Open on a Strong Suit with Chef Justine's Favorite Holiday Appetizers

Open on a Strong Suit with Chef Justine's Favorite Holiday Appetizers

Smoked Trout Spread

 “This is my go-to appetizer,” says Chef Justine. “I set it out with some pita chips at cocktail parties and serve it on bagels at my holiday brunch. Just be sure that all the dairy products are at room temperature so that they blend easily. And be generous with the black pepper—it makes the dish.”

Makes about 3 cups

½ pound smoked trout fillets
1 small bunch chives
1 small bunch dill
1 lemon
¼ pound cream cheese
¼ pound mascarpone
¼ pound crème fraîche or sour cream
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
     Wash all produce before use

2 medium bowls

1 Prep the herbs and the trout

  • Pull the skin off the trout. Working over a medium bowl, using your hands, separate the trout into large flakes.

  • Finely chop enough chives to measure 1/4 cup. 

  • Finely chop enough dill to measure 1/4 cup.

  • Zest and juice the lemon.

In the bowl with the trout, add the chopped herbs and zest and stir to coat

2 Prep the cream cheese base; finish the dip
In another medium bowl, combine the cream cheese, mascarpone, crème fraîche, and the lemon juice, stirring until well blended and softened. Gently fold the trout mixture into the cream cheese base. Generously season with salt and pepper.

3 Serve
Serve at once with crackers or thinly sliced toast on the side. Or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Return to room temperature before serving.

Justine’s Onion-Apple Tartlets

Only the most hardcore bakers make their own puff pastry. For the rest of us, there's no shame in buying the frozen stuff. The unusual combination of onions and apples is surprisingly delicious, especially when paired with Gruyère cheese and fresh thyme. 

Makes 32 two-inch tartlets

3 yellow onions
3 Granny Smith apples
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ pound Gruyère cheese
6 thyme sprigs
Small bunch fresh chives
1 egg
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed (such as Dufour)
     Wash all produce before use

Whisk, optional, pastry brush, box grater, large frying pan, 2 sheet pans, parchment paper 

1 Prep and cook the onions
Position 2 oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and heat to 400°F. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper. 
  • Peel and thinly slice the onions. 

In a large frying pan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter. Add the onions and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a sheet pan and and let cool to room temperature. Do not clean the frying pan.
While the onions cook and cool, prepare the remaining ingredients.

2 Prep the remaining ingredients

  • Peel the apples and cut them into quarters; cut away the core and thinly slice the fruit.

  • Using the coarse holes of a box grater, grate the cheese.

  • Strip the thyme leaves from the stems.

  • Finely chop enough chives to measure 3 tablespoons.

  • Crack the egg into a small bowl. With a whisk or fork, lightly beat until blended.

3 Cook the apples
In the same pan used to cook the onions, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add the apples and cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are softened and just starting to caramelize, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the apples to the bowl with the onions. Stir in the cheese, thyme, and chives, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

4 Assemble the tarts
Cut the puff pastry into 2-inch squares and place on the prepared sheet pans, spacing the squares about one inch apart. Lightly brush the pastry squares with the egg. Place a heaping tablespoon of the onion-apple filling in the center of each square. Season with salt and pepper.

5 Bake the tarts
Bake, rotating the sheet pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through, until the pastry is crisp on the bottom and golden brown on top, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer the sheet pans to wire racks and let the tarts cool to room temperature on the pans.

6 Serve
Transfer the tartlets to a platter and serve.

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