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Sizzling Snacks for Holiday Entertaining
by Dave DeWitt
Ah, the holidays…when friends can drop in unexpectedly and expect to be fed. Don’t be caught unprepared! Here in New Mexico, a really great party always contains some spicy munchies. Chile peppers can be found in every course, from drinks and appetizers to entrees and even dessert. In addition to holiday entertaining, these snacks go down great with cold beer while you watch the game with friends.
The recipes here focus on easy-to-make appetizers that will please most palates without burning anyone out. Some of them can be made in advance for a quick solution to drop-in visitors. Chiles warm the heart as well as the palate—they’re a perfect antidote to cold weather and cloudy skies.
Poblano Pepper Rings
Since poblanos make some of the tastiest chiles rellenos, it makes sense that they fry up deliciously. Why not dip these rings in guacamole?
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder
3 cups vegetable oil
3 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, seeds and stems removed, cut into 1/4-inch rings
1 cup buttermilk
In a bowl, combine the flour, salt, pepper and cayenne and mix well. Transfer the mixture to a plate. Heat the oil in a large pan until it just begins to smoke, then lower the heat slightly. Take the poblano rings 4 at a time, dip them in the flour, shake off any excess, then dip them in the buttermilk and back into the flour. Drop them into the hot oil and fry until lightly browned. Repeat with the rest of the rings and then drain on paper towels.  Serve them warm.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Heat Scale: Mild
Peppered Walnuts
Hot nuts are quite the rage these days, with commercial brands of hot and spicy pistachios, pecans, and peanuts now available.  I add my two cent's worth with this recipe for walnuts.
1 tablespoon safflower oil
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne powder
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
2 egg whites
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon Louisiana hot sauce
1 teaspoon salt
5 cups shelled and halved walnuts
Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Coat a large baking pan with the oil.  Mix together the black pepper, cayenne, and thyme in a small bowl.
Mix the egg whites in another bowl until foamy, then whisk in the Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and salt.  Add the nuts and toss to coat.  Add the pepper mixture and toss to coat.
Pour the walnuts into the prepared baking pan, spreading evenly. Bake for 4 minutes, stirring the nuts to break up any clumps.  Bake until golden brown, watching closely to prevent burning. Baking time is about 10 minutes total.  Remove from the oven and pour into a bowl.  Cool to room temperature before serving.
Yield: 5 cups
Heat Scale: Medium
Mexican Hot Nuts
Chopped finely, these nuts can be mixed with stuffing for roasted poultry. The nuts will keep for 2 to 3 weeks, refrigerated.
4 cups walnut, pecan, or cashew halves or peanuts
¼ cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons crushed red chile
½ teaspoon ground cumin
Combine the nuts and the melted butter and toss until the nuts are evenly coated. Spread in a baking pan and bake for 15 minutes in a 350 degree F oven.
Mix the chile and cumin together in a bowl. Add the nuts and stir well to coat.
Return the nuts to the baking pan and bake for another 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels before serving.
Yield: 4 cups
Heat Scale: medium
Chile-Spiced Popcorn
This totally addictive snack is a great diversion when watching horror movies on TV or with beer when watching football. To make an Indian-flavored popcorn, replace the spices below with 1/2 teaspoon curry powder, 1/2 teaspoon garam masala, 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric, and 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper.
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon hot New Mexican chile powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dash ground cinnamon
12 cups pre-popped popcorn
Non-Stick cooking spray
Preheat the over to 200 degrees F. In a small bowl, stir together cumin, chile powder, salt, and cinnamon.
Spread the popped popcorn in an even layer in a large shallow baking pan.  Lightly coat the popcorn with non-stick cooking spray. Sprinkle the spice mixture evenly over popcorn, then toss to coat.
Place in the oven for 10 minutes to warm it up.
Yield: 8 servings
Heat Scale: Mild
Brilliant Bayou Pumpkin Seed Snack
Neighbors stop by unexpectedly?  Don't panic. You can whip up this fun snack in less time than it takes to polish off a beer or two. Of course, the trick is to have these ingredients on hand at all times. This is easily accomplished as pumpkin seeds last practically forever when kept in a cool, dry place in an airtight bag or jar.
1 egg white
2 teaspoons commercial Cajun seasoning powder
1 teaspoon safflower oil
8 ounces shelled, unsalted pumpkin seeds
1 teaspoon salt
8 ounces lite cream cheese, softened
Fancy crackers
Cayenne powder to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg white, cajun seasoning, and safflower oil. Add the pumpkin seeds and stir to coat.  Spread the seeds on a non-stick baking sheet, and sprinkle with the salt.  Bake the seeds for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.
Remove the seeds from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes.  Place them in the refrigerator if you need them to cook down quickly.
Place the softened brick of lite cream cheese in a medium mixing bowl.  Stir the seeds into the cream cheese and then place the mixture into a small, attractive serving dish.  Place the dish on a platter and then put the crackers around the dish.
Yield: 4 servings
Heat Scale: Medium
Sweet Potato Chips Dusted with Chimayo Red Chile
This snack is a hot twist on party chips.  I have had great success in substituting sweet potatoes for potatoes in many recipes.
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/8-inch wafers
Vegetable oil for deep frying
1 tablespoon New Mexican hot red chile powder
Heat the vegetable oil to 350 degrees in a deep skillet.  Separate the potatoes into 6 portions.  Fry each batch, turning once, for 1 minute or until they are golden.  With a slotted spoon, transfer the chips to a paper towel to drain and cool. Continue until all potato chips are fried and cooled.
Place the red chile powder in a medium sized plastic bag.  Again working in batches, place the chips in the bag and close.  Shake the bag gently to dust the chips with the powder.  After each batch is dusted, transfer to a napkin-lined basket and serve.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Heat Scale: Medium
Habanero Sauce Party Mix
1/4 cup melted butter
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons habanero hot sauce
1 teaspoon seasoning salt
8 cups mixed Chex® brand cereals (corn, rice and wheat)
1 cup mixed nuts
1 cup mini-pretzels
1 cup bite-size cheese crackers
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
Combine the butter, Worcestershire sauce, habanero sauce, and seasoning salt in a small bowl and mix well.  Place the cereals, nuts, pretzels, and cheese crackers into a large zip bag and pour the butter mixture over them. Seal the bag securely and shake it until all pieces are evenly coated.
Pour the contents of the bag on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Cool and serve.
Yield: About 15 servings
Heat Scale: Medium
Pakoras Shikarbadi-Style
These pakoras are some of the easiest Indian snacks to make. I collected this recipe at the Shikarbadi Hunting Lodge outside of Udaipur. You can use any vegetable you like, but I recommend the softer vegetables such as peppers, eggplant, onions, and thinly sliced potatoes.
2 cups gram (chickpea) flour
1 teaspoon red chile powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Water as needed
Peanut oil for frying
Thinly sliced green chiles (such as serranos), onions, eggplant, and potatoes (about 3/4 cup each)
In a bowl, combine the gram flour, chile powder, salt, turmeric, and baking powder and mix well. Add water and mix well until the batter has a creamy consistency. Heat the oil in a deep pan until water splatters when sprinkled on it.
Dip the vegetables in the batter, drop them in the oil a few at a time, and cook them until they are golden brown. Serve them in bowls with the vegetables all mixed together.
Yield: 6 servings
Heat Scale: Mild

