Game Day Appetizers | The Austin Artisan

Whether you’re hosting a Super Bowl party or dinner with friends, hors d’oeuvres always steal the show. What your guests love is the opportunity to sample and pick which delicious appetizer they please with each of the game’s biggest moments. They get to try a variety of small bites without committing to a full portion of any one thing. It’s like ordering five mini entrees off the menu instead of just one.

As the host, this is your chance to really showcase your cooking style. But it can be difficult to find great recipes. It may even seem simpler to go for a tub of dip or a frozen pizza. I hear you, but I can also help you. Check out these easy, elegant game-day appetizer recipes you can create without overwhelm. We promise, the perfect appetizer CAN leave more time for the game and less time in the kitchen!

Our 3 Favorite Game Day Appetizers

Bacon-Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Manchego Cheese

A little bit sweet, a little bit salty, and a little bit crunchy. These bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with manchego cheese might just be so good, they will have your guests paying less attention to the football game and more attention to snagging the last piece. 

Bacon wrapped dates sit on a plate.

Instructions: Split open the dates and fill with cheese. Wrap each date with a piece of bacon and skewer individually to hold them together. Place dates on a baking sheet with space in between each so the bacon can crisp up. Bake at 350° F for 10-12 minutes. Hint: Cook the bacon to the texture you would enjoy at breakfast.

Baked Brie with Jam

A personal favorite of mine, this effortless appetizer uses a few key ingredients and requires hardly any effort. And if you ask us, it belongs at any appetizer almost as much as blue cheese dip. 

Baked brie with jam and nuts.

Instructions: Rest a wedge of brie on a cheese board or platter. Top with good-quality cherry preserves (want to make your own? check out our cherry preserves recipe here!) or serve cherries alongside the cheese in a ramekin. Enjoy with crostini. You can also warm the cheese and cherries on a greased baking sheet for about 10 minutes in a 350° F before serving.

Fancy Wonton Nachos w/ Pickled Onions

Nachos and cheese are a must at any Super Bowl party, with Dorito’s nacho cheese flavor taking the top pick for Americans. But this wonton version is full of even more craveable flavors. 

Fancy wonton nachos with mozzarella and pickled onions.

Instructions: Fry wonton wrappers in hot oil for 1-2 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate, season with salt, and let cool. (Alternatively, replace wonton wrappers with baked tortilla chips.) Spread onto an oven-safe serving dish. Top with black beans or refried beans, and Oaxaca or fresh mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350° F just to melt the cheese. Add pickled onions and serve.

For Homemade Pickled Onions: Thinly slice 1 sweet onion and transfer to a 1-pint deli container. Fill the container with enough red-wine vinegar to submerge the onions. Add ½-1 tsp. of sugar, if desired. Let sit overnight.

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A Recipe, From Our Garden to Yours

Is it just us, or is this a really good tomato year in Texas? Like really good. We’re up to our eyeballs in tomatoes, to be honest. And so it goes with the onslaught of tomato recipes.

A simple gazpacho is the go-to, particularly if your garden is also yielding an abundance of cucumbers. We love gazpacho to cool us off on heat advisory days.

A fancy tomato tart will impress any guest – and guess what? With store-bought puff pastry, it comes together in a snap while making you look like a gourmet hero. Go ahead, take a bow. You deserve it.

When it comes to salads, you can certainly toss them on a chopped salad. If you’re growing the big slicing tomatoes we like to make a balsamic-drizzled Caprese, or simply embrace the tomato itself by slicing and tossing with some S&P, olive oil and a little thinly sliced red onion.

What’s our favorite summer tomato recipe? There is nothing in this world better than a great sauce. While typically ladled over pasta, this particular sauce is pretty versatile. Purée some of it to use with homemade pizza, or even set some simmering with eggs for a makeshift Shakshuka. Whichever way you make it, we like this sauce for three reasons: it uses 2 whole pounds of those homegrown tomatoes, you can freeze it or jar it for use after tomato season, and the mix of fresh and roasted tomatoes really gives you the best of both.

