Column: Holidays are great for appetizers

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Commentary by Mark LaFay

I love Christmas. The whole time of year is my favorite. One thing I particularly love about the season is the continuous snacking.

We celebrate Christmas Eve with a shepherd’s dinner, which is a simple meal that the shepherds in the field likely would have eaten. We eat it early, read the Nativity story, and then we get out the snacks for an evening (often late) of movies, games and hors d’oeuvres. The snacking continues on through Christmas Day, leading up to dinner. Whatever your tradition is for Christmas, or Hanukkah and New Year’s Day, below is a list of appetizers that are easy to make. 

Hot crab dip: Cheesy, creamy, yummy crab dip, usually made with cream cheese, sour cream, mayo, Worcestershire sauce, lemon and a mountain of lump crab. Look online for a great recipe.

Shrimp cocktail: Let’s be honest, we have become a metropolitan area that is somewhat known for shrimp cocktail, thanks to St Elmo Steak House. Cook off jumbo shrimp or get the pre-cooked. Take the easy route with St. Elmo’s cocktail sauce or make your own with ketchup and freshly grated horseradish.

Charcuterie!: This is a no-brainer coming from me. Meat and cheese (budget 1.5 oz of each per person), fill the board out with olives, cornichons, nuts, dried fruit, jams, mustards, toast, crackers, tinned seafood and more.

Cheeseball: It could be any sort of cheeseball. It really doesn’t matter. You can’t do Christmas without the cheeseball. We tend to go with our own bacon ranch cheeseball from Old Major. I grew up eating mom’s port-wine cheeseballs covered in shaved almonds.

Buffalo chicken dip: Spicy, tangy, cheesy. This is a winner year-round. Cream cheese, ranch dressing or blue cheese, Frank’s Hot Sauce, shredded chicken. Make it in advance and keep it in the fridge. Bake it off just before the party.

Oysters on the half shell: I love fresh oysters. Order them fresh from Joe’s Butcher Shop, Caplinger’s Seafood Market or Old Major. Shuck them, slurp and go!

Bacon-wrapped water chestnuts: I love this appetizer. Wrap whole water chestnuts with bacon, roast it off, finish it with sweet Thai chili sauce and bake until it is tacky. Serve in a pan or dish, and cover with the pan drippings.

The nice thing about most of the appetizers that require heating before serving is that they can be prepped well in advance. All you need to do is bake them. Happy celebrations!  

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