Lets Talk About Appetizers Again! But Lets Make Them Gluten Free!

Jan 1

OK, I was going to write days ago, but things heading up to New Year’s have been pretty hectic. So, Happy New Year to you all. Since we started a discussion on appetizers, I’m going to continue it, but I’d like to tie it into something else I’m working on, which is a gluten free cookbook about gluten free entertaining. Last night for our annual New Year’s Eve party, we served a huge appetizer buffet complete with hot apps, cold apps and desserts. We had 30 people coming and one of them had a gluten allergy. Obviously with that many people coming, I didn’t want to try to make a totally different menu for him so I planned a menu that everyone could eat that just happened to also be gluten free. It only took a couple of minor adjustments and mostly involved keeping my pantry stocked with items that are gluten free to begin with so it takes the guess work out of it. The menu was as follows:

Bacon Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Smoked Gouda
Bacon Wrapped Scallops with Honey Dijon BBQ Sauce
Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms
Falafels with Tahini Sauce
Hummus
Monika’s Mousse (4 Layer Terrine with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Herbed Goat Cheese, Pesto and Chicken Mousse)
Coconut Macaroons
Honey Citrus Cake
Pear Clafouti

For the first couple of items, there aren’t any problems with gluten free. The dates, scallops and bacon themselves aren’t an issue, but the BBQ Sauce that I make has to be made carefully. Some of the ingredients can be potentially hazardous unless you are careful to use specific brand names. Here’s the recipe with the specifications:

½ cup Heinz ketchup
¼ cup water
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
1/8 cup chopped shallots
1 Tbls Honey
½ Tbl Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce
Pinch of Salt
Pinch of Pepper
½ Tbl Dijon Mustard
½ tsp garlic powder
2 tsps Harissa (North African Chilli Paste)

For the sauce, place all the ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer and simmer for approximately 10 mins, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has reduced and thickened.

For the sausage stuffed mushrooms the main issue is that most stuffed mushrooms use bread crumbs in the filling. Mine doesn’t so it was safe right off the bat. Again, I made sure the ingredients themselves were gluten free. Here’s the recipe:

Yields 6-8 servings (3-4 mushrooms per person)

24 Stuffing Mushrooms (Stems removed and peeled)
¼ cup vermouth or sherry
1 pound Bulk Sausage (You are best off using the sausage from a butcher that seasons it themselves as they don’t add some of the fillers that can sometimes be a problem for gluten allergies)
1 Tbl Herbes de Provence
1 8 oz package Philadelphia cream cheese, Room Temperature (Don’t use low fat versions of this because they tend to add stabilizers that can be potential allergens)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese plus 2-3 tbls for sprinkling over top of mushrooms
1 tsp Lea & PerrinsWorcestershire sauce
Pinch salt & Pepper
2 tsps garlic powder
Pinch Freshly Grated Nutmeg
1 egg

Begin by browning the sausage with the Herbes de Provence in a medium saucepan over medium high heat for approx. 10 minutes or until no pink remains. If the sausage is very fatty, drain before assembling. If the sausage is only a little fatty, keep the juices as they will keep the mushrooms moist. Cool filling completely before assembling mushrooms. Place mushroom caps in a greased casserole and sprinkle with vermouth or sherry. Combine sausage with cream cheese, parmesan cheese, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, garlic powder, nutmeg and egg. Make sure the filling is well combined. It is easiest to use your hands for this process. Fill each mushroom cap with approx. 1 Tbl filling until all the filling has been utilized. Sprinkle each cap with more grated parmesan. Place mushrooms in a preheated 350 degree oven and bake approx. 25 mins or until the tops begin to turn golden. Serve hot.

Falafels aren’t normally a problem because they are pretty much just chickpeas, garlic, onions, parsley, cilantro and spices. Same goes with the hummus. As far as the Mousse, while there are a ton of ingredients and it is a complicated recipe that requires 24 hrs to set, it doesn’t have anything in it that could pose a problem when you have a properly stocked pantry.

Yields Approx. 12 Servings

Sun-Dried Tomato Layer
½ cup jarred sun dried tomatoes in their liquid
1 Tbl minced garlic
Pinch Salt and pepper
2 Tbl Daisy or Breakstone Sour Cream (Make sure the sour cream doesn’t have Modified Food Starch in it)

Combine ingredients in a food processor and puree until a smooth paste is formed. Adjust seasonings and add more olive oil if the puree isn’t creamy enough.

Herb Cream Cheese Layer
1-8 oz block of softened full fat Philadelphia cream cheese (Do not use lowfat. It has too much moisture and will cause the terrine to get too soggy and it may have stabilizers in it that can be a problem for gluten allergies)
1 8 oz block fresh goat cheese
1 Tbl minced garlic
3 Tbl chopped assorted fresh herbs (Italian parsley, tarragon, chives, thyme and rosemary are a great combination, but use any you like)
Pinch of salt and pepper
Zest of a Lemon
Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper to Taste

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and puree until the herbs are completely chopped and well incorporated into the cheese.