AA’s Roasted Tomato Sauce

2# Tomatoes (preferably Romas or Slicing Tomatoes but really whatever is in your garden)

6 Cloves Garlic (Sliced)

1 Tablespoon Chili Flake

1 Medium Yellow Onion (Medium Dice)

4 Sprigs Thyme

4 Sprigs Oregano

1 Bunch Basil (Chiffonade)

1 Cup Red wine

Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper

Directions:

  1. Cut tomatoes in half and take out the core.
  2. Place half of the tomatoes in a large bowl and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  3. Reserve the other half of tomatoes for later.
  4. Place the seasoned tomatoes on a baking tray lined with Parchment paper and bake at 250 for about an hour and a half to two hours. Tomatoes should not be completely dry but shriveled up a bit.
  5. In a large saucepot, heat about a ½ cup of olive oil and add chopped onion.
  6. When onion becomes translucent add sliced garlic, thyme, oregano and red chili flake.
  7. Sautee on low heat for about 2 minutes and then add the wine and reduce to about a half-cup.
  8. Next, add the Roasted tomatoes and reserved raw tomatoes and simmer for about 2 hours depending on how juicy the tomatoes are and how thick you like your sauce.
  9. Let sauce cool slightly and then blend in a blender or with a stick blender.
  10. Season with salt and pepper and fold in chiffonade basil.

Now, isn’t summer wonderful?

Looking for some great seasonal dishes but don’t have a green thumb? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Our meal prep services provide chef-prepared meals from our kitchen to yours every week! All of our menus are custom crafted with your culinary preferences in mind and delivered via no-contact delivery right to your door. If you’re ready to get started, fill out our food profile!

 

Molecular Gastronomy: Tarragon Oil Foam

It’s been a long time since we’ve shared one of our molecular gastronomy recipes. While some applications require special equipment and/or training, with a few simple ingredients (and an unconventional ingredient or two from Amazon) you can take your presentation up a few notches with molecular gastronomy at home!

With everyone dutifully following shelter-at-home policies, we think right now is the perfect time to up your plating game so you’re ready and waiting once we can all throw dinner parties again. Don’t be a stress baker – put all that creative energy into something with a little more panache!

This recipe is admittedly for the intermediate modernist cooking enthusiast, as it requires the use of a whipping siphon in addition to purchasing food-grade glycerin flakes. However, don’t let this scare you off – it isn’t difficult, it just requires an extra tool. Think of a whipping siphon as the DIY version of a Ready Whip can. And yes, they sell both whipping siphons and food-grade glycerin flakes on Amazon.

We’d also like to encourage everyone to remain thoughtful about their usage of foam. Try to think of ways the foam will enhance the food you’re pairing it with as opposed to adding foam for the sake of foaming. There are certainly standalone foams, but that is a topic for a different day.

This tarragon oil specifically is great for salads, grilled veggies, or as a lovely garnish on soups (particularly gazpacho).

Feel free to experiment with different herbs and flavors as well! Add a basil foam in place of a dollop of pesto or a chive foam with your omelet! The possibilities are endless.

Tarragon Oil 

1 cup tarragon 

1 cup grapeseed oil or other neutral oil 

Blend tarragon and oil on high in blender. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth.

Tarragon Oil Foam 

100g tarragon oil

5g glycerin flakes 

Pour oil and glycerin in a small pot and stir until mixture reaches 140 degrees. Remove from heat and stir until glycerin is completely dissolved. Pour into a container and refrigerate until completely cool. The oil will be thick once cool. Pour mixture into the ISI chamber of a whipping siphon. Charge the siphon with one to two NO2 chargers depending on the desired foam outcome.

This method can be used with any oil and any combination of flavors. The ratio just needs to be 5% glycerin of the weight of the oil you want to use and the glycerin needs to be heated to 140 degrees.

If all this molecular gastronomy talk has you reminiscing on your last fine dining experience, now might be a good time to remember that The Austin Artisan’s meal delivery services and dinner parties can be ordered to enjoy at home any day of the week!

Cook Summer Family Dinners Everyone Will Love!

Our Top-Rated St. Patrick’s Day Recipes

Top o’ the mornin’ to ya! I’m dusting off my Irish brogue in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, coming up on March 17. In preparation, my culinary team and I have been testing recipes to bring you our favorite Irish-inspired dishes. No matter what your plans are (parades, step dancers, Celtic-music concerts), we recommend serving up a simple, yet elegant feast straight from the Emerald Isle.

First up, we have Shepherd’s Pie—a meat pie topped with a mashed-potato crust. It’s a hearty comfort food that likely developed somewhere in the United Kingdom. Today, however, Shepherd’s Pie has become synonymous with Irish pub-food cuisine. It’s like serving up a bowl full of warmth and comfort, and it pairs perfectly with a pint.

We recommend trying this modern twist from Epicurious.com. It features bison meat and red wine with a thick topping of creamy mashed potatoes. YUM!

