Holiday Appetizers and Small Plates with Chef Larry

Appetizers and wine are on the menu at most holiday affairs this time of the year. From cheese plates to small plates, I enjoy preparing them all. The flavor profile of Whitehall Lane wines makes them easy to pair with food for any occasion. Let’s look at some ideas that will work for a variety of occasions, from a cocktail party to an antipasto platter and make you the star chef of your hosted event or potluck.

Cheese Boards

Three to five cheeses with a few accompaniments make for a nice starter. A few of my favorites include Brie, which pairs nicely with Whitehall Lane Sauvignon Blanc and Piave Vecchio, a nice accompaniment with Whitehall Lane Las Brisas Pinot Noir, and Aged Gouda, which pairs well with Whitehall Lane Cabernet Sauvignon.  For added color and a palette cleanser, add a few Marcona almonds, dried apricots, and cured meat to your cheese board.

Simple Antipasto

A colorful antipasto is a good way to prime your guests’ taste buds for the dishes to come. Below is a simple recipe for one of my all time favorite appetizers, Goat Cheese with Spicy Tomato Sauce. The tangy, earthy flavor of this dish is a welcome pairing to enjoy with Whitehall Lane Merlot or Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

Goat Cheese with Spicy Tomato Sauce                 

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons red pepper

2 cups tomatoes, peeled, seeded, chopped

2 Tablespoons tomato paste (stirred in 1/3 cup hot water)

¼ cup red wine vinegar

Pinch sugar

Salt & Pepper to taste

Goat cheese, 5 oz or 8 oz log

Bread slices

For tomato sauce, heat oil on very low heat, add red pepper and to flavor the oil.  Raise heat to medium, add tomatoes, paste, vinegar and sugar.  Simmer for about 20 minutes until starting to thicken.  Remove from heat and season with salt & pepper.  Chill.  Serve on top of goat cheese surrounded with both toasted and fresh bread slices.

Savory Small Plates

When I think of the holidays, I like to go back to the tradition of flavors that evoke comfort and nostalgia. The recipe below for Chicken Meatballs with Balsamic Vinegar is a particular holiday favorite of mine. Serve the meatballs warmed on a small plate over a scoop of mashed potatoes with sauce drizzled on top. This recipe is particularly delicious with a glass of Whitehall Lane Las Brisas Pinot Noir.

Chicken Meatballs with Balsamic Vinegar

1 lb ground chicken

½ lb chicken sausage, casing removed and broken up

1 cup bread crumbs

2 Tablespoons parsley, chopped

¼ cup grated Parmesan or Romano Cheese

1 egg plus 1 Tablespoon water, lightly beaten

Zest of 1 Lemon

½ teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

4 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Juice from one lemon

¾ cup red wine

2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar

In mixing bowl, mix chicken and sausage; add bread crumbs, parsley, cheese, egg, lemon and spices.  Mix well by kneading until well mixed.  Using a melon baller or tablespoon, to measure evenly, shape into balls, should make about 24.  Heat half the oil in a large sauté pan and cook, turning occasionally until all sides are golden and cooked through (taste one to be sure they are cooked).  Add more oil when necessary and continue cooking until all the meatballs are cooked.  Drain on paper towels and keep warm.  Add the lemon juice and wine to the pan to deglaze, add balsamic vinegar and cook until the sauce thickens.