Rick's Reviews: Easy Entertaining

Bacon-Jam Cream Cheese Spread

Make-ahead appetizers make cocktail parties a breeze! As the holidays draw near, there will be more and more opportunities to host, or attend cocktail parties.

Whether you’re hosting the party yourself or bringing a treat for a party to which you’ve been invited, you want something that only takes minutes to put together so that you (or your host) don’t wind up slaving away in the kitchen while the rest of the guests are chatting happily on the patio.

All of the following recipes can be prepped ahead of time and, when guests arrive, take only minutes to go from refrigerator to serving platter, all with a minimum of fuss. Pop out when Uncle Joe begins that “joke” he tells every year and be back in time for the punch-line, all while holding a tray of goodies that will provide everyone with a chance to change the subject.

Bacon-Jam Cream Cheese Spread

Serve this delicious spread with slices of baguette or plain crackers. My friends call this my “crack” dip. It’s that addictive.

 

Ingredients

1 ½ lbs. sliced bacon, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces

2 medium yellow onions, diced small

3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

½ cup cider vinegar

½ cup packed dark-brown sugar

¼ cup pure maple syrup

¾ cup brewed coffee

Directions

In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium-high, stirring occasionally, until the fat is rendered, and bacon is lightly browned, about 20 minutes. 

With a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. 

Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from skillet.

Add onions and garlic, and cook until onions are translucent, about 6 minutes. 

Add vinegar, brown sugar, maple syrup, and coffee and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up browned bits from skillet with a wooden spoon, about 2 minutes. 

Add bacon and stir into base to combine.

Simmer until liquid is syrupy, 5-10 minutes. 

Transfer to a food processor; pulse until coarsely chopped. 

Let cool, then refrigerate in airtight container, up to 4 weeks.

To Serve

Heat jam in microwave until slightly warm.

Spread cream cheese onto crostini, spoon on a bit of bacon jam and serve (or put out in two containers with a tray of bread and let guests assemble each bite themselves.

Seafood Salad in Endive

Making the filling ahead actually improves the flavor of this dish, allowing the flavors to marry.

Ingredients 

4 oz. medium cooked shrimp, finely chopped

4 oz. cooked crab meat, chopped

4 oz. goat cheese, room temperature

2 Tbs. chopped chives, plus more for garnish

1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

Coarse salt and ground pepper

20 endive leaves (from about 3 heads)

Directions

In a small bowl, combine shrimp, cheese, chives, lemon juice, salt and pepper. 

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 1 day. 

To serve 

Place 1 tablespoon mixture on each endive leaf, and top with additional chives.

May be done up to two hours in advance, cover with plastic wrap and store in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Apricot, Blue Cheese & Walnut Bites

Ingredients

2 lbs. dried apricots (3 lbs. fresh)

8 oz. blue cheese

8 oz. cream cheese

4 Tbs. honey

8 oz. walnut halves

If you want to get extra fancy you can use fresh apricots which have been halved and then broiled.

 

Directions

Allow cream cheese and blue cheese to come to room temperature.

Add honey and blend together.

Chill cream cheese until firm but spreadable (about 30 minutes)

Toast walnuts in a dry skillet for about 2 minutes, allow to cool.

Spread on dried apricot, top with walnut half.

To Serve

Place on platter and cover with plastic wrap. Can sit, unrefrigerated, for up to six hours.

Thanksgiving Sliders

Sure, Thanksgiving has passed, but everybody likes a little leftover fun.

 

Ingredients

2 tubes buttermilk biscuits

1 lb. turkey breast cut in ½ inch thick slices (Lucky’s Market has an excellent fresh turkey breast in its deli department)

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup cranberry preserves or sauce

½ cup gravy (optional)

Directions

Bake and cool biscuits according to package directions.

Split biscuit and spread one side with mayonnaise (you may substitute turkey gravy for mayonnaise if you prefer) and other with cranberry preserves.

Place a slice of turkey on bottom half of biscuit.

Top with top of biscuit.

Cover and refrigerate overnight, or at least 6 hours.

Cauliflower Fritters

You’ll eat all your vegetables with this exotic favorite. Undercook the fritter slightly so it doesn’t dry out when reheated in the over.

Ingredients

¼ cup flour

3 large egg whites 

¼ tsp freshly ground pepper 

6 tablespoons Greek yogurt  

½ tsp. baking powder 

¼ tsp. ground cumin 

¼ tsp. ground coriander 

¼ tsp. pepper

¼ tsp. allspice

2 packages cauliflower “rice”

Salt to taste

1 ½ tsp.  extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for frying

Salmon caviar, for garnish 

Directions

Thaw and thoroughly drain the frozen cauliflower. 

Spread the cauliflower on a paper towel–lined baking sheet to dry.

In a small bowl, combine flour with the baking powder, cumin, coriander, pepper and allspice. 

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt at high speed until firm peaks form. 

Fold in the cauliflower and flour and spice mixture.

Heat a large nonstick skillet. Very lightly oil the skillet. 

Drop tablespoons of the fritter batter into the skillet to form a small pancake.

Cook over moderately high heat until browned on the bottom, about 2 minutes. 

Flip fritters and brown on the other side, about 1 minute. 

Repeat with the remaining batter, coating the skillet with oil as needed.

When fritters are cooled, they can be stored in an air-tight container overnight.

In a small bowl, blend the yogurt with the 1 1/2 teaspoons of olive oil.

Season with salt. 

Cover and refrigerate about 5-10 minutes, or up to overnight.

To serve

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Reheat the fritters in the oven on a foil covered baking sheet, about 2-4 minutes. 

Garnish each fritter with 1/2 teaspoon of yogurt sauce and some caviar. 

Transfer to a platter and serve.

Mac & Cheese Cups

You can make you mac and cheese from scratch, but a good pre-packaged one works just as well, just make certain that the sauce isn’t too thin.

Ingredients

16 oz. prepared macaroni & cheese

¼ cup breadcrumbs

¼ cup parmesan cheese

1 egg beaten

Additional cheese for garnish

Instructions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Spray 2 mini muffin tins (24 mini-muffin cups) with cooking spray.

Coat inside of tin with parmesan cheese, shake out excess into mixing bowl.

In a large mixing bowl, carefully stir pasta and cheese sauce with remaining breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese and egg until evenly mixed and pasta is evenly coated.

(If the mixture looks a little thin, add additional cheese and breadcrumbs as necessary.)

Spoon mac and cheese into mini muffin tins and top each with a pinch of remaining cheese. (May be done ahead to this step)

Bake at 400 degrees° for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

To Serve

Allow to cool 5 minutes before gently removing the bites.


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