Bison and Red Wine Shepherd’s Pie:

St. Patrick's Day: Bison and Red Wine Shepherd's Pie / Lisa Kerezi

No St. Patrick’s Day party is complete without Irish Soda Bread. It’s a quick bread that uses sodium bicarbonate (aka: baking soda) as the leavening agent instead of yeast. This recipe from Taste of Home is lightly sweetened with a touch of sugar and studded with chewy raisins. The flavors are so versatile; we’ll eat this bread for breakfast, lunch and dinner! All it needs is a kiss of butter and you’re good to go.

Best Irish Soda Bread:

St. Patrick's Day recipe

Setting the Mood with Romantic Foods

Want to elevate your Valentine’s Day dinner with romantic foods?

It’s true, food can actually look, smell, and taste romantic. Whether you’re cooking your love a 5-course meal or thinking of preparing some nighttime nosh, there are several foods and recipes that can stimulate your love senses while impressing your sweetie. So, light the candles, put on some soft tunes, and serve-up a scrumptious dish.  These top romantic foods are sure to win the heart of someone special.

Chocolate: You guessed it, chocolate is usually the king of courtship, making it a must-have with your romantic meal. Chocolate is sensual, from its taste to its aroma, and it is versatile. From molten chocolate cake to strawberries dipped in chocolate to cocoa rubbed baby back ribs you can’t go wrong with chocolate.

Seafood: Oysters have been considered a natural aphrodisiac for centuries. Probably because they are one of the best sources of romance-boosting zinc. In addition, oily fish– like wild salmon and herring– contain omega-3 fatty acids, linked to spark romance. If you’re a lover of seafood dishes, here are my top three recommendations not to be missed for a truly romantic meal that will sure to impress.

Savory Cheeses: Sharing a fondue pot is a fun and romantic experience. Fondue is such an easy entree to prepare, as long as you keep stirring! Also, you and your sweetie can choose from different dippers—like exotic cheeses or dark chocolates. Did you know there’s a long-standing tradition that states anyone who loses a dipper in the fondue pot has to kiss his or her sweetie?

Chili Peppers: Consider turning up the heat with chilis.  This invigorating spice has an exotic reputation and a bright red color, which could be why it’s considered a symbol of love. Scientist say that chili peppers stimulate endorphins (the brain’s feel good chemicals). For some added spice, chop-up some chili peppers and toss them into stir-fries, soups or stews.

Fresh Citrus: Any member of this tropical fruit family is super-rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, and folic acid — all of which are essential to health—and romance. Enjoy a romantic salad that incorporates citrus, like pink grapefruit or mandarin oranges, or use a dressing made with lemon, lime or even kumquats.  Check out our Citrus 101 article for Austin Artisan chef tips.

 Avocados:  It could be the smooth texture, or the rich flavor of the fruit that gave avocadoes its aphrodisiac reputation as far back as the Aztecs.  They’re loaded with minerals, monounsaturated fats (the good kind that protect the heart and lower cholesterol), and vitamin B6—all of which help improve your energy. They are versatile and add tons of flavor and texture to any dish.

Wine: Wine is so romantic because it gives couples an excuse to set aside time for each other. Wine can enhance a romantic meal and sometimes, it doesn’t particularly matter what varietal you choose, just as long as it is one you both enjoy. Want to learn even more about this wonderful elixir? Check out our 5 fun facts about wine

At the Austin Artisan, we believe that food is an experience, it can set the tone, create the mood, and evoke an emotion. We are passionate about crafting customized menus, sourcing fresh and seasonal ingredients, and executing with meticulous detail to offer each client a truly unforgettable experience. Sounds good? Let’s get started!

 

 

Mindy’s Berry Crumb Bars

Hi, y’all! Mindy from Mindy’s Bakeshop here to share a little oven love with you.

The dog days of summer are officially here! This means more pool time, more picnics, and all the fresh berries your heart desires. It also means avoiding hot kitchens like the plague, which doesn’t always set well with my sweet tooth or my friends who have come to expect a steady stream of baked goods. So what’s a baker to do when she needs a fabulous dessert but doesn’t want to spend the day sweatin’ to the oldies in triple temps? Berry crumble bars, obvi!

