That title happens to be my personal motto. Whether it stems from my love of experiencing things many and varied, or is simply a byproduct of my ADD, it absolutely defines me as a person. In my classroom, while there certainly is a main lesson and objective for each day, I have to dabble in a few different topics to keep things fresh and moving along (would you get bored if I covered morphemes, grammar AND writing all in one 70-minute period?!? I didn’t think so!).
Sure, it’s the reason Michael Jordan is good at basketball, because he plays it all day long! Slash is great at guitar because he plays it all day long! Donald Trump is great at making a fool of himself publicly because he practices privately all day long!! I’m not especially good at any one thing, damn it, but at least I’m not bored.
Speaking of experiencing so many things, is there anything better in this world than appetizers? When Wifey and I hit the town for a meal, we find ourselves splitting three or four appetizers, rather than commit to a singular entree (that, more often than not, one or both of us are disappointed in). Our realization of our mutual love of variety (and tapas) has led us to host appetizer parties and even make “snack dinners” a regular thing in our household.
While tapas is a sort of Iberian concept, it’s been co-opted by countless cultures. What follows is a list of deliciousness that doesn’t necessarily count as tapas, but are equally hand-held and awesome: sushi, tacos, finger sandwiches, canapes, cheese / charcuterie platters, wraps, veggie trays, burritos, pizza, pizza ROLLS (TM) and all manner of appetizers. For our money, there’s nothing better than lots of new, little experiences than one, big, potentially disappointing one (again, outing myself as perhaps the most neurotic person I know).
What’s the point of all this rambling? It’s a deliciously delayed lead-in to a blog about food. It’s my very first cooking blog and I’m so happy to share the many photos and recipes that have made my life better, my waistline bulgier, and put my wife in a clam-like state of happiness.
My final bit of prefacing comes in the shape of a mini-warning. I don’t suppose most folks truly have a unique recipe. My closest comes in the form of an inappropriately titled martini (a “handjob,” if you must know). Otherwise, your closest thing to an original dish is probably like my students’: “Mister, it’s the best. I take a hot dog, microwave it, put it on a bun, but then I add mayo and barbecue sauce! Yeah!” Or maybe you mixed two salad dressings together and thought Bleu Chaesar was a great idea. What I’m getting at is… like most recipes, I got them from somewhere else… they aren’t entirely mine… man, they just fucking rock. Let’s get after it, already.
Bacon-Wrapped Dates a la FIREFLY
Firefly is this amazing tapas restaurant in Las Vegas, NV (although, I’ve been told they exist elsewhere nationally). They make awesome tapas ranging from traditional (merguez sausage) to contemporary (sliders made with jamon serrano in the ground beef and manchengo cheese instead of cheddar or whathaveyou). I’m no sangria drinker (that’s actually an insult in nine countries), but their sparkling sangria (champagne, diced green apple and under-ripe pear) I could pound all day long. Without a doubt, their bacon-wrapped dates are some of the finest I’ve ever consumed. The only variation I make is to use a balsamic vinegar reduction, instead of a red wine reduction (mine is also quite thick, whereas theirs tends to be runny and fill the bottom of the serving vessel). In the following recipes, I’m not going to give you set amounts; make as many as you like, or as many as I like, or as many as your guests will eat, but you can figure out the numbers, my friends.
Bleu cheese crumbles
- Preheat oven to 425 F
- Take the pitted dates and open a slit on one side, so you’s can stuff ’em
- Stuff ’em with a smoked almond and wad of bleu cheese
- Wrap ’em with a half slice of bacon (I usually just slice the entire package in half to begin with)
- Skewer ’em with a toothpick
- Place on a baking sheet lined with tin foil and bake at 425 F for 16 minutes, flipping them halfway
- In the meantime, in a small to medium sauce pan, dump out a good amount of balsamic vinegar (it’s going to reduce by probably more than half, so don’t skimp)
- Turn the heat to medium high and add desired amount of sugar (for me, no more than a tablespoon or two)
- Once reduction boils, stir periodically until reduced by at least half; warning: as it cools, it will ooze around the pan more slowly and be less runny, so don’t be all sad if it looks thin at first; second warning: if you heat this stuff for too long, it becomes hard candy, so DON’T OVERDO IT!
