While our simple, family-only New Years celebration started with modest goals, it began to get out of hand when we devised the Appetizer Throw Down. Rather than a Bobby Flay style competition of chef against chef, our throwdown was conceived as appetizer against appetizer. Over the course of New Years Eve and New Years Day (and even beyond as it turned out), we would use a family panel to judge 6 appetizers that ranged from simple to fancy - with both adults and kids doing the judging.
The throwdown menu was composed in order of fanciness:
- Crackers and cheeses (everyday cheddar, aged Irish Cheddar, 2-year old Reserve Irish Cheddar
- Homemade French Onion Dip and chips (I'll link a recipe for this homemade classic soon).
- Cheddar Horseradish Dip and Veggies, Gourmet August 2007
- Parmesan Puffs, Gourmet, December 2006
- Bacon and Roasted Corn Gougeres, Gourmet, November 2007
- Goat Cheese Tartines with Tapenade
- Presentation: 1 to 3 points
- Taste: 1 to 5 points
- Would you like to eat more? 0 or 3 points
- Should we make it again? 0 or 3 points
Oh - the cheddar dip is very good - different from most other dips, since the base is shredded radish. Even radish lovers wouldn't know it's in there, since the horseradish is the dominant flavor. It's got a summertime feel and reminds me of a sophisticated version of pimento cheese.
Round two involved the Puffs we had at Christmas dinner, the family favorite Bacon and Corn Gougeres which we've been making for about a year now, and a purely Mom and Dad appetizer of tapenade with Goat Cheese. The six appetizers were too much, so we used New Years Day and the following few days to taste the rest, with the pretty much expected result of Gougeres winning out. However, that was only because the kids outnumbered the adults.
The Goat Cheese Tartines with Tapenade were the best of the bunch, and are quite easy to make. Note that I used less goat cheese than shown in this picture, since if you have decent goat cheese, you don't need that huge portion.
One thing to be sure to do is make your own tapenade. It takes nothing more than a couple minutes with a food processor, and will be far more economical and WAY better tasting than a jarred commercial tapenade. I used this recipe from Wolfgang Puck that was made exceptional by the well balanced proportion of black to green olive, judicious amount of capers and anchovy, and most importantly fresh herbs. Fresh oregano, a greatly underused but easy to grow herb is present again. This tapenade is a definite keeper and will become a background staple going forward.