New Year’s Eve appetizers

‘Twas the night before New Year’s and all through the house, everyone was restless, yes, even the mouse.

There are parties to go to that are a big deal, for tomorrow is next year, there’s no time for a meal.

So what do we do? For we surely must eat or the drinks will affect us, knock us right off our feet.

And what of the mouse, how will he get through? He needs just a morsel, a few bites will do.

So maybe that’s it, it’s a fantastic idea. We’ll have some great apps and maybe a beer.

Ever since Thanksgiving, we have been eating a ton. The holidays are five weeks of get-togethers, dinners and, of course, those two huge meals. We are now in the last week of our feeding frenzy, which seems like the equivalent of the fall salmon run for the Alaskan brown bears.

Figure about four to six pieces per person per hour for a short party and about eight to 12 pieces if it is going to be an all-night party.

New Year’s Eve is the last hurrah and this can be a hectic night with lots to do. Many of us will have a party before we go out to celebrate, but we don’t want that big sit-down dinner. Appetizers can be a little tedious to prepare, but they are meant for nights like this. The appetizers can be fairly simple for the casual party or they can be extravagant. Here are some ideas.

Spanakopitas
Spanakopitas is popular. This is a spinach and feta cheese triangle wrapped in phyllo dough. They are a little time consuming, but fairly easy to make and everyone loves them. The filling is made with spinach and feta cheese with parmesan, garlic, a few drops of lemon, a little dill and pepper added.

The mix is easy. Rough chop the spinach and wilt it in a sauté pan with garlic in a little olive oil. Press the moisture out of the wilted spinach in a colander and place it in a bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well using taste to dictate how much lemon, dill, pepper and salt to use. Remember, feta cheese, as well as parmesan, is salty, so do not add any salt until the end.

Lay out one sheet of dough and brush it with a little melted butter. Place a second sheet over that one and repeat the brushing. With a sharp paring knife or pizza cutter, cut the dough in half widthwise, not lengthwise. Next, cut the halves into three strips. Place a small spoon of the mix onto each strip at the end near you. Fold the corner over to make a triangle and keep folding until you reach the end.

Place the triangles on a parchment-coated sheet pan, brush with a little melted butter and bake for 15 minutes or until golden.

If you want to make these a little fancier, add crab and a few drops of hot sauce. Also, phyllo dough dries out quickly, so keep a slightly damp cloth covering the dough until it is used.

Pinwheels
No appetizer assortment is complete without some type of cheese tidbit. How about roasted red, orange and yellow sweet pepper and borsain cheese pinwheels? These will quickly become a favorite.

Roast the peppers in a 450 degree F oven until the skin is nice and dark. Rotate them once so the entire outer skin is blackened. When the peppers come out of the oven, put them into a bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a while. The steam will help separate the skin from the pepper to make peeling easier after they are cooled.

Peel the skin, cut the peppers in half, top to bottom, discarding the stem and de-seed the peppers. Cut the peppers into full-length strips, a half-inch or so wide and spread the cheese over the strips leaving one end uncoated. Roll the strips toward the open end of the pepper and stick a toothpick in to hold the roll in place for serving.

These are only a couple examples of appetizers. Figure about four to six pieces per person per hour for a short party and about eight to 12 pieces if it is going to be an all-night party. Also make more of a few appetizers as opposed to a few of a lot: six to eight choices is a good range.

This New Year’s Eve, try having a pre-party appetizer-making party. Enjoy the last few days of the holiday season and act responsibly.

Try some of Chef Smitty’s other appetizer recipes
Avocado appetizers
Shrimp Cocktail
Twice Baked Potatoes
Chicken Duxelle Pinwheels

Smitty is a personal chef specializing in dinner parties, cooking classes and special events. Trained under Master Chef Anton Flory at Top Notch Resort in Stowe, Vt., Smitty is known for his creative use of fresh ingredients. To read archived copies of Smitty’s column, visit chefsmitty.com or TheTahoeWeekly.com. Contact him at tmmsmitty@gmail.com or (530) 412-3598.

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Chef Smitty
Smitty is a personal chef specializing in dinner parties, cooking classes and special events. Trained under Master Chef Anton Flory at Top Notch Resort in Stowe, Vt., Smitty is known for his creative use of fresh ingredients. Smitty has been teaching skiing at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows for more than 26 years each winter, and spends his summers working for High Sierra Waterski School since 2000. Smitty has been writing his chef column for Tahoe Weekly since 2005.