Saturday, February 21, 2015

Improvising appetizers

After I was stunned to realize that I had let the whole of January pass by without blogging, I promised myself I was going to get back into posting with some kind of regularity. And thus here I am, almost three weeks later. Oh well; at least it's better than a month later. Baby steps!

Life has returned to a semblance of normal routine since January disappeared; school's back in, which in turn means the re-appearance of regular after-school activities, and (more or less) set slots for getting work done, as well as things like running, errands, cooking, etc. It also means the start of this year's round of visits from guest lecturers and former students for DP, as well as various other colleagues, friends, and overseas visitors for one or all of us. Most of them end up eating dinner at our house at some point.

My standard dinner provision for guests includes something to nibble on with drinks - necessary since, no matter how hard I try, I've never yet managed to get a guest meal on the table in less than an hour from the stated arrival time, especially on weeknights. I have a repertoire of starters/appetizers that I rotate through - mostly dips served with pita chips - but I fall back on frico regularly when I need something that's really fast but really good.

I had these at someone else's house about two years ago, and appropriated them immediately. I usually serve them as one of a selection of small bowls of finger foods, most often accompanied by slices of grilled spicy salami, roasted nuts, and/or fancy olives. Their preparation barely qualifies as a recipe, and they are always well received. Their crispy texture and salty, savory flavor makes them an especially great option for vegetarian or gluten-free guests, but  they're pretty universally popular in my experience.

Frico (Cheese crisps - literally "Little trifles")
Some recipes specify cooking these on the stovetop in a skillet, but I use the oven; it's hands-off, and I can cook more, faster. You can also gussy these up with various accompaniments, but the most I've done is sprinkle them with freshly ground black pepper, or add a small basil leaf before cooking. Both are good variations, but these are also excellent when they're totally plain.

120-300 g/4-10 oz good-quality parmigiano-reggiano cheese, depending on number of eaters (I buy it pre-grated for maximum laziness/efficiency)*

Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place mounds of grated cheese (about 30 g/1 oz each) on prepared tray, leaving space between mounds as cheese will spread as it melts. Bake in oven for 5-7 minutes, or until spread into round crisps which are lightly browned on the edges. Remove from the oven and let cool for another 5 minutes, then serve.**

* I usually make at least 2 mounds per person.
** I slice into half-circles (or quarters, depending on how much they spread) with a pizza cutter for serving.

Makes 4-10 crisps.

2 comments: said... Best Blogger Tips

Yum! I’m also imagining these with tomato soup....

Roving Lemon said... Best Blogger Tips Oh, yes - also an excellent idea!

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