Because you always need a little something to serve to your guests with champagne (you are serving champagne, aren’t you?), and since you’ll probably still be in the kitchen doing last-minute turkey basting and whatnot, the first nibbles need not only to impress — they must be easy. They must be make-aheadable.
It goes without saying, but I will — they mustn’t be too heavy, heavily spiced or garlicky, or in any way compete with the main event.
A tall order? Not really. One simply has to turn to the French when planning how to best kick off this American holiday eat-a-thon. Here’s what I mean. If you’ve been to a bar or a cafe for a glass of rosé in Paris, you will be served something along with it — for free. It’s not anything that’s going to get in the way of your multi-course meal to come later.
You may get a small (and I mean the size of a teacup) bowl of potato chips. Or peanuts. Or my favorite (please add sarcasm), cold popcorn. None of which I’m advocating here, but the idea (thinking small and light) is spot-on, and one that we should steal, merci beaucoup.
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You don’t need to go crazy and make more than one appetizer. People are going to be eating for hours, so imagine what you and your guests will best like, and make it the day before. Or the day before the day before. Any of the following recipes will keep.
The champagne, once opened, will not. Cheers and happy turkey, sweet potatoes and cornbread dressing, y’all.
Ellise Pierce is the author of “Cowgirl Chef: Texas Cooking With a French Accent” (Running Press). Read her blog (www.cowgirlchef.com), and follow her on Twitter (@cowgirlchef) and Instagram (cowgirlchef)
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 cup ice water
- 3/4 cup Spanish-style chorizo, chopped into 1/4 -inch cubes
- 1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese
1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
2. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Add the olive oil, water, chorizo and cheese, and with your hands, a wooden spoon, or a mixer, work the dough until it’s a nice, smooth mass.
3. Divide the dough into eight pieces and roll each one into a long baton (of about 10 inches) and put on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Save time: If you don’t want to make these right away, pop the pieces of dough in a plastic bag with a drizzle of olive oil and refrigerate. They will keep for a day or two.
4. Cook the batons for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve warm.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 330 calories, 18 grams fat, 31 grams carbohydrates, 11 grams protein, 26 milligrams cholesterol, 518 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 48 percent of calories from fat.
Makes enough for 8
- 1 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets
- 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons tahini
- 1 tablespoon chopped shallot
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Olive oil, for serving
- Sesame seeds, for serving
1. Heat the oven to 450 degrees.
2. Mix the cauliflower florets with the olive oil and salt and pepper to taste on a large baking sheet. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until browned on both sides, turning once. Let cool.
Save time: Roast the cauliflower in advance and refrigerate until you’re ready to go to the next step.
3. Put the cauliflower in your food processor or blender. Add the tahini, shallot, lemon juice and as much water as you need to blend (I used 1/2 to 1 cup, and added a little at a time). Taste for seasonings. Serve with a swirl of olive oil and sesame seeds sprinkled on top.
Nutritional analysis per serving: 70 calories, 6 grams fat, 3 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, no cholesterol, 10 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 79 percent of calories from fat.
Makes about 5 dozen
- 2 tablespoons flax seed meal
- 2 cups buckwheat flour
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup ice water (you might not need all of it)
- Large grain sea salt
1. In a small bowl, mix the flax seed meal with 4 tablespoons of water. Let this sit for 3 to 5 minutes or until thick.
2. Put the buckwheat flour and salt in a food processor and pulse. Add the olive oil and half of the water and pulse until combined. Add as much of the water as needed to bring the dough together into large clumps. Roll out half of the dough as thin as possible and using a ruler and a pizza cutter, slice into 1-inch squares. Put these on a large baking sheet lined with parchment. Repeat with the other half of the dough. Sprinkle course salt over the crackers, pressing down slightly so the salt will stick. Put the crackers in the freezer for 30 minutes or until firm.
3. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the crackers for 10 to 12 minutes or until they start to brown on the edges. Let cool completely. Store in an airtight container.
Nutritional analysis per cracker: 25 calories, 1 gram fat, 3 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, no cholesterol, 8 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber, 42 percent of calories from fat.
Makes 2 ½ dozen
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 stick plus 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup cheese (I used a mix of Parmesan, Asiago and mozzarella)
1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, sugar and rosemary.
2. In your mixer bowl, cream the butter. Mix in the cheese.
3. Add all of the dry ingredients at once and mix just until it begins to come together. It may look lumpy, like pie dough, but that’s OK. Just dump it out onto a lightly floured board and shape into one long log of about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour or so, or until completely firm.
Save time: Make the dough a day in advance (or longer, even) and keep in the fridge or freezer until you’re ready to bake the cookies.
4. Heat the oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment. Slice the cookies into 1/4 -inch discs and arrange on the baking sheet with 1 inch between them. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until just lightly browned on the bottom. Take them out and let the cookies cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a rack. Let them cool completely before eating.
Nutritional analysis per cookie: 60 calories, 4 grams fat, 5 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, 11 milligrams cholesterol, 97 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber, 61 percent of calories from fat.
Makes about 2 cups
- 1 (7-ounce) jar of roasted red peppers, drained
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 stale or toasted pita, torn into pieces
- 1/2 cup of walnuts, toasted then roughly chopped
- Juice of half of 1 lemon
- 2 teaspoons of pomegranate molasses
- 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon of Aleppo pepper (or crushed red pepper flakes)
- 1/4 cup of olive oil
- Pita bread, for serving
Put everything except the olive oil in a food processor and pulse until well mixed. Drizzle in the olive oil, and taste for seasonings. This is best if you let it rest for an hour or so before serving with pita bread.
Nutritional analysis per 1-tablespoon serving: 39 calories, 3 grams fat, 2 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, no cholesterol, 40 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber, 69 percent of calories from fat.