Holiday Appetizers

I know it’s Saturday and you usually don’t hear from me over the weekend, but I thought I might just give you some ideas for appetizers in case you’re entertaining.  You can make one or two or all of them, and they can all be made ahead of time, even the day before, including the pancetta and the onion for the frittata.  The frittata you can make al momento, and impress everybody by showing them how fearless you are of flipping a massive pan of egg (or just send everyone out of the kitchen for a minute and set it under the broiler.)
Polenta Sformata with Gorgonzola and Fontina
Roasted Peppers with capers, black olives, green olives, fresh parsley, and garlic

Frittata with pancetta and onions

Patate al Forno with Rosemary

Chic peas with leeks and cayenne pepper

Here you go, for the polenta, bring three parts salted water to the boil for one part polenta. When the water is boiling, add the polenta in a steady stream, whisking constantly. When it comes to a simmer, switch to a wooden spoon. Stir for either five minutes or 30, depending on what the package says (I prefer the 30 minute one, but it’s the holidays). Add a little more hot water if you need it. It should be the texture of sour cream and not too gloppy and thick. Taste for salt. Off the heat, add a handful of freshly grated parmesan and 3 tablespoons of water (if you used 1 cup of polenta and 3 of water). Rinse out a 10 inch springform pan with water and shake out the excess. No greasing needed. Pour in the polenta and let cool in the fridge. When it’s cold, slice it into three layers. Put sweet gorgonzola in one layer with parmesan and fontina in the other with a bit of parmesan, and then parmesan on the top. Bake in the oven at 400 degrees until the cheese is melted. Let sit for 10 minutes before slicing. This is adapted from Lidia Bastianich’s Family Table. It’s a must buy.

For the peppers, just get rid of all the insides and ribs, cut into large pieces, toss with olive oil and salt, and roast at 400 degrees until just softened. Toss in a bowl with the olives and rinsed salted, capers, and if you like you can add whole cloves of garlic to the pan with the peppers when they are roasting so that you can add that to the mix at the end. Throw in the sprigs of parsely and even thyme.

For the frittata, chop the pancetta, about a cups worth for 8 eggs, into tiny pieces. Saute until just going brown. Remove from the pan. Add one onion, diced, and season with just a tiny bit of salt. Cook the onion until it is completely soft and delicious. Add the pancetta and continue to cook until they have gotten up close and personal and one is flavoring the other. Remove and wipe out the pan. Add a tablespoon of butter, melt it, and then add 8 beaten and seasoned (salt and pepper) eggs over medium heat. Once the egg has set a bit, add the pancetta mix. Lift the egg up around the edges to let all the liquidy bits run underneath, and when it is still wet on top, but not a pool, flip to the other side by sliding it onto a a plate and then inverting it back into the pan. Cook for another 10 seconds. You want it to stay wet in the middle.

For the potatoes, just thinly slice about 6 to 8 yukon potates and layer them in a pie dish or any casserole dish with salt, a little of your best olive oil, some thin, thin slivers of garlic, and a litte bit of fresh rosemary. Bake covered at 350 and then set under the broiler to caramelize the top once the potatoes are cooked through. Watch it like a hawk under the broiler.

For the chic peas, clean and rinse well a bunch of leeks. Slice them thinly and over a low flame, soften them in a little olive oil and butter and a whole clove of uncut garlic. When they are just beginning to caramelize and are fully cooked, add a quarter teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Turn off the heat and add a cup or a bit more of chic peas. Toss together and taste for salt. Squeeze in some lemon juice and add half a teaspoon of lemon zest (be sure you don’t get any of the pith).

Serve all this with some good wine and bread.

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