Savory Little Bites for the Holidays

When you’re pressed for time, but want to entertain during the holidays, nothing could be easier than inviting friends over for a glass of prosecco or champagne and some simple appetizers. I’ve entertained this way several times recently, and have discovered that warm homemade cheese crisps, a definite crowd pleaser, are a snap to make for this season’s parties.

These savory wafers are prepared with a basic formula. Flour, butter, grated cheese, and seasonings are blended in a food processor, then rolled into a log. This log is then sliced into thin rounds that are baked quickly in the oven. You can vary your choice of cheese as I’ve done often when making these delicious nibbles. Fontina paired with crushed fennel seeds, Pepper Jack blended with toasted cumin seeds, as well as Cheshire cheese accented with chopped watercress have all been winners with friends.

This year I chose Parmesan and rosemary (designated the Christmas herb) as a duo. Parmigiano Reggiano and a generous seasoning of crushed dried rosemary were added to the dough, and the crisps garnished with fresh rosemary leaves before baking. A sprinkle of fleur de sel (if you happen to have some in your pantry) will enhance these flavors even more.

Set out bowls of Mediterranean olives and toasted almonds and a platter of smoked salmon topped with capers, chopped red onion, and several squeezes of lemon to serve with dark bread. Then pass these warm, delectable crisps, and voilà, you’ve got a winning formula for even the most harried holiday cook!

Rosemary-Parmesan Crisps
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
6 ounces (about 2 cups) grated Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano Reggiano or half sharp white cheddar and half Parmesan
1cup flour
2 1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary, crushed
1/8 teaspoon Kosher salt
Generous pinch cayenne pepper
Rosemary leaves for garnish
Fleur de sel, optional (See note.)

1. Place the butter, cheese, flour, dried rosemary, salt, and cayenne pepper in a food processor. Pulse 45 seconds, then run machine continuously until mixture starts to form clumps, about 1 minute more.

2. Shape the dough into a log 2 inches in diameter and 8 inches long. Wrap the log tightly in plastic wrap and roll it on a work surface several times to make it compact. Place the log in the refrigerator until firm, 45 minutes or longer. (Dough can be prepared ahead; store in refrigerator for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 2 weeks. Wrap dough in plastic wrap, then in foil if freezing, and defrost in the refrigerator before slicing.)

3. To bake, arrange a rack at center position and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

4. With a sharp knife, cut 1/4 inch thick slices from the log and place an inch apart on a large, heavy baking sheet. Press 2 rosemary leaves on top of each wafer, and, if desired, sprinkle each crisp lightly with some fleur de sel. Bake the rounds until light golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove with a spatula to a cooling rack for 10 minutes. (Store cooled wafers in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Reheat on baking sheets in a preheated 350 degree for 5 minutes or longer.)

5. Serve crisps on a platter or mound in a napkin-lined basket.

Makes about 32 wafers.

Note: Fleur de sel, a French sea salt, is available in gourmet food stores and in some supermarkets.

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5 thoughts on “Savory Little Bites for the Holidays

  1. Betty,

    You inspired me with a love for cooking ever since I took my first class with you when I was a young child.

    Everything you taught me throughout all the years I was fortunate enough to attend your classes still guides me as I share my love for cooking with my family and friends.

    As I prepare a family feast tonight for our now large and extended family of 20, I was thrilled to find your website and blog.

    Will add these crisps to the menu, and keep the recipe in my cherished and well-worn copies of your cookbooks! Hope all is well. -Lisa

  2. Thanks, everyone, for these lovely comments. Let me know how these crisps turn out for you, and remember I always welcome suggestions for future posts!

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