Bite-sized wisdom – Part IV

We covered so much in this lesson, there are so many parts, I’ve had to brush up on my Roman numerals. Any more and I’d be forced to break out the Roman Numeral Converter.

Appetizers are a food meant for celebration. They are built for fun. They come bite-sized so you don’t have to think about calories or portions, should you or shouldn’t you, you just think about that taste sensation that enters you mouth and makes you smile. Yes, appie rhymes with happy.

Tanya makes appetizers most often for date nights with her husband, Chris. It’s a lighter late-night fare, when you get the kids fed and put to bed, you don’t want a whole heavy dinner, so appetizers are perfect. And you can feed them to each other. She didn’t say that part, but it’s true.

Tan says, “We used to have date night every week. When the kids were little, it was sacred time. Our friends would say, ‘Don’t call Chris and Tanya on Friday nights.’ For years we did that… until the kids were old enough to bug us.”

The following are happy appies Chris and Tan might be feeding each other as we speak.

Sweet Potato Crostini with Cheddar, Bacon and Sour Cream

This is a super simple recipe that can go with a lot of dishes or stand out on its own. I don’t have a formal recipe for it other than to tell you that the ingredients are in the title.

Sophia was given the task of cutting up the sweet potato and asked the same questions I would have, “Do you skin it?”

“No,” Tan said, “You scrub it and cut the ends off. Then make clean, even cuts in order to get 10 slices out of one sweet potato.”

Tanya, as always, was encouraging, “There’s no failing, no wrong way to do it… Just don’t slice your fingers.”

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I was on bacon duty, which I had never before cooked. No, never.

“A lot, for bacon, is letting it go.” We could really let this bacon go as it would be used for making bacon bits.

Sophia then grated the cheese, just a bit. “You don’t want a big greasy lump of cheese on the potato.”

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Bake at 15 minutes at 350. Check for tenderness. Add dollop of sour cream and bacon bits. Yum.

Honey Hoisin Sesame Chicken Summer Rolls

2-3 lbs. chicken parts (or whole chicken, cut up)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon grated ginger root or 1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons cornstarch*
2 tablespoons water*

Summer rolls:
Fill a big bowl with warm water to dip the rice paper. Once the rice paper loses its stiffness, lay it flat on a plate, add ingredients – sliced cabbage and honey hoisin chicken – and roll tightly.

I don’t know why, but I have zero pictures of this one and they were the coolest looking appetizer by far.

I’d never heard of Honey Hoisin before. Tan asked, “Ever had sesame chicken? It’s similar. It’s sweet”

I have to get used to slicing raw chicken.  Tan gave me this helpful hint! “Cut it when it’s half-frozen, and then it’s easier to cut and it doesn’t take any longer to cook.”

We used fresh ginger root. “You can use powder too. The thing about ginger root is that you can keep it for a long time. Once it’s peeled, you’ll want to use it sooner.”

*”The recipe calls for water and cornstarch, but I would never do that.  Because we just want the flavouring for the chicken for the summer roll, we don’t need to. Otherwise, it will make a thick sauce.” I’m presuming that sauce would be served well on a bed of rice or noodles.

Look at me, trying to have an opinion.

The summer rolls were super fun, almost as fun as frying the won tons. Here’s a photo tutorial I found to demonstrate the process better than I could describe it, only our contents were chicken and sliced cabbage.

summer roll tutorial

“This is the hardest thing you’re going to make today.” Tan said. “The rice paper is delicate. If you overfill it, it’s more likely to break. Roll it as tight as you can.”

It was a little tricky, but no rice paper was left behind. So I think her statement about it being the hardest thing just meant that everything we did was easy.

“It’s about demystifying food. It’s good to try new things.”

I agreed. When Tan announced all those appetizers and all those ingredients I’d never heard of, I felt like she was speaking a different language. Now I had insider knowledge on how to prepare them. All in an afternoon.

Cooking is Exhausting

But at the two and a half hour mark, my brain was getting full and our feet were getting sore.

“If you were a caterer, you’d have to wear sensible shoes!” I said. That alone would turn me off the venture.

“People have asked me, ‘Why don’t you cater?'” Tan said, “But the difference between doing this for people you love or as a business is—this is going to sound horrible, so don’t take it that way—is you have to then answer to other people.”

“It wouldn’t be a labour of love for you.” I could understand that.

“When you cater, you have to do it because someone else wants you to… But I’ve spent five to six hours easily in the kitchen. Remember that dinner party you came to? I was cooking for two days.”

“Unimaginable to me.”

“You put on music, you have a plan, and I’m doing it for people I love!”

Dates with Blue Cheese and Apricot Wrapped in Prosciutto

I didn’t make these and I don’t have instructions. So this is Sophia entering the sisterhood and sharing the recipe with you at the tender age of 12.

So what ya gotta do is:
Take the piece of bacon thingy and you lay it out flat.
Take one dried apricot (rip in half) and one date and put it on the very end of the piece of meat.
Cut a small chunk of blue cheese.
Put it all at the end, take the end part, flip it over and then roll it tight. Really tight.
That’s it!

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The Presentation

Our friends were on their way and we had about 20 minutes to do last minute clean up, which Tan had written into the plan. She always leaves time to tidy so that her guests don’t show up to a major mess. Ambiance is important! We were on dish duty, wipe down, last minute garnishing (which is a lesson in and of itself), setting out candles, chairs, and putting out the appetizers.

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This is how the kitchen looked when we started… the goal was to get it to look similar!

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The Party

The door bell rang. Yay! The people we were cooking for, the people we love were here!

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Mallory was on drink detail. Sparkling or sparkling?

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The “chefs” pose – Now, let’s dig in!
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We spent another three hours enjoying the appetizers and each other’s company.

I wrote down the favourites, just so you have a genuine recommendation if you want to try any of these out.

All enjoyed the chicken summer rolls, won ton marlin tacos, and the sweet potato crostini.

Heather and Tanya especially like the salmon with mango salsa.

Lisa also loved the prosciutto rolls. She’s not normally a fan of blue cheese, but this combo of flavours was just perfect, she said.

The kids like the curried chicken on the lettuce wrap and the chicken summer rolls.

I couldn’t stop popping the baked won ton cups into my mouth, both the crab and brie cheese combos.

As I looked around at us sampling, tasting, laughing, I thought, I have to make an excuse to do this again.

6 thoughts on “Bite-sized wisdom – Part IV

  1. Two comments…(1) I sincerely hope that JM has been the bacon cook in the family until this point and you haven’t just been living a deprived life…and (2) We’re having a party. Do you hire yourself out? These all look amazing. :)

  2. Looks like fun! Tanya I like the changes to your house since I last saw it….new colours. Pretty! Tan has always been really good at appies and just food in general really. You have been getting pretty lucky with your teacher Lor!:)

  3. I have a list of excuses! “Friday night”? thanks again for including me- I’ve made 3 of these already- so yummy Tanya!
    p.s. so impressed with your developing “opinion”, Lor!

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