The holidays are upon us, and one of the best things about said holidays is getting together with friends and family that you actually want to hang with. For those occasions when you have people stopping by your pad, you want to impress them with some quality snacks. That means, for once, NOT pulling out frozen mini-tacos, pizza bagels, and chips and dip, but putting in just a little effort so that it looks like you are a chef who knows what he's doing. Or at least that you can fake it good. Doctors, please don't come after me for the fried food bias running through these recipes -- after all, we're guys and we like fried food, and we all like to indulge a little during the holiday season anyway. (A note about portions: these were my “test kitchen” portion sizes, so you can double, triple and quadruple according to how many people are coming over.) Enjoy.
And if you're looking for some beer suggestions for the holidays, check out Mike Barkacs' Top 5 Holiday Beers along with individual reviews of St. Barnardus Christmas Ale, Goose Island Christmas Ale and Great Lakes Christmas Ale.
Taco in a Blanket (NEW!)
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed to room temperature
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
1 envelope taco seasoning
1 small can (4 oz.) chopped green chiles
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside. Brown beef and pork in a large nonstick skillet, and then add taco seasoning, green chiles, tomato paste and ½ cup water. Cook until the liquid is absorbed, about five minutes. Remove from heat and set aside. Take the puff pastry sheet and divide into three long strips (they are usually folded that way already), and roll each one on a floured counter or table so that you have three long strips of pastry dough about 4" x the length of the dough sheets. Divide meat down the center of each strip, top evenly with cheese and then fold the sides at the top and pinch them together so that you have three long tubes. Poke each tube a few times with a fork and place on the cookie sheet. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until pastry is just starting to turn brown. Remove from oven, let cool for a minute or two, and then slice into 2-inch wide pieces. Serve with salsa and/or sour cream and/or guacamole. Makes about 8-10 pieces per tube, and the recipe can easily be doubled or tripled.
Fast Mini Muffalettas (NEW!)
4 small ciabatta rolls (Trader Joe's has the half-baked ones that are awesome)
8 thin slices hard salami
4 slices provolone or Swiss cheese (or ½ cup shredded Italian cheese blend or any mildly sharp white cheese)
½ cup chopped olive salad (the spicy kind if you can find it...The Pickle Guy makes a great one)
If using half-baked rolls, bake them according to package directions. Slice rolls and put a slice of salami on each side. Spoon cheese and olive salad evenly on each sandwich, and then close them up. Put on a microwave safe plate and nuke sandwiches for about 30 seconds or until cheese melts, and serve immediately. Makes four small sandwiches, but of course you can easily expand this one out to serve more people.
Oriental Chicken Wings
1 pound fresh chicken wing sections
oil for deep frying
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp. hoisin sauce
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. honey
1 tsp. cooking sherry
1 tsp. minced ginger (from a jar works best)
1 tsp. apricot preserves
1 tsp. (or more to taste) chili garlic sauce
1 tsp. sesame seeds
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray and arrange wings on it. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, heat about 2 inches of canola or vegetable oil over medium heat in a deep skillet. When oil is hot enough (if you feel heat by placing your hand an inch or so from the oil's surface), gently add the wings to the skillet. Fry for about 12 minutes or until wings start to turn crispy. While wings are cooking, combine hoisin sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, sherry, ginger, preserves, chili garlic sauce and another sprinkling of salt and pepper in a large, heat-resistant bowl. Drain wings on a plate with paper towels for a minute, and then toss into sauce and shake until coated. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.
Pigs in Blankets
1/3 sheet puff pastry
8 cocktail franks
2 Tbsp. mayo
2 Tbsp. ketchup or chili sauce
chopped pickle or relish
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. You only need a small amount of pastry for each frank, so cut pastry with a pizza cutter into one-inch squares. Sprinkle with flour and use a rolling pin to increase size to 2-to-3 square inches. Roll franks (which are usually pre-cooked) in pastry and bake on a baking sheet for 10 to 12 minutes or until pastry begins to turn golden brown. Serve with mustard, or combine mayo, chili sauce and chopped pickle to make a Thousand Island dipping sauce.
2 baking potatoes
oil for deep frying
2 slices bacon
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Wash and scrub dirt off potatoes and then prick with a fork a few times before placing in oven. Bake for one hour. Let cool a few minutes, and then when potatoes are easy to handle, cut them in half and scoop out the flesh. Reserve for another use or throw away. Meanwhile, heat an inch or so of vegetable or canola oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When oil is hot enough (see tip in chicken wing recipe above), carefully add potato skins and deep fry for about 2 minutes per side. Remove and drain on paper towels. Then place on a baking sheet, sprinkle with cheese and bacon and broil for 1 to 2 minutes or until cheese is bubbly. Serve with sour cream on top or on the side.
1 to 2 medium zucchini
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
salt and pepper
oil for deep frying
nacho cheese sauce or ranch dressing for dipping
Heat oil in a large deep skillet over medium heat. Cut ends off zucchini and then slice lengthwise into long strips about 1/4 inch wide. Discard rounded ends and use only pieces with flesh on both sides. Beat egg in a bowl and add bread crumbs to a second bowl. Add salt and pepper to each bowl. When oil is hot enough (see chicken wing recipe above), dip zucchini slices in egg, and then in breadcrumbs, and carefully add to oil. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until brown and crispy (could be shorter time). Drain on paper towels, and then roll slices up and secure with toothpicks to serve. Serve with nacho cheese sauce, ranch dressing or dipping sauce of your choice.
Easy Ham & Cheese Rolls
2 thin slices deli ham
2 Tbsp. whipped cream cheese
black or green olives
Lay ham out on a plate and spread with cream cheese (1 Tbsp. cream cheese to 1 slice ham), and then roll up. Slice into 3/4 inch pieces and slide a toothpick through, and then through one olive. Serve.