Pesto Layer
1 cup of fresh basil leaves
½ cup of toasted pine nuts
1 Tbl minced garlic
Pinch of salt and pepper
3 Tbl lemon juice (Fresh is best, but you can use bottled if you prefer. Hint: The lemon juice is a necessary so that the pesto stays nice and green, otherwise the basil will turn brown once it has been chopped and pureed.)
¼ cup of grated parmesan cheese (You can use fresh, but the grated works just as well)
¼-1/2 cup olive oil

Combine ingredients in a food processor, except the olive oil. Puree. Begin adding the olive oil slowly so the mix begins to emulsify or becomes thick and creamy. Don’t add too much olive oil or the mixture will be too runny. The pesto should have some thickness to it, enough to coat a spoon well without running off. Adjust the seasonings to taste.

Chicken Mousse
4 bone in skin on chicken thighs (I recommend thighs because they are moister and have a bit more fat, which makes the mousse creamier in the end. Cooking them with the skin on and the bones in adds more flavor to the final mousse, even though the bones and skin will be removed after cooking)
1 Medium Chopped Vidalia or Walla Walla onion (Use a sweeter onion so it caramelizes nicely and adds a nice flavor in the end)
2 cloves of minced garlic
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1-2 tsp Hungarian paprika
2 tsps Herbes de Provence
1 Bay Leaf
1/4-1/2 cup Brandy
¼-1/2 cup dry sherry
2 tbls olive oil
2 tbls butter
4 tbls Daidy or Breakstone sour cream
1 Tbl Harissa (North African Chilli Paste)

Place oil and butter in a large sauté pan over med high heat. When butter melts, add chicken pieces to the pan. Brown chicken on each side approx. 4 mins per side until golden. Add onions to the pan surrounding chicken. Add salt, pepper, herbes de provence, bay leaf and paprika. Saute onions, stirring occasionally, until they soften and begin to caramelize, approx. 8 mins. Add garlic and cook for approx. a minute or until the garlic becomes fragrant. Deglaze the pan with the brandy. Bring to a boil and reduce by approx. half. Add sherry and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Cook for approximately 45 mins or until the chicken is tender but not falling off the bone, checking the seasoning toward the end to be sure there is enough salt, pepper and paprika. Remove the lid of the pan and return the pan to med-high heat. Reduce liquid until almost all of it is gone. Continue stirring so as not to burn the chicken and the onions. The liquid will thicken and caramelize around the chicken. Remove pan from the heat and allow to cool completely. Take the skin off the chicken and remove the meat from the bone, being careful to throw away any cartilage or chewy bits. Strain the remaining liquid and gravy through a fine mesh strainer to remove any additional fat and add to a food processor along with the chicken pieces, harissa and sour cream. Puree until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Adjust seasoning if needed and add more sour cream if the mix is too thick. The pate should be creamy enough to spread on a piece of bread, like room temperature peanut butter.

To assemble the terrine. Using a loaf pan lined with plastic wrap which has enough overlap to eventually wrap over the terrine, place the sun dried tomato mixture on the bottom spread in a thin layer. Top with the layer of herbed cream cheese followed by the pesto. The last layer is the chicken mousse. Once the layers are placed in the pan, fold the edges of plastic wrap around the terrine, making sure it is well covered. If there are any gaps, use additional plastic wrap to secure the terrine in the pan. Place in the refrigerator weighed down by either a few cans or a box of stock to weigh it down. The mousse should set for at least 8 hours, but is best after 24 hours. To serve, turn the terrine out of the loaf pan and unwrap the plastic. Carefully slice the terrine into ½ inch thick slices and place on a plate laying on its side so that the colors of the mousse show nicely. Serve with crackers and crudités.

As far as the desserts go, coconut macaroons are naturally gluten free because they don’t have flour in them. The Honey Citrus Cake uses almond meal and regular flour so I substituted the regular flour with a gluten free all purpose flour called Domata, which is the best all purpose gluten free flour I have found. It is the most like regular flour and already contains xanthum gum in it so that is one less step you have to do. (www.domatalivingflour.com) Same goes for the Clafouti. It has very little flour in it so I was able to just substitute the flour with the Domata and it worked out great.

The best part of the whole thing was that I didn’t have to do too much to alter my menu, nobody knew anything was any different, our gluten intolerant guest was able to enjoy dinner without having to worry about getting sick and without having to deal with questions from people as to what his allergy was and what he can’t eat. All around, a great way to do it.

I can tell you from personal experience with my mother in law who has Celiac Disease that the most unpleasant thing for her is to attend social gatherings where food is involved. If she makes it, she feels like she has to make a different menu for herself and she can’t handle the foods others can eat for fear of cross contamination. If she goes to someone’s house, she either has to explain to them what she can’t eat, bring her own food or eat before she comes. Then she gets harassed with a million questions about her allergy and it takes the fun out of the whole experience. There is no reason anyone should have to deal with that. I hope that helps some of you. I know it will be a relief for any of you who do have these allergies or who know someone that does. Happy 2010!

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