The Blue Collar Foodie’s Top 5 New Year’ s Eve Coup Quashing Appetizers

New Years Eve in Timesquare

Happy New Year!

So you have secured the privilege to host the largest event in most people’s social calendars all year and you want to hold on to this honor for years to come.  This is not an easy task my friend!  At least half of your friends and family that are attending your New Year’s Eve party this year have thoughts of forcing a coup d’état, that would make Napoleon Bonaparte blush, leaving your house empty on this festive occasion.   The best way to quell this treacherous scheming is to fill your visitors’ bellies with delicious foodie fare that will have them craving your apps like Charlie Sheen desires seven gram rocks.  The following is The Blue Collar Foodie’s Top 5 Coup Quashing Appetizers.

1:  Candied Bacon with Mixed Nuts

If you read this blog you are well aware of my love of, alright obsession for, bacon, so it should be no surprise that the first appetizer on my list is full of salty smoked swine.  I created this recipe for Christmas this year because I had some left over slab bacon that I did not want to go to waste.  It was a huge hit, so even though there is no official recipe yet, it is not very difficult to make.  Please note that when I made this delightfully spontaneous dish I did not measure the spices so feel free to tweak the recipe to fit your tastes.

Slab Bacon

Slab Bacon

First you will need to acquire the following ingredients:

1 Pound of Slab Bacon (preferably from your favorite Pork Store)

1 Table spoon Cinnamon

Maple Syrup (Enough to coat bacon)

2 Jars of Emeralds Sweet and Salty Cinnamon Sugar Mixed Nuts

2 Table spoons of Brown Sugar

Candied Bacon

Candied Bacon

Preparation:

  1. Cut the Bacon into ¼ inch bite sized pieces making to cut against the grain as to preserve the integrity of the fat to meat ratio of the slab bacon.
  2. Place a ½ pound of the cut bacon into a skillet set to medium high heat.
  3. Sprinkle ½ tablespoon of cinnamon on Bacon once a layer of grease forms on the bottom of the pan.  Mix Well
  4. Cook bacon until very close to being done and then drizzle maple syrup into the pan coating the bacon evenly.
  5. Cook Bacon until it is crisp.
  6. Remove Bacon from pan and place on plate and allow it to cool for approximately 10 minutes.
  7. Repeat steps 2-6 for the other ½ pound of bacon.
  8. Fill two serving dishes (I use holiday tins to be festive) with the Emerald’s mixed nuts and top with Candied Bacon.
  9. Dust with Brown sugar and mix well to incorporate the bacon into the nuts.

This dish is easy to create and even easier to serve to your guests.  Simply prepare this crunchy, salty, sweet concoction the night before and set it out shortly before your guests arrive.  I assure you this hodgepodge of awesomeness will make at least a few of your guests Tweet the praises of your shindig, like a 14 year old girl who just received her first kiss.

2:  Buffalo Chicken Dip

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Buffalo Chicken Dip

New Year’s Eve Parties are hard to cook for because people are constantly on the move.    Furthermore, everyone is dressed up to ring in the New Year, so unfortunately the gold standard in appetizers, The Chicken Wing, is absolutely out of the question.  Right?  Wrong!  This tangy Buffalo Chicken Dip is the perfect solution to this sticky fingered dilemma.

This is another dish that can easily be made the night before and reheated just prior to your guest’s arrival.  Paired with a strong tortilla chip like Tostitos Scoops this magical potion will make your Grandma’s Onion Dip feel like Latoya Jackson at a family reunion.

3:  Double Bruschetta

 

Double Bruschetta

Double Bruschetta

As most of you already know, I am from the Armpit of our fine country, New Jersey!  New Jersey is known for a few things; the Mob, thanks to the Sopranos, the New Jersey Turnpike, thanks to the smell of cheese and death that emanates from it, Snookie, thanks to Ulster County, New York, and Jersey Fresh Produce, thanks to being the Garden State.  As the Facts of Life theme song once said, “You take the good, you take the bad,” (I just lost a man point there) and that pretty much sums up my love hate relationship with New Jersey.  I could do without being associated with the horrid odor of the Turnpike and Snookie invading my shore line like an overweight, orange skinned, vodka laced Godzilla, but then I would have to do without the mouthwatering taste of fresh Jersey Tomatoes and I can’t have that!

In celebration of the only good thing to be associated with New Jersey since the first game of Baseball was played on June 19, 1846, I present to you this jaw dropping bruschetta recipe that will make your guests proud to be from THE GARDEN STATE.  Unlike ordinary Bruschetta recipes, this one throws sun dried tomatoes into the mix, and then prompts you to melt cheese on pre-made toast squares.   What you end up with is an appetizer that is not only healthy but is also a true crowd pleaser.  These crispy slices of heaven will make your guests completely forget that Chris Christie is our governor and their car insurance is higher than most people’s mortgages.

