Saturday, February 6, 2010

Super Bowl Apps

I'm not a huge football fan. I am from Chicago so I root for the Bears and after this past season, can you blame me for being a little sour on football? That said, I do have very fond memories of the '86 Super Bowl and from what I remember, it truly was a fantastical time leading up to and more importantly winning the big game. It is amazing how the Super Bowl transforms a city, especially a city like Chicago in the depths of winter, into a magical place where everyone is in a good mood, people are saying "Hi!" to strangers on the street and there is an air of optimism in the air that permeates everything. Unfortunately, Chicago hasn't seen that kind of happiness in February for a very long time. What to do with the winter blues without a winning team? Eat, drink and be merry!

So, if you are going to a Super Bowl party or hosting, make these appetizers!! I promise your friends will love you and they are about as easy as appetizers come short of going to the store and purchasing pre-made. Bonus is that they go so very well with beer. I have a particular weakness for Black & Tan and I highly recommend it with these. They are salty, buttery and have some serious depth of flavor that only a dark beer can stand up to. Ok, I would not exactly turn down a glass of champagne with these buttery salty delights but seriously, it's the super bowl, that would just be silly. Enjoy!

Recipes adapted from Fine Cooking

Recipe #1

Warm Cheese & Mushroom Toasts

2 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 large shallot, finely diced (about 1/4 cup)
Kosher salt
10 oz. mixed mushrooms (like shiitake, cremini, and oyster), trimmed and thinly sliced
Sixteen 1/2-inch slices baguette, cut on a sharp diagonal so they're about 3 inches long
1-1/2 cups grated Gruyère (about 4 oz.)

Melt the butter in a large heavy-duty skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot, season with 1/2 tsp. salt, and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Raise the heat to high, add the mushrooms and another 1/2 tsp. salt, and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and browned, 3 to 5 minutes longer.

Set an oven rack about 8 inches away from the broiler element and heat the broiler to high. Arrange the bread slices on a large rimmed baking sheet. Broil until lightly toasted, 2 to 4 minutes, rotating the pan as needed for even toasting. Flip the bread, mound a heaping tablespoon of the mushrooms on each piece, and sprinkle with the Gruyère. Broil until the cheese is melted and lightly browned, 4 to 7 minutes. Serve immediately.

Recipe #2

Ham, Gruyère & Honey-Mustard Palmiers

1 sheet (about 9 oz.) frozen puff pastry, thawed
2 Tbs. honey Dijon mustard
3 oz. (about 1 cup ) shredded Gruyère
1/4 cup (about 1 oz.) finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
4 oz. very thinly sliced baked ham

Heat the over to 425°F. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the pastry to a 10x14-inch rectangle. Using the back of a spoon, spread the pastry evenly with the mustard. Sprinkle on the Gruyère and Parmigiano in an even layer.

Arrange the ham in a single, even layer, tearing or cutting pieces to fit. Lay a piece of parchment or waxed paper on top and gently roll and press with the rolling pin to compress the layers. Gently peel off the paper without disturbing the ham.

Cut the rectangle in half widthwise to make two 10x7-inch bands. Gently roll one long edge of a band into the center and then roll the opposite edge in so the two rolls meet in the ­middle and resemble a double scroll. Press lightly to stick the two rolls together. Repeat with the second band. (The rolls can be assembled to this point and held in the refrigerator for several hours.)

With a very sharp knife, slice each band into about 22 pieces, just under 1/2-inch each. Arrange the palmiers on two parchment-lined or nonstick baking sheets and bake until deep golden brown and no longer doughy in the center (break one open to be sure), 10 to 12 minutes. Be careful not to burn the bottoms. Let cool on a rack and serve just slightly warm or within an hour if possible.

Recipe #3

Creamy White Bean and Herb Dip

2 15-oz. cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
4 oz. cream cheese (1/2 cup)
1/3 cup chopped yellow onion
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbs. thinly sliced fresh chives
1 Tbs. chopped fresh marjoram or oregano

Crudités, crusty sourdough bread, or crackers, for serving

Put the beans, cream cheese, onion, lemon juice, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper in a food processor and process until smooth. With the motor running, drizzle in the oil. Transfer the spread to a large bowl and fold in 2 Tbs. of the chives and the marjoram. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer the spread to a serving bowl, garnish with the remaining 1 Tbs. chives, and serve with crudités, bread, or crackers.

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