Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve Party Bites

Here are a few of my favorite appetizers (a couple of which can double as dinner) if you're still looking for some tasty bites for tonight's festivities . . .

Pork and Spinach Potstickers

Yes, I realize I could just go to the store and buy a bag of frozen potstickers instead of making my own. Sometimes I like making things like this myself. I know for sure these don't have MSG or preservatives or any mysterious chemicals. I also have control over the fat, sugar, and salt contents. These freeze extremely well, so make a few extra for dinner next week!

Besides, it was kind of fun and definitely something Sophie could have helped me with had she been about 4 or 5 years older and grown out of smearing food all over herself and everything she touches.

Pork and Spinach Potstickers
From Cooking Pleasures Magazine

1 lb ground pork
1 9-10 oz pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed to dry
1/4 c thinly sliced green onions
1 T soy sauce
1 T sesame oil
2 tsp minced fresh ginger
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
36 round gyoza potsticker wrappers or square wonton wrappers (cut into rounds)
2-3 T oil
1 1/2 c water, divided

Combine all ingredients except wrappers, oil and water in a bowl. (Filling can be made a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Place scant 1 T filling in the center of each gyoza wrapper, lightly moisten outside edge of wrapper with a bit of water. Fold wrapper in half to enclose filling, pinching center and each end to make a tight seal. Holding wonton in hand, seal remaining edges, pinching dough towards center, forming a couple of small pleats. Press sealed edge down lightly to plump up dumpling and make it stand up straight. (At this point, you can freeze them. Just cook like normal, but add an additional 1/4 c water and increase cooking time slightly.)

Place dumplings in rows on baking sheets so they don't touch. Heat 10-inch nonstick skillet over med-high heat until hot. Add 1 T oil and heat. Place 12 potstickers in skillet, packing them in tightly is fine. Cook without disturbing 1-2 min or until bottoms are pale golden brown.

Add 1/2 c. water around sides of skillet; immediately cover. Cook 8 min. Uncover; cook 1-2 minutes, shaking skillet gently to prevent sticking. When water has evaporated and potstickers are crispy brown, place, bottom side up, on platter. Repeat with remaining potstickers, adding additional oil as needed. Serve hot or warm with sauce for dipping.

Ginger-Soy Sauce

1/4 c soy sauce
3 T white wine vinegar
1 T minced fresh ginger
1 T sugar
2 tsp dark sesame oil
dash crushed red pepper flakes

Whisk together.

Nat's Notes:
1. This was easier than I thought it was going to be. I prepared about a dozen potstickers for the two of us for dinner, then put the rest of the filling in the fridge. After I put Sophie to bed, I pulled it back out and put the rest together. I bet it only took about 30 minutes, and I got nearly 50 from this batch. I put them on baking sheets and froze them (see pic below), then stuck them in a gallon zip-top bag. We had them again for dinner tonight, it only took about 15 minutes to prepare,
and we still have some left in the freezer.

Chicken Satay with Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce

We had this for dinner, but chicken satay is usually made as an appetizer. The chicken was juicy and flavorful and the dipping sauce . . . oh my, the dipping sauce. I was sad that we had too much sauce and not enough chicken to dip in it. I ended up drizzling it all over the ginger rice and vegetables I'd made to go with it. And we still had sauce left over. Hello -- rice bowls the next day! Mmm.

Usually you see chicken satay threaded onto wooden skewers, but I decided to use my extra long metal ones and "snaked" them on . . . like an "s" shape. Marinating the chicken made it really tender and fragile, and I was afraid threading the skewers straight through the chicken would make it break. The end.

Chicken Satay with Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce
from Boy Eats World by David Lawrence

For the chicken:
1/2 c coconut milk
1 T fish sauce
2 T freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tsp Asian hot chili paste (I used garlic chili paste)
1 tsp brown sugar
1 T chopped fresh cilantro
2 T finely granted, peeled fresh ginger
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
Salt and papper
1 lb chicken tenders
bamboo skewers, soaked in water or metal skewers

For the dipping sauce:
1 c smooth peanut butter
1/2 c chicken stock
1/4 c unseasoned rice vinegar
3 T brown sugar
2 T soy sauce
2 T grated, peeled fresh ginger
2 tsp Asian hot chili paste
1 tsp turmeric
1 T chopped dry-roasted unsalted peanuts

To make the chicken, combine all of the ingredients for the chicken (except for the chicken) in a gallon-sized zip top bag and mix well. Add the chicken and marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature or several hours in the fridge. The longer, the better.

