the food out here

Wishing you a cheesy New Year

By HUNTER HILL
Posted 12/23/20

When it comes to the holidays, there are so many new things to experience. Many of my year-long favorites have been discovered between Christmas and New Year’s at various gatherings. Folks love …

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the food out here

Wishing you a cheesy New Year

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When it comes to the holidays, there are so many new things to experience. Many of my year-long favorites have been discovered between Christmas and New Year’s at various gatherings. Folks love to show off for company and put a little extra effort into the hors d’oeuvres they feign to prepare in such light-hearted and simple fashion. While some of these dishes truly are a breeze, we all know that the braided candy and personalized cheesecake lollipops perfectly arranged on silver platters by Mrs. Smith were not the five-minute party snack she’d have you believe.

No, not all holiday bites are created equal, but that’s not to say you can’t have fun making them, even if they’re marginally more difficult to execute than cheese and crackers or semi-complicated like deep-fried pickles. Speaking of cheese, my wife and I are huge cheese lovers; with that label comes more than a few go-to ideas for cheesy appetizers. For those who want to try something new, or maybe something challenging, here are two of our favorite cheese-based hors d’oeuvres.

First up is baked Brie, a simple recipe that anyone who even remotely likes cheese should keep on hand to pull out in a pinch. This recipe takes less than half a dozen ingredients and no more than a half-hour or so to prepare. It’s a luxuriously decadent treat that melts before it even enters your mouth. For those of you who also like that nutty, boozy flavor profile, you can enjoy the bourbon and walnuts that top this wheel of soft cheese. (We like using pecans in place of the walnuts.) My wife likes to do this in a large ceramic tray; 9x11” works well for an eight-ounce wheel of Brie. This way, you can serve the Brie in the tray and pour crackers or apple wedges around the outside to be used as vehicles for the gooey, boozy centerpiece of the platter.

Then you’ll see I’ve shared two of our favorite deep-fried cheese recipes. Yes, you heard me right: Deep. Fried. Cheese. If your mouth isn’t watering right now, we can’t be friends. That is, unless you are going to let me have your portion of deep-fried cheese, then we might be able to come to an understanding. This is recipe is an excellent option in the wonderful family of deep-fried bites. It is marginally more difficult to execute but achievable for even a novice if you have the right ingredients.

The first thing that you may not have on hand is peanut oil. We went to the local supermarket and picked up a gallon specifically for this recipe. It’s not terribly expensive and is available at most major grocery stores. The beauty of deep-fried cheese is that you don’t have to have a deep fryer. We happen to have one and so decided to use it, but you can still make these little treats with a cast-iron skillet or even a tall-sided non-stick skillet.

Again, there’s a little more preparation with this recipe, but again, not too hard for anyone looking to wow the crowd this season. Wishing you a cheesy New Year. Happy cooking!

Baked Brie

1 8oz wheel of Brie
Granny Smith apples or crackers
Walnut bourbon crust
½ cup chopped walnuts (or pecans)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons bourbon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a measuring cup, combine the flour, brown sugar, walnuts, butter and bourbon. Mix with a fork until a nice brown glaze forms. Place opened Brie wheel in the center of a 9x11” tray and pour the mixture over it. Then pop it in the oven for about 10 minutes or so until the glaze starts to bubble. Pull it out and serve with crackers and or Granny Smith apple wedges. That’s it! Easy and delicious boozy baked Brie. For anyone serving minors, you may wish to substitute maple syrup for the bourbon. Just beware of the sugar rush that is guaranteed to set in should they have more than a few bites.
Recipe courtesy of Food.com. 

Spinach artichoke dip

I will admit that spinach artichoke dip may not be the first thing on everyone’s holiday snack list, but primarily because most who claim not to like it, haven’t tried it. I remember passing on this delicious dip for years when attending Christmas at my wife’s family farm. I was a fool. I was a blind and tasteless fool. I let my aversion to green things prevent me from trying such a sweet and creamy dip. So for those of you who still avoid it because it has spinach or artichokes in it as per the name, I say to you, throw caution to the wind and try it. I’ll tell you why I love this dip so much. The cheese. See, if they threw cheese into the title and left out the veggies, more guys would love it and never question the additional ingredients that make it what it is. My wife makes this after her grandmother who always supplies it to the Christmas party at the farm. It is a degree more difficult that Baked Brie, but worth every ounce of effort, and not so difficult that nearly anyone couldn’t execute it.

