Even though some of you may be expecting Eating the Rind’s greatest Thanksgiving hits, what you are about to read is not your typical recipe run through of all the turkey day heavy hitters. In fact, I hope you’re not scrambling for recipes this late in the game, but rather making that final trip to the grocery store like me. If so, you can still work any of these elements into your menu–think of them as the supporting cast of the meal. But just because they aren’t playing leading roles doesn’t mean you can have Thanksgiving without them.
This year it is my duty to provide all the accoutrements for the main event, and the appetizers. Even though in my family there is little focus on an elaborate appetizer, we still need a little fuel before dinner and I always jump at the chance to share new cheeses I’ve discovered. Here are a few essential, but quick components rounding out the big meal–including an old family favorite and absolute crowd pleaser–and it’s not too late to work them into your repertoire!
A staple that has accompanied many a feast in my mother’s family for decades. This doesn’t even require a recipe; just stuff clean celery sticks with plain cream cheese, or add to the cream cheese with a little crumbling of blue cheese, a dash of paprika, or chopped chives. This one is up to your interpretation. A nice, crunchy bite to cut through the heaviness of the meal, and be sure to make extra for late night!
This is perhaps one of the most popular dishes I have ever made. Another blast from the past, I think crabbies were all the rage years ago–and making a comeback. Despite the fact that almost everything in here is processed, non-organic, and not even close to all-natural, these are ESSENTIAL for your hors d’oeuvres arsenal. ESSENTIAL. I have made trays upon trays of these for parties and they seem to disappear like its nobody’s business. One final note: DO NOT try to fancy these up with fresh herbs or whole wheat English muffins. I know, I know. Trust me.
1 5 oz. jar Old English processed cheese
1 6. oz can crabmeat
1 stick unsalted butter
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. salt
6 English muffins, halved
Let cheese and butter stand at room temperature until soft. Mix first five ingredients until well-blended. Spread mixture onto 12 muffin halves and place halves on a cookie sheet and freeze uncovered for 15 minutes. Remove from freezer, and cut each half into 8 wedges (or 6 if your guests are greedy). Broil until golden.
Note: I almost never make these directly before serving because they freeze so well and still only require 20ish minutes under the broiler or in a 350 oven.
Back to the artisanal world…….
Here is a list of cheeses I plan to share over the next few days:
Stilton–A holiday favorite, traditionally served with port or even a dark stout, this creamy, rich, and strong blue cheese is one of the kings of the cheese world. Try with a tiny nibble of dark chocolate. My Stilton is from the original Colston Basset dairy.
Tomme de Savoie Fermier–A French semi-hard cow’s milk cheese, this one is near and dear to my heart after spending almost five months in Grenoble, a neighbor to the Savoie region of France. A traditional alpine cheese, this particular Tomme can be nutty, buttery, and have earthy hints of hay.
Mothais Feuille–Also hailing from France, this pretty goat cheese is wrapped in a chestnut leaf and is particularly earthy and woodsy for a goat’s milk cheese.
Cappuccetto Rosso–A washed-rind Italian cow’s milk cheese, the name of this cheese translates to “Little Red Riding Hood,” a reference to the reddish hue the rind takes on while aging. This semi-soft, milky cheese is wrapped in spruce bark as it ages, and although my particular wedge isn’t overly strong, I think this one really brightens as it ages.
Brebis Abbaye de Belloc–I’m rounding out this list with a delicious sheep’s milk cheese made by Benedictine monks. It is firm, milky, and nutty, and traditionally served with black cherry jam. I plan to pair with my Ginger Peach Chutney or even my Port Cranberry Sauce.
Finally, onto the drinks. Farnum Hill Ciders will be front and center on my table, particularly the elusive Kingston Black variety. This cider is made only from the tricky Kingston Black apple, unlike the other blended Farnum Hill ciders. Perfect with rich holiday cheeses and turkey alike, this non-sparkling cider has a long, delicate finish with complex notes of fruit and earth.
Welcome to the holiday season–I hope you have a fantastic Thanksgiving!