Meanwhile, whisk together all the ingredients for the sauce except for the peanuts in a medium saucepan and heat gently over medium heat. You don't want to cook it, just heat it and make sure it's well blended. Cool and garnish with peanuts.

Preheat grill or broiler on high. Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade. Thread chicken onto skewers and grill/broil until chicken is cooked through, about 4-5 minutes per side, depending on how thick your tenders are. Serve immediately with dipping sauce.

Nat's Notes:
1. Fish sauce is kind of gross if you think too hard about what it is, so don't. I bought a bottle a couple of years ago (it'll keep for a long time) and love to find excuses to use it. If you don't have it, just leave it out.
2. Asian hot chili paste can be found in the ethnic section of your grocery store. Like I mentioned above, I used the garlic chili paste because that's what I had. You could also just throw in a dash of crushed red pepper flakes. (Not the full amount suggested above unless you want it really spicey.)
3. The ingredient lists here are a bit long, but they overlap some, too. To save time, prepare both the marinade and the sauce at the same time while you have all of your ingredients out.

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Green Chile and Black Bean Dip

I made this bean dip over three years ago out of fridge leftovers. It turned out tasty, so I jotted down the recipe and in my binder it sat. Until New Years Eve. I was supposed to take an appetizer to a little get-together, and I was in the mood for bean dip. I had also bought a Costco-sized bag of tortilla chips. I brushed off this recipe, tweaked it a little, and it turned out better than I remembered. As much as I love the stuff in the can, this sure beats the socks off of it.

Green Chile and Black Bean Dip
an original recipe by Natalie

1 tsp oil
¼ c. chopped onion
1 clove garlic
1 can diced green chilies
1 can black beans, drained
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 T. taco seasoning
2 T. ranch dressing
milk (if needed)
sliced green onions (for garnish)

Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; saute until onions are golden brown. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer, stirring to further soften the cream cheese, about 5 minutes. Use an immersion blender and process until smooth. You could also transfer dip into a blender or food processor and do the same. Add a tablespoon or two of milk if the dip is a little thick for your taste. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with green onions. Serve warm or cold.

Nat's Notes:
1. If you wanted to make it spicy, add a pinch or two of cayenne, crushed red pepper, or a diced jalapeno.
2. The dip will thicken as it cools.

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Mom's Gooey Caramel Corn

We ate a lot of popcorn growing up, and sometimes Mom would treat us to a big bowl of gooey, rich caramel corn. My favorite thing to do was wait until it the caramel sank to the bottom and solidified a bit, then turn the popcorn upside down and eat from the bottom. At the bottom it was no longer caramel corn, but popcorn-flecked caramel. Mmm.

If you don't like it too gooey, just allow the caramel to boil a couple of minutes. The longer you boil it, then crunchier it will be when it cools.

Gooey Caramel Corn
from my Mom

2 c packed brown sugar
1 c (2 sticks) butter
2 dashes cream of tartar
Pinch of salt
1 c corn syrup
Splash of vanilla
About 2 batches of air-popped popcorn (about 1/2 c. of kernels) or 3-4 bags of microwave popcorn

Combine sugar, butter, cream of tartar, salt, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan. Cook at medium heat until it comes to a rolling boil and "swooshes" up in the pot. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour over popcorn and mix well.

Nat's Notes:
1. "Swooshes" is what my mom said.
2. This can easily be halved. Lucky for my backside.
3. If you use microwave popcorn, it gives it a richer, more buttery flavor because the popcorn is already flavored. It's really good that way, but seriously . . . there are two sticks of butter in the caramel. Do you really need pre-buttered popcorn?

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I hope everyone has a fun and safe New Year's Eve!




    (sorry, that was a little obnoxious, but seriously, those all look delicious!)

  2. Everything looks divine, but I am really salivating over the Green chile black bean dip. I'm adding it to my "must make sometime soon" list! Thanks!


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