Around our house at Christmastime my mom makes hors d’oeuvres. Rather than encompassing a wide variety of snacks and appetizers, however, these hors d’oeuvres are one specific dish: a cured meat smeared with a dollop of cream cheese and then wrapped around a pickle. The little wraps are then cut up into tiny bite-sized pieces and quickly devoured by relatives and guests. I look forward to them every year, and in fact I can’t wait to get my paws on them in just a couple of weeks (hint hint, Mom.)
Last week we were invited to a friend’s house for lasagna and I was tasked with bringing an appetizer. I would have loved to bring this family treat to the party, but I knew that the substitutes I would find here would never live up to the goodness of what my mom makes. I decided to scour the internet instead—as one so often does these days—and came up with a great starter that has already been deemed a classic in our little household.
This pistachio-covered cheese log was just the right amount of festive and kitsch, while still being very, very tasty. It’s a slightly elevated take on the holiday cheeseball, which for the record is always welcome at my dinner parties. I’m no cheese snob. I included heaping spoonfuls of both the mustard and Worcestershire sauce and I think it gave it a nice kick. We served ours with pretzel chips, but a classic table water cracker would be perfect here. (Don’t you just love Carr’s whole wheat crackers? They’re like a cookie and a cracker in one!)
I’ve collected a few appetizer recipes here in case you find yourself in a similar bind this holiday season. You can definitely have a bit more fun if you’re the host, but I find that dips and semi-solids like this cheese log travel easiest.
- French Onion Pastry Puffs
- Warm Caramelized Fennel and Leek Cheese Dip
- Mashed Potato Croquettes (require leftover mashed potatoes, but boy, they look worth the extra work)
- Feta and Lemon Dip
- Cranberry and Cream Cheese Muffins (why not serve something sweet beforehand?)
- Artichoke Pesto and Lemon Ricotta Crostini
- Swiss Chard Galette with Eggs
- Jalapeño Cheese Straws
- Bacon-Wrapped Apricots with Sage
- Spinach Artichoke Dip (I’m convinced that everyone secretly loves this, even if they say it’s cheesy)
- Sausage-Stuffed Mushrooms
- Rosemary Walnuts
- Baked Chicken Meatballs
- Fig and Stilton Squares
- A Beautiful Crudités Platter (because it can’t always be cheese logs and fruit wrapped in bacon…)
What do you like to make as starters? Whenever we have friends over I usually put together a cheese board with dried meats and cashews, and I always like to have a bowl of olives or cornichons for a salty, briny bite. I’ve been sort of overdoing it with a french onion dip lately so I’m happy to have a few more recipes in my back pocket for parties and gatherings.
(cheese log image via Martha Stewart)