Tradition and trendiness define this week's hors d'ouevres for holiday entertaining, and Margaret Bracken mixes a bit of both in her offering.
Stilton cheese is one of the most popular holiday foods in Great Britain, says the native Scotswoman and Dallas chef. But Mrs. Bracken's use of it -- with fresh pears in a quiche -- is a new idea that would appeal even to those guests who religiously follow the slick food monthlies.
Anders Edman's recipe for a potato, onion and anchovy pie called Jansson's temptation is hidebound in tradition, he says.
"Around Christmas, every Swede alive eats this," says Mr. Edman, a chef who was co-owner of the popular, but now-closed Three Vikings restaurant in Dallas. "You're not bringing in the holiday season if you're not eating Jansson's temptation."
Aquavit, the stout Scandinavian liquor flavored with caraway seeds, is the preferred accompaniment, Mr. Edman says. The pie is also good with cold beer, and if any pie is left over, Swedes use it as a spread for dark bread.
One inventive recipe is Fort Worth, Texas, chef Patrice De Faver's cornetti di fichi al formaggio grana (cheese-stuffed figs in puff pastry).
The chef uses grana, a special Parmesan from Italy, and pancetta, a salty Italian ham, but other quality ingredients can be substituted.
And you'll probably find that a package of dried figs contains twice as many as you'll need for the recipe. If you want to preserve them all in Marsala wine, there's no problem: "The preserved figs will keep for a long time," Ms. De Faver says, "and they even make a good late-night snack."
Sounds like a good treat for a modern-day Santa.
and pear quiches
Makes about 14-16 miniature quiches.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 pound butter (1 stick)
1/4 cup ice water
6 ounces blue Stilton cheese, crumbled
1 1/2 to 2 pears, cored and diced but peel left on
1 1/2 cups cream
3 large eggs
salt and pepper
For pastry, sift flour and salt; add butter and cut into flour until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Gradually add water and mix into a dough. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Roll out on floured work surface and use to line 2- to 3-inch quiche or tart tins. Chill 30 minutes, then bake in 375-degree oven for 10 minutes. Cool slightly and remove from tins.
For filling, distribute equal amounts of crumbled cheese and diced pear into the shells. Whisk eggs and cream together, and add salt and pepper to taste. Spoon egg-cream mixture into shells to almost fill. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet at 375 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes.
Note: Quiches may be made ahead and served at room temperature or rewarmed in 325-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes.
Makes 1 appetizer pie.
3 or 4 Spanish onions, peeled and thinly sliced
3 or 4 medium potatoes, peeled and julienned
4 ounces anchovy fillets
1 pint cream or half-and-half, or as needed
bread crumbs (optional)
2 bay leaves (optional)
In skillet, saute onions in 1 to 2 tablespoons butter until tender and translucent. Remove from heat and sprinkle lightly with pepper and allspice.
Place a layer of potatoes in bottom of a buttered 9- to 10-inch baking dish, top with half the onions, all the anchovies, remaining onions, then another layer of potatoes.
Pour cream or half-and-half into casserole, using just enough to cover the layered ingredients. If desired, sprinkle with bread crumbs and dot with butter and bay leaves.
Bake at 375 for 40 to 45 minutes or until potatoes are tender and top is lightly browned. Serve warm.
Flavors blend even more when pie is made ahead and partially baked (about 20 minutes), then covered tightly and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Complete baking just before serving.
` in puff pastry Makes 24.
12 dried figs
1 package puff pastry or phyllo dough
1/4 pound grana or any quality Parmesan cheese
1/4 pound ham (preferably pancetta), sliced very thinly
egg wash (1 egg yolk diluted with 1 to 2 tablespoons water)
Place figs in saucepan and cover with cold water; bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Drain water and wrap figs in a dish towel to dry.
Place dried figs in a jar; cover with Marsala and allow to steep overnight.
If using puff pastry, roll out slightly for a thinner pastry. Using a round cutter about 4 to 4 1/2 inches in diameter (the size of the bottom of a wine bottle), cut the pastry or phyllo sheets into 24 circles.
Cut cheese into small pieces. Quarter the pancetta slices.
Drain figs and cut each one in half. Stuff each fig half with a piece of cheese and wrap with pancetta.
Place a stuffed and wrapped fig in the center of a pastry circle, and brush the perimeter of the pastry with egg wash. Fold the pastry up toward the center to make a three-dimensional triangle enclosing the fig. Press edges to seal well. Brush entire pastry with egg wash.
Repeat until all figs are used. Place pastries on a greased baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees until golden brown. Serve immediately or at room temperature.