4:  Crunchy Swiss Cheese and Ham

 

Crunchy Ham and Cheese Bites

Crunchy Ham and Cheese Bites

If you are anything like me you always have some left over Christmas Ham that you are not quite sure what to do with.  Sure you can have Ham and Cheese sandwiches for lunch for a month, or you could make some fantastic Split Pea Soup, but why not share the wealth, in the form of a crunchy tasty treat.   These crunchy Swiss cheese and Ham patties are a great way to recycle that Holiday Ham in a fun and scrumptious way.

The home style appeal of these flavorful morsels transport me back to a simpler time when instead of Panko or Tempura batter, cornflakes would do just fine as a crunchy coating.  I like to serve these delicious nuggets with a variety of mustards, such as Dijon, Spicy Brown, and Yellow.

5:  Fried Green Beans with Wasabi Ranch Dipping Sauce

 

Fried Green Beans

Fried Green Beans

This recipe is one of my all-time favorites for any kind of entertaining.  Fried Green Beans can be served to a small dinner party with a refined palette or to a group of booze laden football fans on any given Sunday.  Either way these crispy fried tidbits are always a hit.

Kat and I found this recipe when we first got our Deep Fryer and went on frying binge that almost caused a zombified John Candy to rise from his grave and join us.  We literally fried everything, French Fries, Tator Tots, Hot Dogs, Twinkies (R.I.P.), Oreos, Snickers, and when we ran out of the normal things to fry, we went rouge and started tossing veggies into the hot oil.  After we gained 10 pounds in a month and our cholesterol was twenty points higher we had to retire the fryer for a while but this recipe always remained a staple.

Weather you use all or none of the recipes above, I hope that reading this article inspired you to create some amazing appetizers for your guests.  Remember your friends and family came to your house to celebrate the New Year, it is up to your spread to keep them coming back for more.  I hope your New Year’s Eve Party will be a complete success and no usurpers are victorious.  As Cersei Lannister said, “When you play the game of thrones you win or you die.”

Happy New Years to you all and thanks for a wonderful 2012!

The Blue Collar Foodie’s Ethiopian Epicurean Exploration

Being that my collar is blue and my wallet is usually emptier than Al Bundy’s stomach this time of year, I try to cut down on frivolous spending where I can.  Unfortunately, this usually means that going out to lavish restaurants during the holiday season is off the menu, pun intended.  However, when my lovely wife Kat, who before meeting me was the complete opposite of foodie, surviving mostly on Mac and Cheese from a box and pizza, suggested that we try Ethiopian food for dinner, I dug deep into my pockets and found the money to oblige.

Ethiopia

Ethiopia

Before Kat could change her mind, I invited our foodie friend Rory, and made a reservation for three at Mesob, located at 515 Bloomfield Avenue Montclair, NJ using Opentable.com.  Since none of us had ever experienced Ethiopian cuisine before, I perused the internets for any and all information regarding this gastronomic treat.  It seemed that not only did Mesob in Montclair get nothing but great reviews, but Ethiopian food in general seemed to be a hit all across the interwebs.   I could not believe my eyes; apparently Ethiopian food is the one of very few topics on this planet that the internet has nothing bad to say about, much like cats and naked women.

I studied the menu with the concentration of a seven year old creating his Christmas list, so when we arrived at Mesob later that evening I had a general understanding of the food that I was about to consume.  We did have some issues finding Mesob on Bloomfield Avenue, but we knew the general area thanks to our trusty I-Phones, so we fought the world for a parking spot in downtown Montclair and snagged a spot about two blocks away in a parking garage.  We walked towards Bloomfield Avenue and located the store front quite quickly on foot.  The sign is somewhat small and in a strange font, so look for the red awning and you will be fine.

Mesob

Mesob

As we entered this modest yet roomy establishment a drool enticing smell wafted over us as we spoke to the hostess about our reservation.  We were seated within seconds of our arrival and offered menus by the welcoming wait staff.  As we situated ourselves, a waiter come to the table with a carafe of water,  glasses, and a bottle opener for the cold six pack of craft beer and cider that we had brought with us, since Mesob is a BYOB establishment.  The waiter opened three bottles for us and left the bottle opener at the table while we discussed the menu amongst ourselves.

Dining Room at Mesob

Welcome to Mesob

On the ride over, I had already discussed the possibility of ordering the Taste of Mesob, which includes 2 starters, 2 chicken dishes, 2 beef dishes, 1 lamb dish, shrimp tibs, and any 3 sides from the vegetable entrees, all for just $95.00.  I know this is slightly more expensive that my normal frugal foodie finds, but it is slightly harder to find Ethiopian food in this area than it is to find burgers and ribs.  Kat and Rory whole heartedly agreed with this veritable smorgasbord of Ethiopian cuisine, the only task left was to pick which mouthwatering dishes would eventually don our plate.