This sweet and simple dessert comes together in less than 15 minutes and comes out of the oven in 45, gorgeous and bubbly and buttery and perfect. What more could you ask for?! Bonus: you can put that excess summer fruit piling up in your fridge to good use! Because if you’re anything like me, you can’t resist walking past those summer berries at the market without loading up on at least twice as much as you can possibly eat. This recipe works with most any fruit (hello pear bars in the fall) but is particularly compatible with berries. Use just one or mix them up for a fun twist – the possibilities are as endless as Texas summers. Lord have mercy.

Make these babies for your next gathering! Sit around the porch and let the wave of applause from your friends and family wash over you. You should definitely make them do the dishes since you “slaved away in a hot kitchen all day just for them” (wink wink). Don’t worry, your secret’s safe with me.

xoxo,

Mindy

IMG_3880

Ingredients

1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cold unsalted butter (2 sticks or 8 ounces)
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
Zest and juice of one lemon

4 cups fresh blueberries (if using frozen make sure to defrost and drain well)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray and line a 9″ x 13″ pan  (a 9 x 9 square will also work) with parchment paper so that you have some overhang on each of the long sides. Spray parchment as well.

In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup sugar, 3 cups flour, and baking powder. Mix in salt and lemon zest. Use a fork or pastry cutter to cut in butter until pea-sized. Add in egg and mix well with fork – dough will be crumbly. Pat half of dough into the prepared pan evenly.

In another bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Gently mix in the blueberries. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the crust.

Crumble remaining dough over the berry layer.

Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until top is slightly browned and golden. Cool completely before gently lifting bars out of pan using parchment overhang and cutting into squares.

Yield: ~15-20 depending on how big or small you cut them.

Store at room temp or in the fridge for up to a week. (I love them either way but cold is really a treat!)

Seafood Stew: We Saved the Best for Last

We’re wrapping up Seafood Month and ending with the mother of all recipes: Seafood Stew. In culinary terms, this can be easily defined as a fresh fish and shellfish dish cooked in a flavored broth. Instead of featuring just one variety, a stew utilizes a combination of seafood to create a dynamic and robust meal. Traditionally, the stew is comprised of the “catch of the day.”

Depending on where you live the catch may vary a bit. Inland you might not find as much variety as you would in coastal regions, like San Francisco and New England. But that’s the fun part. You can use what is most fresh and abundant in your area. I always recommend speaking with a knowledgeable fishmonger to help you out.

While the seafood takes center stage, the broth and style also make this meal really standout. Cioppino, which was said to have been made popular by Italian immigrants in San Francisco, is a preparation typically made with a tomato-and-wine-based broth. Of course, you can probably find recipes that are just made with tomatoes and stock, but we recommend this Cioppino from Epicurious (enhanced with dry red wine)  Please note, the accompanying focaccia or sourdough bread is non-negotiable!

Another delicious option is Bouillabaisse—a French preparation, starring seafood, vegetables and Provencal spices, served with rouille or rich sauce. The history is actually pretty cool: “Bouillabaisse was originally a stew made by Marseille fishermen using the bony rockfish which they were unable to sell to restaurants or markets.”  In other words, it was (and is) a great way to utilize the less popular fish and turn it into something outrageous. (And you know how much we appreciate sustainable solutions!) Another hit from Epicurious, be sure to put this Bouillabaisse recipe on this week’s menu.

We hope you enjoyed Seafood Month as much as we did. If you missed our previous posts, be sure to check out our Mussel and Shrimp  blogs to learn all of our top Chef Secrets. Then, give these summer Seafood dishes a try and let us know what you think in the comments below!

Shrimp: Everything You Need to Know

In case you missed our previous post, we’re in the height of Seafood Month! Which means we’re dedicating 3 weeks to the best fish in the sea. Today is our second installment, and I’m sharing everything you need to know about shrimp.

Why shrimp? I mean, who doesn’t love it? It’s easy to find, easy to cook and can be enjoyed in so many ways. Think shrimp cocktail, grilled shrimp, shrimp scampi, shrimp kabobs, shrimp creole… Bubba Gump would be proud!

How to Pick the Best-Quality Shrimp

  1. Go Wild: Wild-caught seafood is always best. If it’s not available, look for sustainable labels. Ethical shrimp is not only better for the environment, but it tastes better, too. The Monterey Bay Seafood Watch offers more information on making choices to promote a healthy ocean.
  2. Size Matters: Shrimp is usually sold by the pound and is measured by how many shrimp can fit into that pound. U15 means that the pound will contain 15 or less (so they’re large), while U51 means the pound will contain 51 or more (so they’re small). Check out this size chart for details.
  3. Keep it Fresh: Shrimp shouldn’t have an unpleasant odor. Nope, seafood should always smell like the sea (for obvious reasons). You should also avoid or toss shrimp that’s slimy, limp or contains black spots.