- Take the wads of joy out of the oven, place them on a serving plate, drizzle with balsamic reduction, act like a goddamn boss in front of your totally impressed guests
On a final note, I will say that if you have leftover bacon, cook them on the same sheet as your dates. These are easily topped with the reduction and taste better than unicorn sex.
Caprese Skewers a la JENNY’S LUNCH LINE
Jenny’s Lunch Line catered our wedding. The first chef, the one who auditioned for us and was the reason we chose this place, was a-fucking-mazing. She was southern and had class and charm and an awesome accent, and that woman sure did know how to cook. Then, mid-stream, we were informed that she was let go. In her place, Chef Lieutenant Dan. I don’t even remember how he earned that nickname, but he was this young, scruffy, unshaven, tattooed roustabout. I mean, I have nothing against tattoos or not shaving, but he looked more like a local skater than a chef. Also, he was not a very good cook. However, he managed to do one thing very well: caprese skewers. For those of you who don’t know, insalata caprese (pronounced ka-prey-zay, not ca-preese) is a simple salad made with layers of tomato, mozzarella cheese, and fresh basil leaves, typically drizzled with olive oil. THESE appetizers are skewered on toothpicks and drizzled with olive oil, plus more sexy sauce (balsamic reduction).
Cherry or grape tomatoes (organic, heirlooms are the tastiest IMNSHO)
Mozzarella (this can’t be the commercial shit, it has to be Galbani or something halfway nice, milky, creamy, etc.; if you’re lazy, get the ones shaped into tiny balls instead of slicing from a larger block)
- Take a toothpick, thread a tomato onto it
- Then, thread a basil leave (I usually fold these in halves or quarters, so they aren’t sticking out all over the place like Miley Cyrus at a fancy banquet)
- THEN, thread a chunk or ball of mozz
- Prepare balsamic reduction, as above (bacon-wrapped dates recipe)
- Arrange skewers on a plate or try; drizzle with olive oil and balsamic reduction (or just balsamic, if you’re a purist… well, a purist wouldn’t use vinegar… whatever)
- Serve to your guests and strut around like a G, you badass
Stuffed Mushrooms a la JUSTIN
These little guys are tasty. I don’t think they’re awfully traditional,
but I can truly say that these are my spin on the classic stuffed mushroom. You’ll want to do some burpees the morning of eating these, because the mushroom is probably the healthiest part of this dish.
Many x White or crimini mushrooms (big ones are good for holding more stuffing)
1 x White onion, diced
2-3 x Garlic cloves, diced
3-4 tbsp Cream cheese
1/3-1/2 Funky cheese (goat cheese or feta crumbles)
1/4 C Bread crumbs
1/3 C Parmesan, shredded
- Caramelize the onions; heat up a pan on medium high until nice and hot, throw in two tablespoons EVOO and hit it with onions; keep cooking (stirring periodically) until they have some color and are getting close to turning brown; reduce heat to medium low and throw garlic on top; when you think the pan has cooled a bit, stir it all up to cook the garlic; after a minute, stir in the mushroom bits (read on); let this mess go over low heat while you prepare everything else (watch it turn to an amazing mush)
- Wash the mushrooms and cut off the woody tips of the stems; scoop out mushroom innards and remaining stems, saving for later (you will mince all of that stuff and throw it in the onion / garlic mush)
- Once the onion / garlic / mushroom mush has cooled a bit (but is still warm enough to melt cheese), throw in cream cheese, funky cheese, half of the Parmesan, and half of the bread crumbs until combined and melted (well, don’t melt the bread crumbs, evil bastard)
- Preheat oven to 350 F and start stuffing that slop into those hollowed out shrooms
- Top each one with a sprinkle of remaining Parmesan and bread crumbs
- Bake for about 20-30 minutes
- Enjoy, but don’t serve any to your ignorant guests; resist the urge to top with sexy sauce
Truffled Crostini a la WIFEY
I don’t know if Wifey made these up or read about them, but goddamn they are amazing, sexy, and will impress the shit out of your guests.
