By Lisa Golden Schroeder
I hate appetizers—generally. The idea that they are “appetite teasers” just seems counter intuitive to me. My holiday experiences include my husband’s aunts, refusing to eat before arriving at our house every Thanksgiving, stuffing themselves on cheese and crackers or whatever snacks I lay out while I finish cooking. Then sitting politely at the dinner table, nibbling around the edges of their heaping plates, because they ruined their appetites beforehand. Or dining out and trying to get through a multi-course meal that foils my plan to enjoy a really decadent dessert. But these sour grapes aside, appetizers can be saviors at holiday time, serving as the heart of a do-ahead buffet or the ultimate hostess gift for a festive gathering. Sometimes, with so much food and so little time, a nice repertoire of hearty (or heavy, as some party invitations refer to them) appetizers makes your time in the kitchen short and savory. Forget that center-of-the-plate entrée; lay out large platters of smaller bites and a big salad—something different and deliciously fun.
The best way to plan an appetizer spread is to think about variety and engaging the senses. Fragrant aromas, crisp and crunchy, creamy and rich, colorful, unique flavors, casual finger foods…there’s a reason why many more diners than I love little meal starters. The small plate idea celebrated in Spanish tapas, Middle Eastern mezze, and Asian dim sum can inspire all sorts of easy-to-make recipes. And chicken is an ideal emissary for satisfying mini meals, when a step away from everyday food is required. A lot of appetizers call for already cooked chicken, and if I’m planning ahead I’ll roast a chicken or poach boneless breasts, tenders, or thighs to chop or shred, then package the meat up in 2-cup portions that head for the freezer. A time saving technique not only for snack production but also for your favorite casseroles or a gooey lasagna—the flip side of holiday cooking for a crowd. For this Thanksgiving time, I’m looking at lighter meal starters, like crunch spring rolls that I can get my kids to roll up, Belgian endive bites—winter greens topped with a chicken-almond salad (link below), or crunchy chicken bites – the perfect blend of hot and creamy when eaten with the cilantro lime dip (shown above and featured below.) …
Additional appetizer collection links:
|HOT & CRUNCHY CHICKEN BITES with CREAMY CILANTRO LIME DIP||
- 3 tablespoons slivered almonds
- 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 1-1/2 cups cornflakes or cornflake crumbs
- Coarse salt and crushed red pepper to taste
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 large eggs
- 2 to 3 (14 ounces) Just BARE® Hand-Trimmed Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 cup low-fat mayonnaise or plain Greek yogurt
- ⅓ cup fresh cilantro leaves
- 1 jalapeño chile, stemmed, seeded, cut into chunks
- 2 tablespoon grated fresh gingerroot
- 2 cloves garlic, halved
- 1 teaspoon grated lime peel
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- Heat oven to 425˚F. Line large rimmed baking sheet with foil. Place almonds and sesame seeds in food processor container fitted with metal blade. Process until coarsely chopped. Add cornflakes, salt, and crushed red pepper; process until well blended.
- Place crumb mixture into a shallow dish. In a second dish, place flour. In a third dish, lightly beat eggs with ¼ cup water.
- Dredge chicken lightly in flour, then dip into egg and roll in crumb mixture until well coated. Place on baking sheet; drizzle chicken with oil.
- Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until no longer pink in center and outside is crisp and golden.
- Meanwhile, place all sauce ingredients in food processor. Process until smooth. Serve with chicken chunks.