What else do you need to know? Well, the recipe you select should indicate whether or not you’ll need a certain variety or size, or if the shrimp should remain in the shell or not. So let’s talk recipes. Here are a few we’ve bookmarked for your summer seafood adventures…

Artisan-Approved Recipes

Grilled Shrimp with Garlic: Skip the stove and head outdoors with this Spanish-inspired grilled shrimp dish from Bobby Flay.

Buttered Prawns with Tomato, Olives and Arak: From Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, this unique recipe adds intrigue with arak—a Middle Eastern liquor that’s similar to Pernod.

Shrimp Scampi: A light, elegant dish from Tyler Florence, featuring shrimp cooked with white wine and butter and tossed with linguini. It’s the perfect pasta.

Shrimp Creole: From the famed New Orleans Chef Emeril Lagasse, this classic preparation may not be the healthiest, but it sure does pack a lot of intensity.

Which recipe do you plan to try this week? Let us know in the comments below or snap a pic and tag us. Then, check back next week as Seafood Month continues. It’s #betterthansharkweek!

Morel Mushrooms w/ Fava Bean Mousse

If you’re perusing the Farmer’s Market and come across mushrooms that look like sponges, I encourage you to take some home. These mushrooms are morels, and they’re a highly-coveted ingredient for chefs—especially those that specialize in French cuisine. Butter helps to enhance their distinct flavor, which is why we love to cook morels with clarified butter, also known as ghee.

What you’ll also see popping up this spring are fava beans. You can buy them dried or fresh. Personally, I opt for fresh as often as possible. When purchased in their whole form, favas are encased in a jacket that looks similar to a green (or string) bean. To prep, simply trim one end, pull the seam and pluck out the beans.

Our Ghee-Poached Morel Mushroom recipe combines these seasonal favorites in a unique and elegant way. You can serve them as an appetizer or with cocktails (we like to present them on serving spoons to maximize their individual beauty).

What’s special about this recipe is that the mushrooms are cooked in a sous vide, which is like a hot bath. If you read our post from last week—about my vacuum-sealer obsession—this is just one other use for that handy gadget. If you don’t have one, Ziploc bags work just fine.

Now, it’s time for a little morel magic…

Ghee-Poached Morel Mushrooms w/ Fava Bean Mousse

For the Mushrooms:

  • 1 cup ghee
  • 6 garlic cloves (sliced)
  • 1/2 small yellow onion (thinly sliced)
  • 15 fresh morel mushrooms
  • sea salt (finely ground)

For the Fava Bean Mousse:

  • 1 1/2 lbs fresh fava beans
  • 2 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp grated fresh lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Prep the mushrooms:

  1. Heat ghee, garlic and onion in a small saucepan until the garlic starts to caramelize and the onions are softened, about 10 minutes. Allow ghee to cool to room temperature.

  2. Place mushrooms, ghee mixture and a pinch of salt in a vacuum-seal bag (or heavy duty Ziploc bag.)

  3. If you have a sous vide machine, set your temperature to 185° F. If you don’t, bring a large pot of water up to 185° F. Monitor the temperature with a cooking/candy thermometer.

  4. Once the water is up to temperature, place the sealed mushrooms into the water bath. Cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

  5. While the mushrooms are cooking, prepare your mousse.

For the mousse:

  1. Remove fava beans from their pods and set aside. This should yield about 1 cup.

  2. Bring a medium pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat and prepare an ice bath (a large bowl of ice cubes and cold water). Boil the favas until they are tender and the outer skins begin to shed, 5-7 minutes.

  3. Drain and immediately place beans in the ice bath (this stops them from continuing to cook and preserves their beautiful color).

  4. Peel the outer membranes off the fava beans and discard them. Place the blanched and peeled favas and the remaining fava ingredients into a blender and blend until very smooth. Makes about 1 ½ cups.

Stuffing the mushrooms:

  1. Once the mushrooms are done cooking, drain off the ghee mixture (reserve for another dish—like risotto!).

  2. Place Fava Bean Mousse into a piping bag with a pastry tip small enough to fit into the openings of the mushrooms. Or, place the mousse into a Ziploc bag and cut a small hole at the edge. Gently pipe filling into mushrooms.

  3. Serve warm.