When my family started Christmas planning a few weeks back (which really means "deciding about food") my mother suggested "heavy hors d'oeuvres" instead of Christmas dinner. That's the best part anyway, she said--why not just make the whole food event about the best part? Now there's the food philosophy of a true hedonist, and if you've ever wondered where my deep appreciation of both butter and chocolate comes from, look no further than Mom.
Mom is also all about "many hands make light work", and this is why pretty much every family event is potluck. My husband's Long Island family thinks this is a crazy New England tradition (ok--maybe the potluck wedding reception was a little much) but it does spread out both the work and the expense.
So--Heavy Hors D'Oeuvres Potluck! Sign me up!
Don and I picked two--the recently mentioned Clams Perce, and Green Chili Cheesecake with Papaya Salsa. Don was supposed to make the cheesecake, but with his Algebra II final looming, I stepped in and did the deed.
This is a standard cheesecake--just savory. The crust is made of crushed blue corn tortilla chips + a little butter, and the cake part is cream cheese, a bit of sour cream, eggs, and cheddar + monteray jack cheese. Roasted/peeled poblano chilies and minced dill + cilantro are folded in to the dairy base and then it's baked in a medium low oven for an hour, about.
The salsa that goes with is a fruit salsa. It's supposed to be papaya, but my husband came home with persimmons instead. No problem--they're both sweet and sort of spicy. Who can keep these fruits straight when you're wrestling with algebra?
That looks like it takes up a lot of brain space.
How was the cheesecake? "It tastes like Fire and Ice!" my sister exclaimed. Should you be wondering, this is an appetizer we were practically suckled on, down in the Deep South and back in the seventies. And do you think I can find it on the Google? I cannot. Looks like fire and ice can be applied to everything from melon soup to opera cake, but as I recall OUR Fire and Ice involved cream cheese and chilies of some kind. Help me out, Amanda! 2nd-hand algebra is taking up my brain space!
I would say this is a great choice for a party app--it can be made ahead (big bonus points for that) and feeds a lot of people. It's also unusual enough to get you some oohs and ahhs and who doesn't love that?
My one and only complaint about the dish was the crust. After about, oh, two seconds those corn chips, which absorbed moisture, were staler than stale. I'd sub in some crushed ritz crackers or something. Please note that the recipe on Epicurious calls for blue corn flour. Not sure who made the substitution, but maybe that would work better too!
Hey, and the observant amongst you might note I'm posting this the day before Christmas! That's because my mom doesn't really care what day it is--as long as the whole family can be together. Our Christmas was last Saturday. Tomorrow--another Christmas, with my husband's family--a food experience beyond your wildest imaginings. I'm going to try to get a Bearnaise sauce in there--stay tuned for that post. :-) Merry Christmas!
(Don, here's your tree!!!)