Cheesy holiday entertaining!!!!

I love everything about the holidays, I love it for all the obvious reasons, but also that it’s just one more reason to entertain & host!!…Special cocktails & lots and lots of yummy appies!! One of the best appetizers I like to make (and yum! – always a crowd pleaser) is a cheese plate!…With the right mix of cheeses and extra goodies that pair well with them, this is a fabulous way to entertain!! 

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“My idea of a good time” Cheese plate

For this cheese plate I decided to try a cheese I hadn’t tried before (Asiago with olive oil & rosemary)…and along with it, added some of the classics…..

1 small wheel Brie cheese

1 small block Fontina or another white cheese (think Aged cheddar, Gouda or Jack)

1 small block Havarti (I used dill, use your fav)

1 small block Asiago (the olive oil & rosemary was soooo good)

1 recipe *Bacon jam 

1 recipe *honey rosemary almonds 

1/2 c chopped dried fruit (I used Mission figs and apricot but you could use cranberries or cherries)

1/4 c cherry or grape tomatoes 

1/2 c olives (I used Kalamata but use whatever, green, stuffed etc..)…

1 small bunch asparagus, bottoms trimmed

1/2 small zucchini (or cucumber or carrot) cut into strips

1/2 red pepper cut into strips 

Sliced cured meat or smoked salmon – optional 

*recipes below 

Sit the cheese out to room temperature for about 30 mins before serving. Blanch the veggies then throw them in an ice water bath to keep their bright color. Place the cheeses on a platter or cheese boards with cheese knifes then add your extras around the cheese or on a separate platter….

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Bacon jam

I adapted Martha’s recipe but found that it was a little too dry and not jammy enough so I upped the jam factor and made a quick blackberry fig compote to add to it and it was divine!!!….RECIPE REMIX!!!

 

3/4 pound bacon, diced crosswise into 1” pieces

1 c shallots finely diced 

2 small garlic cloves diced

1/2 tsp chili powder

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp dried mustard

1/2 c bourbon or Crown Royal whisky 

1/2 c maple syrup 

1/3 c apple cider vinegar 

1/3 c packed brown sugar

1/4 tsp dried chilies 

1/4 c blackberries 

2 dried figs (used the figs in the cheese plate so perfect)

1 tsp white sugar

salt & pepper to taste 

 

Cook the bacon in a non-stick pan until lightly crispy. Place bacon on a plate with paper towel to soak up the extra grease. With the brown bits & bacon fat still in the pan, remove & discard half the bacon fat so there’s about 1 tbsp fat left in the pan. Add shallots and garlic to pan and cook over medium heat, stirring, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add chili powder, ginger, and mustard and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Increase heat to high; add bourbon or whisky and maple syrup. Bring to a light boil, scraping up browned bits. Add vinegar and brown sugar and return to a boil. Add reserved bacon; reduce heat to low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid reduces to a thick glaze, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook down the blackberries and figs for about 5-10 mins until they are thicker and mushy. Add 1 tsp sugar. Cool to room temperature then mix the jam with the bacon mixture. Transfer to a food processor and blend just a bit so that it all smooshes together to a nice jammy consistency. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour then leave at room temperature for at least 30 mins before serving. 

 

Now for the rosemary almonds…

In a bowl I melted 1 heaping tbsp pure farmers market honey with 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary then added 1/2 cup dry roasted unsalted almonds & tossed it all together. I placed them on a lined baking sheet, sprinkled 1/4 tsp sea salt & let them sit on a baking tray for 30 mins before serving….

 

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Now up the yum factor with mini cheese balls

1 oz package cream cheese, softened

1 c shredded cheddar cheese

1 tbsp chopped fresh dill

1 green onion finely diced

1 tsp hot sauce 

salt & pepper to taste

1/4 c pecans toasted & chopped 

 

Mix all the ingredients but the nuts in a bowl and combine well. Taste it, want more cheese? add it…want it spicy? add finely diced jalapeno or cayenne powder….make it how you like it then roll them into small balls (or one large ball) – roll them in the nuts and keep them refrigerate until ready to assemble the cheese plate! I sprinkled a little chopped dill before serving…

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No matter how you choose to make your cheese platter have fun with it – provide a fun mix of salty & creamy cheeses, sweet & savory add on’s like the bacon jam and dried fruit…a crunch element with the almonds and barely cooked veggies and lots of wine of course!!!!

ENJOY and HAPPY HOLIDAY ENTERTAINING!! I hope it is a cheesy one!!!!

 

 

 

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