This tasty appetizer was served as part of an Afternoon Tea which also included Holiday Sweet Potato and Turkey Empanadas, Roasted Pear and Blue Cheese Salad, Green Onion Scones, Toffee Pumpkin Bars and Chocolate Pecan Praline Tassies. Grace-Marie has a wonderful ability for creating a medley of dishes that work together and totally satisfy your taste buds and your holiday menu.
The dried fruit for these appetizers is cooked with apple cider and Port wine until they are soft and luscious. The Cheddar cheese spread that tops the wheat crackers is tangy and spicy with Worcestershire sauce, dry mustard and hot sauce. This is a starter worthy of any brunch, tea or dinner party.
I had been attending Grace-Marie’s classes at Bristol Farms for about 14 years, way before I decided to create my food blog. I sat at the tables in front of her work counter and stove, totally enjoying her recipes and charismatic presentation. Grace-Marie is one of those people who is smart and funny, and you wish she was your best friend. But one of the mysteries of the kitchen was the back room, from which emanated the hustle and bustle of cooking assistants and the plated dishes. I really wanted to know what was back there in that room, but it would have been the height of impropriety to walk back and look into that private, off-limits place.
So now, as I have the run of the entire Kitchen, I can reveal to you the mysteries of the back room. That is, if you haven’t seen it and are dying to know.
This little room is a paradigm of organization, with every space neatly occupied. I would bet that Grace-Marie could find whatever she needed in the dark. Also, all the white china plates, bowls and cups are stacked up neatly in a floor to ceiling closet that takes up one whole wall. In the middle of the room is a cloth covered platform, upon which the food is plated. I think I would like Grace-Marie to come and organize my closets and maybe my garage. Definitely the garage.
For additional recipes from Grace-Marie’s Kitchen, look under Categories in the right-hand column.
Spirited Fruit and Cheese Hors d’Oeuvres
3 cups mixed dried fruit (any variety), diced small
1 cup apple cider
1/3 cup Port wine
1. Combine the fruit, cider and wine in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then immediately turn off the heat. Cool until most of the liquid has been absorbed (15+ minutes). Drain well.
2 8oz boxes cream cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
1 tablespoon Dry Mustard
1 tablespoon Hot Sauce (any favorite)
2 cups sharp Cheddar cheese (or any favorite), shredded
1/3 cup flat leaf parsley
1/3 cup chives, minced
1. Using an electric mixer, mix the cream cheese, cream, Worcestershire, mustard and hot sauce.
2. Stir in the Cheddar, parsley and chives. Cover and refrigerate until firm (4 hours).
1 box wheat crackers (any favorite)
1/3 cup flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1. Using a small ice cream scooper (or teaspoon), top each cracker with the cheese. Garnish with the dried fruit and parsley. Arrange onto a platter and serve.
Note: The cheese mixture can be rolled into a ball and rolled in chopped nuts for a cheese plate. It can be used to stuff pears, placed under the skin of roasted chicken or on cucumber rounds.