May 4th, 2009

A Trio of Small Round Bites

Rosemary roasted Baby New Potatoes stuffed with Sour Cream and Chives

I once had a catering client whose party manifesto maintained that all hors d’oeuvres should be no larger than the size of a quarter.

Now, for the most part, I adhere to her doctrine. An appetizer or canapé should be simple and manageable, the sort of thing that you can pick up with one hand and pop into your mouth with aplomb while standing, beverage in the other hand. Never missing a beat in a conversation.

I’ve had my share of odd inelegant moments around the cocktail buffet table with drippy dips, exploding chili poppers, bruschettas that crumble after the first bite, tomato bits tumbling to the floor. I’ve been caught—an entire jumbo stuffed mushroom stuffed in my mouth—-with party chit-chat queries: “So how do you know Mr. Fill-in-the-Blank?”

But that quarter size is pretty dang petite—I think that you can safely increase to a fifty-cent-piece.

I’m offering you three simple hors dóeuvres—small round bites that include a vegetable, a fruit/nut/cheese, and a chocolate. Pretty and tasty, these will delight your guests and not make a mess–at least not while they are being eaten. Wrapping the gorgonzola cheese mixture around each grape can get a little sticky.

Unless you’re like Jennifer, one of my former employees. She was pale, petite, bony thin, with tiny hands that were perpetually cool. We called her “Bird Arms.” When the rest of us were sweltering in the catering kitchen, our Bird Arms would sit, huddled in a wooly sweater, meticulously wrapping gorgonzola grapes or rolling chocolate truffles with nary a trace on the palms of her hands.

Rosemary roasted Baby New Potatoes stuffed with Sour Cream and Chives
6 lbs. Baby New Potatoes–no larger than a golf ball–smaller is better!
Olive Oil
several sprigs of Fresh Rosemary
Sea Salt
Black Pepper
16 oz. Sour Cream
1 bundle of Fresh Chives
pastry bag fitted with a star tip

Clean and dry the potatoes and lay them out onto a baking sheet pan. Drizzle with olive oil, dust with salt, black pepper, and chopped rosemary. Shake the pan and turn the potatoes so that they are completely coated with the herb infused oil. (This can be done the day before roasting.)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place pan of potatoes on the middle oven shelf and roast for about
18-20 minutes. About halfway through the roasting, rotate the pan and give it a shake.
Turn off oven and let the potatoes sit in the oven for 10 minutes before removing.

When the potatoes are warm, but not too hot to handle, you can begin the process of cutting, hollowing and stuffing. I slice the golf ball sized potatoes through the center to create two small halves; I hollow an opening at the top of potatoes that are smaller. Arrange all the halves and hollowed wholes on a plate or platter. Fill the pastry bag with sour cream and pipe plump little stars onto each. Snip fresh chives and sprinkle on top of each. Garnish the tray with additional rosemary, chives, or other greenery. Serve at room temperature.

Cook’s Notes:
The potatoes actually benefit from sitting in the rosemary-olive oil-sea salt up to 24 hours before roasting.

It is not as difficult these days to locate baby new potatoes. Years ago, you might find me in a grocery store sorting through mounds of spuds like a mad woman, counting them out into sacks. Now you can find them sold separately in 2 lb. bags. I recently saw a bounty of them for sale at our farmers market, marked as “creamers.”

Gorgonzola Grapes: get your fruit, cheese, and nut in one bite!

Gorgonzola Grapes
1 lb. gorgonzola cheese
1 lb. cream cheese, softened
1 lb. toasted walnuts, finely chopped
1 large bunch of seedless grapes, picked, rinsed, dried

Cream the two softened cheeses together in a bowl. Chill slightly. Place the finely chopped toasted walnuts into a separate bowl. One by one, coat each grape with the cheese mixture by hand and drop into the bowl of nuts. Roll gently until covered and place on a baking sheetpan lined with parchment or waxed paper. Chill well.

Arrange mounded on a plate and garnish with fresh grapes and ivy.

Makes about 100.

The hint of brandy and strawberry in these Bittersweet Chocolate-Berry Truffles makes them especially compelling.

Bittersweet Chocolate-Berry Truffles
1 cup heavy Cream
4 Tablespoons Butter
8 oz.Semi-sweet Chocolate, chopped
8 oz.Bittersweet Chocolate, chopped
2 teaspoons Vanilla
1 teaspoon Brandy
1 Tablespoon Strawberry Preserves

for coating the truffles:
1 cup toasted chopped Pecans
1/2 cup Cocoa

In a heavy duty saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer. Add the chocolates and stir until melted throughout. Turn down heat. Stir in butter, vanilla, brandy, and strawberry preserves. Stir until all ingredients are well mixed and the chocolate is thick, smooth, and shiny. Pour into a bowl and let cool. Refrigerate until firm, at least 4 hours.

To form the truffles:
Place finely chopped pecans in a flat bowl. Put cocoa into another bowl.
Remove truffle mixture from the refrigerator. Using a melon baller, scoop out rounds of truffles and drop into either bowl of pecans or cocoa. Shake the bowl to dust the exterior of the truffle, then roll gently, quickly by hand into a firm round ball. Chill well. Makes about 36 truffles.

Cook’s Notes
Try a variety of chocolates and fruit or liqueur accents: raspberry preserves, cointreau, chambord.
I had the good fortune to include some 85% bittersweet Italian chocolate. All dark chocolates are on the table! Recently, a Dark Chocolate Dovebar Easter Bunny made its truffle transformation….

Posted in Appetizers/Hors D'oeuvres, Recipes

5 Responses to “A Trio of Small Round Bites”
  1. Madeleine Says:

    Is that what happened to my chocolate Easter Bunny?!
    I’m glad he was put to good use. I only wish I had had the opportunity to try the truffles. They look so good.

  2. Wendy Says:

    I think I have the first two down–the third looks like the others–a winner!

  3. Paul Says:

    These potatoes look delicious! (Also, I had no idea you used to be a picky eater. Never would have guessed this from all the tasty treats you whip up :-).)

  4. Dana Says:

    I think I requested those potatoes for every party we ever did together!

  5. K-Run Says:

    Oh My! Gorgonzola grapes one of MY favorite things in the world. Sure do miss those and the wonderful baby new potatoes. I will have to whip up these wondeful tid bits soon. Now if I only had some roast beef tenderloin and horseradish sauce to go with it.

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