Make elegant appetizers for an open house

Think hosting an open house over the holidays will be easy? Think again. With people coming and going, the menu can be more challenging than the guest list. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a hassle-free open house. Michael Lomonaco, of the newly opened Porter House New York restaurant, was invited on TODAY to shares some elegant, but simple recipes to serve your guests. Try these at home:

Parmesan Cheese Straws
Servings:

Make approximately 60 to 70 cheese straws

Ingredients

    • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan
    • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    • 2 puff pastry sheets, thawed and unfolded

Preparation

Baking Directions:

Make egg wash by beating 2 large eggs with 2 tablespoons water.Preheat oven to 425°F.Combine the Parmesan cheese, cayenne and black pepper in a bowl. Lay out the defrosted pastry sheets on a lightly floured work surface. Brush the pastry with a thin coating of the beaten eggs. Sprinkle  half of the cheese mixture over one piece of puff pastry, pressing the cheese into the pastry to insure that it sticks and adheres to the wet surface evenly. Using a pastry wheel, cut the pastry in to 4 long, equal pieces, so that each strip is now approximately 4 x 10 inches. Cut each strip into one inch long pieces — approximately 4 X 1 inch. Picking each small cheese coated piece up individually, twist the individual pieces of dough into a corkscrew shape and lay on a non-stick baking pan. The cheese straws can rest in the refrigerator until ready to bake. Repeat the process with the remaining sheet of dough.   Bake cheese straws in batches in middle of oven until golden, about 10 minutes.

Honey Spiced Walnuts and Pecans
Servings:

Make approximately 60 to 70 cheese straws

Ingredients

    • 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
    • 1 tablespoon chili powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
    • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 2 cups each, whole walnuts and pecans
    • 1/2 cup honey

Preparation

Baking Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a large heavy saucepan melt the butter with the chili powder, cayenne, cumin, and salt to taste. Add the walnuts and pecans; toss them to coat them well.Add the honey and continue to toss and stir before transferring to a sheet pan. Bake the nuts in the middle of the oven for 10 minutes and let them cool before serving. Keep warm and serve in batches. These keep for days in a dry, covered container.

Smoked Ham and Cheese Empanadas
Servings:

Makes 24 to 36 turnovers

Ingredients

    • 1 pound prepared puff pastry
    • 1/2 pound cured, smoked or cooked ham, chopped
    • 1 cup grated Spanish manchego cheese or sharp jack cheese
    • 1 garlic clove, minced
    • 1/4 cup parsley leaves, chopped
    • 1 whole egg, beaten
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 tablespoon lime juice
    • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Preparation

Baking Directions:

Make an egg wash with 1 egg yolk beaten with 2 tablespoon cold water.Using a pastry cutter, cut the pastry into 2x2-inch  squares. As you cut the pastry, place it on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper and refrigerate it until the filling has been made.Put all of the ingredients for the ham filling into a bowl to combine well. Preheat the oven to 425°.Lightly brush a square of pastry with some of the egg wash. Place 1 teaspoon of the ham and cheese filling in the center of the pastry and fold the dough in half to create a dumpling.Continue to fill the pastry in this way until all of the filling and pastry has been used up.Place the finished turnovers on a cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.Brush the tops of the turnovers with the remaining egg wash and bake for 12 - 15 minutes just before you are ready to serve them. They may be held unbaked and refrigerated for up to 48 hours for later use. Serve hot.

Bacon-Wrapped Sea Scallops with Wilted Lemon Spinach

Ingredients

    • 1/2 pound thinly sliced, fire-flavored, fruit-wood-smoked bacon, halved crosswise (1 half-slice per scallop)
    • 1 pound large sea scallops (about 10 scallops)
    • All-purpose flour, for dusting
    • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
    • 2 tablespoons small capers
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • 1 pound spinach leaves, well washed in several changes of cold water, drained, and squeezed of excess liquid
    • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preparation

Baking Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375°F.Wrap a half-slice of bacon around the circumference of each scallop, like a belt.  Pierce the scallop through its side with a skewer to keep the bacon in place.Dust each bacon-wrapped scallop with flour and season with salt and pepper.Put the butter in a 10- or 12-inch ovenproof sauté pan and melt it over medium-high heat.  When the butter begins to foam, add the scallops to the pan, and brown them, approximately 2 minutes. Turn the scallops over and add the shallots and capers to the pan. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 10 minutes.Meanwhile, pour the olive oil into a sauté pan and heat it over medium-high heat. Add the spinach and lemon juice and sauté until the spinach is just wilted, approximately 2 minutes.  Season the spinach with salt and pepper. Transfer the spinach to a platter and cover loosely with foil to keep it warm.Remove the pan from the oven, remove the skewers from the scallops, and arrange the scallops over the spinach. Spoon the shallots and capers over the scallops and serve.

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