Last night I kicked off a little menu planning for some holiday gatherings that are already popping up on my calendar: an open-house style party, family celebrations and of course our team’s annual holiday fête. When it comes to this crazy festive time of year, I require a lot from my hors d’oeuvres: they need to be delicious, easy-to-prepare and always a little decadent. And bonus points if I can do most of the prep-work in advance so that I can actually kick back with my guests when it’s time to party.
*glassware from anthropologie
Remember earlier this year when I teamed up with Cracker Barrel Cheese for a whirlwind culinary tour of Chicago? Well we’re keeping it going with a couple of cheddar-infused hors d’oeuvres that are a snap to prepare, and really showcase the smoothness, sharpness, and hard-to-describe deliciousness of the cheese. I love either of these with a glass of crisp champagne or prosecco that balances the creaminess of the cheese — it’s a go-to pairing that I’ll be pulling out of my arsenal all the way through the holiday season and beyond. Keep reading for the recipes, and many thanks to Molly Winters for taking these lovely photos!
Herbed Cheddar Straws
- 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
- 1 egg white, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese (I used Cracker Barrel Aged Reserve)
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup minced parsley
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
- On a lightly-floured work surface, unfold puff pastry and roll out to a 16″ x 12″ rectangle. Cut in half crosswise (with the short side facing you), then brush both halves with the egg white. Sprinkle one of the rectangles with half the cheddar, half the salt, a few grinds of black pepper and half the parsley. Place the other rectangle on top of the cheese, egg wash side in, sandwiching the filling together. Run the rolling pin over it a few times to seal.
- Use a sharp knife to cut the dough crosswise into strips that are about 1″ wide. Place strips on parchment lined baking sheet with a little room between them, then twist strips, pressing down to flatten the ends a bit so they don’t become unstuck or untwist while cooking. Sprinkle the remainder of the cheese, salt and parsley over the top, then bake until golden, about 10 minutes.
Tiny Grilled Cheese with Apple & Bacon
*makes 12 mini sandwiches
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 sweet apple, cored
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 6 slices extra-thin white sandwich bread
- whole grain mustard
- 2/3 cup grated cheddar cheese (I used Cracker Barrel Vermont Sharp White)
- 6 slices bacon, cooked until crispy and crumbled into 1″ pieces
- 1 tablespoon butter, softened
- Cut apple in half, then dice one half into 1/4″ cubes and thinly slice the other half. Melt butter in a small nonstick skillet over medium heat, then sauté diced apples for about 5 minutes until softened. Toss with cinnamon then set aside to cool.
- Heat a grill pan or panini press to medium. On 3 slices of bread, spread whole grain mustard, then divide grated cheddar, sliced apple and bacon evenly. Top with remaining slices of bread and gently press to adhere. Spread a bit of softened butter on the outside of the bread, then grill until golden on both sides.
- Set aside to cool for one minute, then cut into quarters and top with a teaspoonful of sautéed apples.
*photos by Molly Winters
**As noted, I’ve been selected by Kraft Foods to be an ambassador for Cracker Barrel cheese. While I have been compensated, all opinions and recipes are my own. Thanks for being supportive of our sponsors!
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