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Kerry Dunnington: Holiday Appetizers

December 22, 2015 - Radio Kitchen -  Kerry Dunnington:  Holiday Appetizers

With Christmas breathing down our necks, quite a few of us are undoubtedly sweating out the final details of a holiday party.  Coming up with just the right appetizers can be tough, so we invited our good friend Kerry Dunnington on the show to help us out.  Kerry is the author of "This Book Cooks" and is a staunch locavore.

Many of the best ideas are simple and familiar.  What makes them special is that special twist you give them.  Here are a few examples.

Spinach and Cheese Fritters:  fritters are little bundles of ingredients, often bound together with cheese and coated with a  flour-egg batter.  The little balls are then deep fried.  Chop up your spinach very fine, and blend with a nice selection of grated meltable cheese.  Mozarella, parmesan, gruyere and cheddar are just a few possibilities.  Spice it up with your choice of pepper.

Deviled Eggs:  Everyone has their favorite recipe for deviled eggs, but it is the topping that gives you lots of chances for creativity:  sprigs of herbs, micro-greens, crumbled pancetta, slices of olives, caviar, bits of crab, a crumble of blue cheese, hot sauce, diced jalapenos, a touch of smoked salmon or a dab of pickled onion.

Skewered Whole Brussels Sprouts:  the almost fashionable Brussels sprout is making a comeback.    Roast up a bunch and skewer them, then dab on a little dressing.  A mixture of soy sauce and orange marmalade gives them a citrus flavor; or you can coat them in reduced balsamic vinegar and roll them in finely crushed pistachio nuts.  You can also intertwine the sprouts with strips of pancetta.

Soup Shooters:  these work best with thick creamy soups served in short glasses.  It's the garnish that will close the deal.  Try a sprig of dill, a crumble of bacon, a slice of fruit, a bit of pickled shrimp, a cheesy crouton, toasted seeds, chopped chives, or a dollop of flavored crème fraiche.

Unconventional Crudité Platter:  celery stalks, carrot spears and cherry tomatoes be gone.  Let's try a little julienned jicama, or a shaved curl of parsnip, or how about a plateful of those wonderful vegetables you pickled last fall?  This would be the perfect time to trot them out.

Stuffed Mushrooms:  try larger button mushrooms or tender criminis.  Remove the stem, and chop it up to be part of the stuffing.  After that, the sky is the limit:  crabmeat, cheese, chopped nuts, chopped clams, sausage, scallions, minced garlic, bread crumbs, spinach, guacamole, or cheesy potatoes all are possibilities.

Wedge of Local Blue Cheese Topped with Local Honey:  So many of our local cheese makers make a blue:  Chapel Country Creamery, Firefly Farms, Cherry Glen just to name a few.  And our local farmers also produce honey:  Waxing Kara, Geddes Farm, Woolsey Farm, and the Apex Bee Company are all in the business. 

Check out EN Olivier on Falls Road for local buys.

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.