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I oftentimes imagine myself living in a bygone era. I love the idea of being a Donna Reed-style housewife, rocking a half-apron, and making appetizers that thoroughly explore my love of cheese…*sighs wistfully* When I was tasked with finding some fun, retro appetizers in honor of we heart this Mad Men week, I knew I could come up with something spectacularly retro. I plumbed the depths of my vast vintage cookbook collection. I passed over such offerings as “The Ground Meat Cookbook” and “Cooking Magic with Sour Cream and Buttermilk” and managed to find a few great ideas for your own Mad Men viewing party.
There were several things that kept showing up throughout the cookbooks: mini cheese balls, canapes, and things made with unflavored gelatin. Since I just HATE to limit myself, I decided to go with all three!
Mini Cheese Balls
There are endless variations for this, but the key ingredient is cream cheese. The best way to mix these up is with a food processor, but a hand held mixer will do well, too, just make sure that ingredients are chopped up finely before mixing. After blending mixture, refrigerate 1 hour, then form into balls using rounded tablespoons and roll into topping indicated.
Ham & Swiss Balls
1/2 c. shredded Swiss Cheese
1/2 c. minced ham (I used 6 slices of deli ham)
1 oz. cream cheese
1/2 tsp. brown mustard
Roll into finely chopped fresh chives (one package of chives required).
Tangy Cheese Balls
7 oz. cream cheese
1 c. shredded sharp cheddar
1/2 tsp. Tabasco
Roll into finely chopped walnuts (I pulse one package of nut topping in the food processor for a few seconds and this works out perfectly).
8 oz. cream cheese
1/2 small yellow onion
Roll in minced dry beef (you can find this in the aisle with Spam–if it is in a solid form, pulse it in the food processor until it is in fine pieces).
Canapes are basically decorative finger foods that are made up of bread or toast with some sort of topping. They’re usually salty or spicy (to encourage drinking—they were apparently quite popular during cocktail hours). I find that the best way to make these is by using a soft bread to sandwich the spread in between and then use a cookie cutter to create fun shapes. That small pumpernickel bread they sell in your deli section is great for canapes, just toast them at 400 degrees for about 8 minutes. You can even use crackers if you’d like. The key is to make them small, flavorful and pretty. You can use any filling and just be creative.
4 oz. cream cheese
1/8 c. bacon pieces
1 tsp. prepared horseradish
Beat with hand mixer, spread on toasted pumpernickel, top with more bacon pieces.
4 oz. cream cheese
6 sliced green olives
1/4 c. shredded cheddar
Beat with hand mixer, spread on round cut out of bread, top with bread cut out with doughnut cutter, place sliced green olive in hole.
1/2 c. flaked cooked salmon
2 T. mayo
1/2 T. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt, dash pepper
1/2 small finely minced onion
Mix well with fork. Take 1/2 c. avocado, mash with 1 T. lemon juice. Spread salmon mixture on toast round, spread layer of avocado on top, garnish with sliced pimentos.
Finally, the most edible/least frightening thing I could find using unflavored gelatin: Fabulous Cheese Mousse (this is how it was billed in the cookbook)
- Combine 1/4 c. cold water and 1 envelope unflavored gelatin into small bowl, set aside and let soften for 5 minutes. Dissolve completely by placing bowl over very hot water.
- Beat 4 oz. Roquefort (or blue) cheese with 3 oz. Camembert (or brie) cheese with hand mixer until creamy.
- Add 1 egg yolk, 1 T. sherry, and 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce and blend until mixture is smooth.
- Add dissolved gelatin to cheese mixture, blending thoroughly.
- In separate bowl, beat 1 egg white until rounded peaks are formed.
- In a chilled bowl, beat 1/2 c. chilled heavy cream until it resembles whipped cream (soft peaks). Fold egg whites and whipped cream into cheese mixture until evenly combined.
- Spoon into small (1 pt.) Jello mold that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.
- Chill in refrigerator until firm. Loosen mold by placing in hot water. Unmold onto chilled serving plate and serve with crackers.
Keep in mind that presentation is everything! I’m sure Betty Draper wouldn’t be caught dead serving something without radish roses! Garnishing is half the recipe. Be creative and have fun with it!