December 5, 2011
(Easy Holiday Appetizers #1, aka Meat on Sticks)
“I say they should put more meats on a stick, you know? They got a lot of sweets on sticks—popsicles, fudgesicles, lollipops—but hardly any meat.”
—There’s Something About Mary
Welcome to a week of appetizers! This is the time of year when we are often opening our doors to guests or asked to bring something to an event or party. The best appetizers are quick to make, tasty, and can hold their own for a decent amount of time—either in transit (on your lap in the car) or placed on the table during cocktail hour. Also, the chief work of these little bites is not to ruin your appetite but rather to whet it, to arouse your palette for the food and drink to come. My magic formula for appetizers is to combine something salty, something tangy and something just a tad sweet.
This week I’m rolling out all of my favorite first bites. These are recipes that are easy and delicious but also unique, so you won’t be serving something that has already been passed around at every event or party in town. Oh, before we look at today’s recipe I’d like to answer a question that I’m often asked: when planning quantities for guests, I always figure on three per person, per appetizer.
Let’s lead off this week of holiday appetizers with something a bit decadent and oh, so delicious. No cooking is required, just some simple assembly. Once you have your ingredients, it come together quickly and can be made about 30 minutes in advance, the perfect amount of time to quickly throw together post-hair and makeup before your first guests arrive.
This grissini (dry breadsticks originating in Northern Italy) with white truffle butter and prosciutto follows my formula of salty/ tangy/ sweet. I can’t emphasize enough that the success of this appetizer depends on the quality of your ingredients. (Yes, I’m on the street corner singing the same tune once again.) I’m able to find everything needed for this at our local cheese shop, C’est Cheese, and I’m always looking for an excuse to go there anyway. The grissini they carry are so darn delicious.
Sometimes I feel ambitious and make my own grissini. But the store-bought version works great in this recipe, and I’m usually running behind schedule anyway. You want firm grissini; look for those with some girth, so they don’t get soft and chewy with the butter (do you want a pair of Wellies for that gutter?). Sometimes the sticks are too long (yes, that’s possible, more gutter …)—so I simply snap them in half to make smaller pieces.
You could use other sweet cured meats in place of prosciutto—I’ve used both serrano and Ibérico ham with great results. If you can’t find truffle butter where you live, you can buy it easily online. But most specialty stores do carry it, and the exceptional and earthy taste is worth the effort to track it down. Sure, it’s a little pricey, but this is the holiday season after all …
Grissini with white truffle butter and prosciutto
Serves 6 guests
1/2 pound thinly sliced prosciutto
Grissini, about 10 sticks
If your grissini are super long, snap them in half. First, choose the container you’re going to serve them in, so you can measure them to the correct height. You can totally serve them on a traditional platter, but I like the look and feel of using a glass or jar-like container, lending some much-needed height to the traditional flat land of appetizers.
To assemble: Smear butter on the top half of the bread stick. Wrap the cured meat around the buttered area. I usually tear the prosciutto in half, lengthwise—there’s that natural median in the meat that allows you to separate it easily. Start at the top of the bread stick and wrap it around at a downward angle. Once your meat is wrapped, place your glass or bowl and do it again. Easy, right?