Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Holiday Food and Wine Strategy #4: Hors d'Oeuvres for the Unexpected

The bell rings. It is 4:30 pm. There is a friend/ neighbor/ long-lost family member on your doorstep with a poinsettia or a tin of fudge or (yikes!!) a fruitcake. You have nothing to give this person in the way of food and libation. Grocery shopping is tomorrow. The cupboards are bare.

Here is the solution. Go out now and buy some big Fuji and Granny Smith apples and put them in a cool place. They will be fine through the New Year provided they don't freeze or you don't sit them next to the stove. The fridge is fine if you have room for them, but otherwise some cool dark nook (near where you keep your wine) is perfect. Buy a wedge or two of Brie and stick them in the cheese drawer.

When people stop by unexpectedly--and they will--slice the apple, remove the rind from the Brie and slice it. Arrange slices of Brie on top of the apples, sprinkle with cracked pepper and (if you have it) some chopped fresh rosemary. Stick this under the broiler for 1-2 minutes until it gets gooey. Using red and green apples in combination adds a festive note but it is not required. Slide it all onto a cutting board or platter, and feel like Martha Stewart only more so. (full disclosure: this recipe is from the February 2007 Bon Appetit, but for some daft reason it is not online)

And if you buy one of those Christmas-tree shaped rosemary topiaries at Trader Joe's you can use it as a decoration and prune it for appetizers throughout the holiday season with no problem. As an added bonus, you will also have enough fresh rosemary to make the Barefoot Contessa's fabulous rosemary roasted cashews as often as you need to, which are perfect for munching with spicy red wine and can be made ahead and stored in a tin to get you through the holidays. Be forewarned: hide the tin or the nuts will be gone in 12 hours as they are addictive.

With this ooey-gooey-warm-comforting and amazingly quick dish, serve a buttery chardonnay to pick up the apple flavors and meld seamlessly into the creamy Brie. You could use your lightly-oaked chardonnay from HFAW #3 (Takeout), or look for a bottling like the one I had from the recently launched Robert Skalli South of France line. Skalli is the man behind Napa Valley's St.-Supery, and he is now bottling juice from his home country for the US market. I received a sample of the 2005 Robert Skalli Chardonnay and thought it had good QPR. (suggested retail price $19.50; I haven't seen it on any on-line sites yet, but keep your eyes peeled for it) The grapes for this wine were grown in the Languedoc, and the juice saw 6 months in new French oak. It had abundant apple flavors and aromas that emerged as soon as you pulled the cork, and there was a nice creaminess on the palate. This wine was very well-balanced between the fruit, the crisp acidity, and the creamy oak so it was a perfect match for this appetizer.

Of course, you needn't wait for guests to devour brie, apples, and a nice chardonnay. We had it one afternoon this past week just to celebrate the end of a day of work and the beginning of a nice evening. Sometimes the best "guests" to treat to an afternoon warm-up like this are those who are already in the house!


John Witherspoon said...

Hi Dr. Debs,
I think the only problem with have brie in the house is that i probably wouldn't last a day or so before my wife and I nibbled it up. haha.

good suggestion though with the apples under the broiler trick.


Dr. Debs said...

It's pretty fantastic, John. But no, it doesn't last long--maybe the back of the cheese drawer??

Anonymous said...

Dr. Debs,

I suddenly feel the need to call you Susie Homemaker! Thanks for the great suggestion.

I also have a super fast olive dip that I wrote about ages ago where all you need is crackers, cream cheese, olives, and lemon juice. Add any dry white or bubbly and it's good to go...

Dr. Debs said...

I'll take Susie Homemaker, no problem! That dip sounds good too--would be fabulous with bubbles.