One for the Brie lover, One for the shrimp lover, and One for the goat cheese lover.
Baked Brie with Fig Spread Serves 6 to 8
This appetizer is super simple to make and always a big hit with guests. I like topping my Brie with fig spread, but you can use any sweet or savory topping you like. You can substitute the fig spread with cherry or strawberry preserves; or if you have cranberry sauce on hand, it is also delicious.
1 (17.3 ounces) frozen puff pastry (such as Pepperidge Farm®), thawed according to package directions 1 (12 ounces) whole Brie wheel 1 jar (8.5 ounces) Dalmatia fig spread, or to taste 1 egg, beaten Pecans, chopped, for garnish For serving: Thin slices of sourdough baguettes Your favorite crackers Sliced apples Sliced pears Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the puffed pastry sheet on the parchment paper. Place Brie in the middle of the pastry sheet. Top cheese with fig spread to taste. (I use the entire jar but ¾ of a jar is enough.) Fold the corners of the pastry sheet over Brie. Using your hands, press the pastry sheet, sealing any open sides. Using a pastry brush, brush egg wash on puff pastry. Be sure to cover the sides as well. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown.
To serve: Transfer the Brie to a serving platter. I keep the Brie on parchment paper. You can cut the parchment paper off if you prefer. Garnish with chopped pecans. Allow the baked Brie to sit for 10 minutes before serving. Surround Brie with slices of baguettes, crackers, or slices of fruit.
Tips on shopping for Brie: Brie has its best flavor when perfectly ripe. Select one that is plump and resilient to the touch. Its rind may show some pale brown edges. Ripened Brie has a short life and should be eaten within a few days.
Shrimp Cocktail with Homemade Cocktail Sauce Serves 4 to 6
Shrimp cocktail is another easy appetizer to prepare and always a crowd pleaser. For a more festive presentation, fill martini glasses with cocktail sauce, place shrimp around the rim of the glass, and garnish with a sprig of parsley and a wedge of lemon. If you want to serve shrimp cocktail, don’t buy pre-cooked shrimp. They will be rubbery. Use raw shrimp. Shrimp cooked with their shells on have a more intense flavor. You will want to remove the shells, leaving the tails on, and de-vein the shrimp before serving. Tips on de-veining shrimp follow the recipe. You want everything to be perfect around the holidays, so make your own cocktail sauce. Homemade is better than store bought any day. For the shrimp cocktail sauce:
½ cup ketchup ½ cup Heinz Chili Sauce 4 tablespoons prepared horseradish, or to taste ½ tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste ½ teaspoon Worcestershire® sauce, or to taste ¼ teaspoon hot sauce, or to taste
In a medium bowl, combine ketchup, chili sauce, horseradish, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
For the shrimp: 3 tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning® 1 lemon, halved 2 teaspoons minced garlic 24 extra-large shrimp, tails and shells on
Fill a large bowl with ice water and set it in or near the sink. Fill an 8-quart kettle with water. Add Old Bay Seasoning, lemon, and garlic and bring water to a boil. Add shrimp to the kettle. When the water returns to a boil, the shrimp should be done. They should be bright pink in color, and their tails should curl.
Drain shrimp and place them in the ice bath for 2 minutes. Peel and de-vein the shrimp, leaving tails on.
Tips on de-veining shrimp:
Unless you are cooking with very small shrimp, they must be de-veined. The intestinal tract on medium to large shrimp runs down their back and is quite unappetizing. To de-vein shrimp, hold them under a slow stream of cold water and run the tip of an ice pick, sharp knife, or toothpick down their back, scraping out the intestine, yet leaving the shrimp intact. Rinse gently to remove any black from the shrimp.
Tips on shopping for shrimp: Shrimp are sold according to the number in a pound known as the count. Jumbo shrimp range 21-25 per pound, extra-large—26-30, large—31-35, medium—36-42, small—51-60, extra small—61 and over. When making peel-and-eat shrimp or shrimp cocktail, larger shrimp are preferable. For shrimp salads or other dishes, a smaller shrimp is better. When shrimp is on sale, be sure to check the count your grocer advertises. Fresh versus Frozen. Fishermen put shrimp on ice as soon as they are caught. This preserves the shrimp, freezing them so they are just-caught fresh until they are thawed. The fresh shrimp you see on ice in the seafood counter at your supermarket were most likely once frozen and are thawing in the counter. The longer they are in the counter, the less fresh they will be. Unless you know that the fresh shrimp you are buying is fresh off the boat, frozen shrimp is a better choice.
Wild-Caught or Farm-Raised: Wild-caught shrimp have a sharper, more shrimpy taste; however, they are pricier and harder to find. Ninety percent of shrimp sold in the United States are imported from Southeast Asia, Ecuador, and India; and the majority of that is farm-raised. Your supermarket is required to divulge the country of origin and whether shrimp is wild or farmed. Check the label.
If you have doubts, farm-raised shrimp cultivated under cleaner standards will bear a “Best Aquaculture Practices” label. The certification label to look for when buying wild shrimp is “Marine Stewardship Council Approved.”
Herb-Encrusted Goat Cheese Log Serves 8
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped 3 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped 3 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves 1 tablespoon pink peppercorns, roughly chopped 1 tablespoon lemon zest 1 (10-ounce) log fresh goat cheese In a small bowl, place parsley, dill, chives, thyme, peppercorns, and lemon zest. Stir to combine. Gently remove the log from its package so that it remains intact. Place herb mixture on a cutting board. Place the log on the herb mixture and roll gently to coat all sides. Using your hands, pat the herb mixture onto the cheese. ¼ cup olive oil 2 tablespoons lemon juice In a small bowl, place olive oil and lemon juice and whisk to combine. Transfer the olive oil mixture to a serving plate. Place the goat cheese log on top of the olive oil mixture.
Serve with: Slices of sourdough baguette Your favorite crackers Fresh vegetables: cucumber slices, snap peas, endive leaves Tips on shopping for and storing fresh herbs: When shopping for fresh herbs, select ones with even green color and no signs of wilting, yellowing, or insect damage. Fresh herbs should be washed before using. After washing, pat dry with paper towels. To prolong the life of some herbs, place them in a glass of water, stems down, cover with a plastic bag, secure the glass with a rubber band, and refrigerate. Change the water every 2 days. This works nicely with basil, cilantro, mint, and parsley.
Carol Ann Kates
Carol Ann Kates is the award-winning author of cookbook, Secret Recipes from the Corner Market and Grocery Shopping Secrets. She’s an expert in how to shop, select, and store produce for maximizing home cooking outcomes and minimizing time and money spent. As a former supermarket and deli operator, Carol Ann shares grocery-insider wisdom—the same expertise you used to receive when patronizing a mom-and-pop establishment. Contact her at CarolAnn@CarolAnnKates.com and explore her website, www.CarolAnnKates.com.
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