After a longer deliberation then the jurors in the O.J. Simpson case, we decided upon, the Timatim Fitfit (chopped injera, Ethiopian Bread, mixed with fresh diced tomatoes, onions, garlic, jalapenos, olive oil, and lemon juice served cold) and the Katenga (rolled strips of injera coated with Ethiopian pepper  and clarified spiced butter) for our appetizers.  We then chose the Dora Kay Wat (a tender chicken leg simmered in a spicy sauce seasoned with spices and herbs served with a hardboiled egg) and Doro Tibs (scalloped Chicken breast marinated and sautéed with red onions, garlic, jalapeno pepper, fresh tomato, herbs, and spices) for our two chicken dishes.  Followed by our lamb dish Lega Tibs(cubed boneless leg of lamb marinated and sautéed with onions, garlic, jalapenos, fresh tomato, herbs, and spices)  AS the for the beef courses we decided upon, Bozena Shiro (cubed prime beef simmered in spicy pureed yellow split peas) and Minchet Abish Kay Wet (finely chopped prime beef sautéed in Ethiopian clarified butter and summered in a spicy sauce seasoned with spices and fresh herbs).   If this did not seem like enough food already we still had to choose three veggies, Gomen (Fresh collard greens), Difen Misie Alicha(brown lentils), and Buticha (chickpeas with red onions, garlic, jalapeno peppers, olive oil, lemon juice, and spices.)  Mesob offers varying degrees of heat for dishes that are traditionally spicy so we ordered a few mild, a few medium, and two hot, so we could try them all.  As a side note, this impressive list of food barley scratches the surface of the menu provided by Mesob, which leads me to believe as the Governator once said, “I’ll be back.”

Buticha

Buticha

After ordering what seemed like enough food for ten people, we sat back and enjoyed the soothing ambiance that is Mesob.  Traditional Ethiopian music played softly in the background while we looked around the restaurant noticing all the Ethiopian textiles and artwork that adorned the walls.  The wait staff only added to the calming vibe with their soft spoken tones and eager willingness to help.  If Mesob reflects the tranquility of the Ethiopian lifestyle, it makes perfect sense why the peaceful Rastafari movement chose this country as their spiritual homeland.  Mesob was winning me over and I had not even tasted one bite of food yet.  That is until the appetizers arrived.

Our Appetizers

Our Appetizers

The first bite of Ethiopian food I would ever eat came in the form of Katenga.  Katenga consists mainly of Injera, which is a white Ethiopian flatbread, similar to a crepe.  This choice was rather fortuitous yet somewhat kismet because Injera is an intricate part to Ethiopian cuisine.  It is not only eaten by itself as an appetizer but also is used as a plate to hold the Wat or stews that we ordered as our entrée and as a utensil to bring these stews to your mouth.   The Katenga was fantastic and unlike anything I have ever eaten before.  This spongy, sour, flatbread that easily defeats my favorite American multipurpose utensil, the spork, made us realize that we had waited entirely too long to embark on the magical food adventure that we were just starting.

Injera Plate

Injera Plate

After our appetizer dishes were cleared from the table, a massive round dish covered in a gigantic piece of Injera was delivered to our table.   Then another waiter brought a large serving tray occupied by petite bowls full of the entrees that we had ordered.   One by one, the waiter pragmatically spooned the courses onto our Injera plate, making sure that the dishes did not mix, while explaining each dish as he moved along.  What we were left with afterword was the best smelling art I have ever had the privilege to be in the company of.  At first, all of us were speechless, scared to damage the beautiful canvas that our waiter had just created on our table.  But our curiosity and hunger got the best of us, and we dug into this masterpiece of Ethiopian delights.

Ethiopian Food Art

Ethiopian Food Art

As stated earlier the injera is your utensil so no forks, spoons, or knives are presented with the meal, but if you don’t just where your mates’ hands have been, you can request silverware.   Kat, Rory, and I opted to eat Ethiopian Style and began to rip small pieces of injera up and taste each dish one by one.  I was astonished by every varietal of wat that was served to us.  I thought that some of the concoctions would taste too similar due to the comparable spice palettes within each dish, but I was happily mistaken.  Each stew tasted different, yet somehow they all danced together on my tongue like a finely tuned chorus line of yumminess.   As we tried each and every dish, it seemed that the last one we ate was our favorite until we tasted the next one.  Every bite brought new and exciting flavors and none of us could stop eating long enough to speak.

Ethiopian Spork

Ethiopian Spork

I could attempt to describe all the fantastic food that we shared that night at Mesob and smack your brain with a laundry list of adjectives for each creation that was expertly prepared by the Mesob Chefs, but I won’t.   Instead I will tell you that this foodie voyage is exactly why I love food so much.  I most likely will never have the opportunity to explore Ethiopia but thanks to the delightful people at Mesob, I can experience at least a piece of their culture one scrumptious bite at a time, and I assure you each bite is delectable.

Shrimp Tibs

Shrimp Tibs

I understand that Mesob’s prices might scare some of my readers away, but this restaurant is not just about food.  Mesob offers you a chance to immerse yourself in a culture that is widely ignored and forgotten.  If the food was half as good and the wait staff a quarter as pleasant, I would still happily pay the price of admission.

Judgment:

Overall:                  4.5 out of 5

Taste:                         5 out of 5

   Presentation:            5 out of 5

 Value:                     3.5 out of 5

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