1 x Baguette
1 x Yellow bell pepper
1 x Orange bell pepper
1 x White Onion
Truffle oil, bitch
- Slice onions and bell peppers in long, thin strips. You will notice how much sexier this dish is with both yellow and orange pepper. Suatee the onion until at least translucent, or caramelize as above (although, I would not add garlic to this dish); then cook the peppers for 5-7 minutes over medium high heat; toss them together in a bowl and WAIT
- Slice that baguette into rounds (cut on a diagonal for some seriou
sly professional looking bread slices that will be longer than rounds) and line on a baking sheet; heat under the broiler until slightly crispy (okay, if you wanted to add garlic, you could then grade a half clove OVER THE TOASTED BREAD! It’s nature’s cheese grater!)
- Top each crostini (that’s what happens when you take baguette rounds and toast them) with a healthy dose of the onion / pepper slop
- Drizzle each of them with a just-right amount of truffle oil
- Eat those little bastards while laughing at your puny, unrefined guests, who’d probably rather have a freezer Salisbury steak, anyway
Shrimp Cocktail a la JUSTIN
If you made it this far, I’m seriously proud of you. That was a lot of text. I expect half the comments (that’s right, all one of them) below to go something lik
e this: “TL:DR.” That’s internet slang for too long, didn’t read. Smartasses.
1 x bag of Shrimp, frozen, peeled and deveined (tail on ain’t no thang); yes, we cheat and don’t buy them fresh
Ketchup (or Catsup)
- Turn the broiler on full blast; move a rack to about 7″ beneath the heating element
- Thaw, wash, and dry those shrimpies; place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or tin foil, spray a little olive oil on, if desired
- Broil them for, seriously, like three to four minutes (we don’t want rubbery seafood)
- In a bowl, combine the other ingredients. Consider the above list like an ingredient list on a package of Spaghetti-Os, the one at the top has the most, and each ingredient gets less and less as you go down the line (something like 1/2 C ketchup, 2 tablespoons horseradish, 1 tablespoon lemon juice; 4-8 grinds of black pepper [maybe 1-2 teaspoons], and a dash of Tabasco)
- Make those shrimp take a cocktail sauce bath!
- Eat ’em up, eat ’em up, eat ’em up, son!!
Easy Cheese Platter
Seriously, this shit ain’t hard. Go to a Whole Foods or something and ask the guy for some recommendations. You will have no idea what they are saying, but memorize every word to entertain your guests with. Or just buy some fancy-ass cheese (bleu, cambazola, manchengo, aged gouda, smoked mozzarella, etc.), preferably some hard and some soft, and throw some nuts and fruit on there. Almonds, pistachios and cashews are nice for nuts. Grapes, pear and green apple are great for fruit. But for Pete’s sake, quit being the dick who brings some pre-packaged crackers and cheese to every party. We’re sick of your shit!
Are you ready to look like a baller at your next appetizer-y shindig? I sure as hell hope so.
Now, for the classic, widely-approved ending to any good blog, the prerequisite questions, prompting you to write me something and make it look like someone actually reads this:
What’s your favorite appetizer to bring to a party? Have you ever eaten food before? What’s the etymology of the word “appetizer”? Share with us in a comment below, and don’t forget to follow this blog, link it to other blogs without their permission, share with your mother, delete and re-Tweet it, make cash donations to me, and bake me a mountain of cake pops.