By Dave DeWitt

partyRecipes

Poblano Pepper Rings

Peppered Walnuts

Mexican Hot Nuts

Chile-Spiced Popcorn

Brilliant Bayou Pumpkin Seed Snack

Sweet Potato Chips Dusted With Chimayo Red Chile

Habanero Sauce Party Mix

Pakoras Shikarbadi-Style

 



Ah, the holidays…when friends can drop in unexpectedly and expect to be fed. Don’t be caught unprepared! Here in New Mexico, a really great party always contains some spicy munchies. Chile peppers can be found in every course, from drinks and appetizers to entrees and even dessert. In addition to holiday entertaining, these snacks go down great with cold beer while you watch the game with friends.

The recipes here focus on easy-to-make appetizers that will please most palates without burning anyone out. Some of them can be made in advance for a quick solution to drop-in visitors. Chiles warm the heart as well as the palate—they’re a perfect antidote to cold weather and cloudy skies.


Poblano Pepper RingsPoblano Pepper Rings

Since poblanos make some of the tastiest chiles rellenos, it makes sense that they fry up deliciously. Why not dip these rings in guacamole?

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder

3 cups vegetable oil

3 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, seeds and stems removed, cut into 1/4-inch rings

1 cup buttermilk

In a bowl, combine the flour, salt, pepper and cayenne and mix well. Transfer the mixture to a plate. Heat the oil in a large pan until it just begins to smoke, then lower the heat slightly. Take the poblano rings 4 at a time, dip them in the flour, shake off any excess, then dip them in the buttermilk and back into the flour. Drop them into the hot oil and fry until lightly browned. Repeat with the rest of the rings and then drain on paper towels.  Serve them warm.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Heat Scale: Mild


Peppered Walnuts

Hot nuts are quite the rage these days, with commercial brands of hot and spicy pistachios, pecans, and peanuts now available. I add my two cent's worth with this recipe for walnuts.

1 tablespoon safflower oil

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon cayenne powder

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled

2 egg whites

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon Louisiana hot sauce

1 teaspoon salt

5 cups shelled and halved walnuts

Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a large baking pan with the oil. Mix together the black pepper, cayenne, and thyme in a small bowl.

Mix the egg whites in another bowl until foamy, then whisk in the Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and salt. Add the nuts and toss to coat. Add the pepper mixture and toss to coat.

Pour the walnuts into the prepared baking pan, spreading evenly. Bake for 4 minutes, stirring the nuts to break up any clumps.  Bake until golden brown, watching closely to prevent burning. Baking time is about 10 minutes total.  Remove from the oven and pour into a bowl.  Cool to room temperature before serving.

Yield: 5 cups

Heat Scale: Medium

Hot NutsMexican Hot Nuts

Chopped finely, these nuts can be mixed with stuffing for roasted poultry. The nuts will keep for 2 to 3 weeks, refrigerated.


4 cups walnut, pecan, or cashew halves or peanuts

1/4 cup butter, melted

2 tablespoons crushed red chile

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin


Combine the nuts and the melted butter and toss until the nuts are evenly coated. Spread in a baking pan and bake for 15 minutes in a 350 degree F oven.

Mix the chile and cumin together in a bowl. Add the nuts and stir well to coat.

Return the nuts to the baking pan and bake for another 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels before serving.

Yield: 4 cups

Heat Scale: medium



 

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