She starts by mixing together the room temperature cream cheese, mayonnaise, parmesan cheese, romano cheese, garlic, basil, garlic salt, salt, and pepper. Then she folds in the artichoke hearts and spinach so as to maintain their integrity. Then she dumps this into a pie dish and tops it with mozzarella cheese.
See, there’s already four kinds of cheese in this thing!

Then she bakes it for 25 minutes and it’s good to go. Serve warm with crackers and watch it disappear!

Spinach artichoke dip

Ingredients
8oz cream cheese, softened
¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup grated Romano cheese (if you cannot find this, you can use more Parmesan)
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tsp dried basil
¼ tsp garlic salt
salt & pepper to taste
1 14 oz can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped 
½ cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
¼ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a pie dish or small baking dish. In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese, Romano cheese, garlic, basil, garlic salt, salt, and pepper. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish and top with mozzarella cheese. Bake in the preheated oven until bubbly and lightly browned.
Recipe courtesy of Allrecipes.com – Hot Artichoke and Spinach Dip II

Deep-fried cheese

Slice both kinds of cheese into half-inch rounds and put them on parchment paper in the freezer. This will get the cheese to hold together nicely when you fry it later. Then you want to get your dredging station ready. Whether you are doing the fried mozzarella recipe or the goat cheese recipe, you want to arrange your dredge in the same order: flour, egg, bread. We like to use pyrex glass containers because they clean easily afterward. When you have heated your oil, either in your deep fryer or your pan, take out your cheese and using separate forks in each container, coat your cheese slices in the order laid out. Then either place them directly in your fryer, or onto a rack where you can load them into the fryer all at once.
Keep a close eye on your cheese. Turn it once about halfway through cooking, maybe a minute or less, and cook the other side until the cheese is a golden brown. Using a fork or other utensil, retrieve the cheese from the fryer and place on the landing rack. We place some paper towels on a sheet tray and then place a wire rack over this. This allows the oil to drain while the food keeps from sticking to the paper.

Fried mozzarella cheese

1 pound fresh mozzarella cheese. Pre-sliced log recommended
2/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt (optional, I recommend leaving it out)
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 eggs
2 tablespoons water (or beer or milk)
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon dry oregano or basil
1/4 cup parmesan cheese + more for dusting
Cooking oil as needed (peanut oil)

Set up breading station; in first bowl mix flour, salt & pepper. In second bowl beat eggs and water, in third bowl mix breadcrumbs, oregano and Parmesan. Dredge half-inch pieces of cheese in each bowl, in order. Place prepared cheese aside and heat oil to 350 degrees. Fry the cheese for approximately 90 seconds per side until golden brown. Remove and drain excess oil then serve with a dusting of Parmesan and fresh basil.
Recipe Courtesy of Craftbeering.com

Fried goat cheese

11 ounces goat cheese (plain chèvre)
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped
1 teaspoon thyme chopped
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt (optional)
1 egg
1/4 cup flour
Oil as needed (peanut oil)

Slice goat cheese into half-inch rounds and lay on parchment tray to freeze for 15 minutes. Combine panko, pecans, thyme, garlic powder, black pepper, and salt in a bowl. Beat egg in a separate bowl, place flour in a separate bowl. Remove the cheese from the freezer and dip each piece in the flour then the egg, and finally the bread mixture, both sides so the entire piece of cheese is covered. In a pan, heat oil to approximately 375 degrees and fill to about 1/4 inch deep. Carefully place the cheese in the oil and fry for about a minute until golden brown then turn and repeat. Drain the excess oil and enjoy.
Recipe Courtesy of JessicaGavin.com

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