. Using a pizza wheel or a big knife, trim the edges a bit to even them up and then cut the dough into straws about 1/4 inch wide. Place on an ungreased baking sheet (I like to use parchment paper).
Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes until ends are just slightly browned. Cool on baking sheet on a wire rack.
Makes about 2 dozen
Just realized that these don't really fit the category of Cheese Straws as they contain no cheese... just olives and puff pastry. But, I'll call it culinary license and carry on. I tried the recipe on a whim just because it looked fun...and I happen to love olives. If you are an olive lover too, what could be better than wrapping them up in a crispy shell? This is adapted from Michel Roux Pastry, Savory and Sweet. The "adaptation" is that I use Pepperidge Farm frozen puff pastry instead of making it from scratch!
1 sheet Pepperidge Farm frozen puff pastry, defrosted
about 15 large green olives, stuffed with pimentos
egg wash (1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon milk)
ruler or tape measure
On a lightly floured surface, roll out pastry sheet to measure 9 1/2 x 13 inches. Cut this rectangle into two pieces, one measuring 9 1/2 x 5 1/2 and the other measuring 7 1/2 by 9 1/2. Don't stress over the exact measurements...these are the ones that worked for me. The idea is that you need two pieces of puff pastry, both the same length but with one a couple on inches wider than the other so that you can have extra room to cover and go between the olives. Now place these two sheets of pastry on a baking sheet in the frig. for 10 minutes to chill.
Take the smaller piece of pastry and starting about 1/2 inch from the short side, lay olives end to end. Create three rows like this, with about 1/2 inch in between. (see photos below...kind of blurry but maybe helpful) Now brush all of the exposed pastry between the olives with the egg wash. Cover with the larger piece of pastry and press the whole surface of the pastry between the olives firmly with your fingertips. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. With a very sharp knife, trim and neaten the edges of the pastry and cut it crosswise into 1/4 inch slices. The olives may slip around a bit but you can trim and reposition them on the baking tray. Lay the straws flat on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes or until lightly brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly and serve.
Another easy nibble using frozen puff pastry. I like to get these all ready to pop in the oven and keep them in the frig until the guests start to arrive. They are quite irresistible when hot out of the oven and still awfully decent at room temp. ( From Cocktail Food, by Mary Corpening Barber and Sara Corpening Whiteford)
1/2 cup finely grated Gruyere cheese
3/4 teaspoon dried sage
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 puff pastry sheet, thawed
2 tablespoons honey mustard
2 ounces packaged sliced pepperoni (I like to use the extra thin sliced pepperoni)
1 egg, slightly beaten
Mix the Gruyere, sage, oregano, and pepper together in a small bowl. Lay the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface with a short side closest to you. Cut in half crosswise. Now with a long side facing you, spread half of the honey mustard onto each half, leaving a 1 inch border at the tops. Divide the pepperoni and arrange in a single layer over the mustard. Top each with 1/2 of the Gruyere mixture. Brush the farthest edges with the egg. Roll each puff pastry piece tightly from the closest edge to the egg coated edge to make 2 logs. Lay them seam side down on a baking sheet and chill until firm, about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Prepare 2 parchment lined (or foil lined) baking sheets.
note: The puff pastry can be filled and rolled up to 1 day in advance and refrigerated, or frozen up to 2 weeks in advance, Thaw, cut, and bake as directed