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Antipasto/first course help needed

I'm having a small dinner party in a couple of weeks. The menu is about 90% set but I am having trouble with the first course. I always serve a mix of 3 small bites for my first course. This time it is going to be a 2" round of Piemontese beef crudo drizzled with with extra virgin olive oil, a homemade giardiniera and...that's where I need help. I originally had planned a parmigiano sformato, but I cannot find a recipe I like and besides, they all call for the sformato to be made in 6-oz. ramekins, which I think is a bit too much for the plate I am composing. I already have a meat and a vegetable so I was hoping to do something in the cheese/dairy family that I can prep and optimally make ahead. Any suggestions? Thanks.

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  1. i make garlic flans in mini muffin tins. it's basically a savory custard with roasted garlic. you can whizz in some cheese if you like and cook in a water bath.

    1 part cream/milk ; 2 parts egg. a very low-slow bake is key to texture. you can make these ahead and reheat easily.

    3 Replies
    1. re: hotoynoodle

      Make it easy on yourself by placing an assortment of cheeses and salumi (capocollo, Genoa salami, soppresata, etc.) slices on a plate and an assortment of olives on another plate. Let you guests have the finger food as an antipasto. Some may like to have peppers such as peperoncini (you know the green ones in jars on supermarket shelves here in the states) to munch on. I elaborated about the peppers because in Italy all hot peppers, no matter which variety, are peperoncini. Sorry if I informed you about stuff you already know.

      1. re: ChiliDude

        Sorry, meant to reply to original post.

        1. re: ChiliDude

          Thanks ChiliDude, but we are having some finger food with cocktails before going to the table. The dish I am composing is for the first course after we've sat down to dinner.

      2. You could do a savory panna cotta type app - similar to a sformato but not exactly.

        If you wanted something with a bit of a crunch - you could do a parmigiano frico shaped into a little cup with a goat cheese filling. Sounds like you would know what I mean but for others, it is one of my favorite passed little bites.

        Grate parmigiano - sprinkle it into a circle either in a skillet or onto a cookie sheet - if on cookie sheet bake in a hot oven until just golden - remove and place into empty egg crate (or over small glass/etc) to form an open cup shape - once they cool they will turn very crispy. These can be made well ahead.

        Pipe some goat cheese thinned with cream (you can add herbs/olives/etc) into the center of the cup and you can add a chive or something for garnish.

        They are great, crunchy, and cheesy.

        1 Reply
        1. re: thimes

          Bingo thimes! That is just what I was looking for. I make frico often...don't know why I didn't think of this before. And the filling you suggest sounds great. I could see a mascarpone subbing for the goat cheese as well. Thanks again.

        2. OK, so my next suggestion for 'il primo piatto' is 'una frittata' which can be made well in advance and serve at room temperature as well as warmer. I use an old-fashioned cast iron skillet so that the frittata can be started on a cooktop and then finished under the broiler. No flipping necessary when done that way.

          I usually make a frittata with leftovers, but I've also made them with small cooked pasta like ditalini. First I sautee a soffritto of diced onion, diced celery and diced bell pepper in olive oil. Then I add about 8 beaten eggs to which about a 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup of ricotta has been added before adding the mixture to the soffritto in the skillet. Cook the frittata at medium low heat until you can see that the bottom of the egg mixture is set and then remove the skillet to the broiler at a shelf level of about 3". Pay attention to the browning the top of the frittata so that it does not burn. Remove the skillet to the cooktop surface after turning off the broiler. Cover the top of the frittata with grated mozzarella after which the skillet is returned to the oven until the cheese has melted.

          The first time i made this concoction I put the cheese on top of the egg mixture before putting it under the broiler. You guessed it, the cheese burned before the frittata was finished. Never did that again.

          Serve in wedges like pie according to the number of guests are in attendance. SMALL doesn't compute, so if there are more than 8 people you may need to make more than 1 frittata.

          Buon divertimento e buon appetito.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ChiliDude

            Grazie mille ChiliDude. A frittata did cross my mind a couple of times but then I realized I did mini frittate (sp?) last time and there are two repeat people at this dinner party. I want to serve them something completely different. But thanks again...your recipe sounds delicious!

          2. You might consider Peperoncini Ripieni ... sometimes called “cherry pepper shooters”. Pretty popular in Italian deli’s and great with wine (or craft beer) ... addictive.
            See images here ...
            http://tinyurl.com/8x5hxrj

            The classic one is aged provolone cheese wrapped in a slice of prosciutto and stuffed into a pickled cherry pepper and then kept/marinated in xtra virgin olive oil.

            The “farmer’s lunch” variety more common in Italy might contain tuna, anchovies, and breadcrumbs (and then put into the oil).

            For your purposes, I’d suggest maybe two cheeses, a softer cheese or farmer’s cheese (I’d stay away from goat cheese though) and a good, high quality, heavily smoked provolone plus a bit of hot capicola might be just the ticket. Colorful too (see the pics at that link I put above).

            If you poke around online you can probably come up with other ideas for what to put inside.

            Other garnishes of things like fresh herbs, capers, anchovies, fennel etc could dress up the presentation ... you might also put a couple small tomato-roses (tomatoes cut to look like roses) on the plate with the peppers.

            For what it’s worth, here’s a recipe I’ve used ... though I did substitute capicola for the prosciutto.

            Cherry Pepper Shooters

            12 – 16 Marinated cherry peppers
            1/2 Lb. smoked or sharp Provolone cheese
            4 – 6 Slices prosciutto (approximately 1/8 Lb.
            )Olive Oil (EVOO)
            1 Large clove garlic, peeled and sliced

            Rinse the cherry peppers under running water. With a paring knife, remove the stems. Using a melon-baller, knife or small spoon, remove the seeds and ribs.

            Cut the provolone into cubes small enough to fit into the cherry peppers. Wrap each piece of cheese with a thin ribbon of prosciutto. Stuff one into each pepper.

            Place the peppers in a clean glass jar, distributing the garlic as you go. Fill the jar with enough olive oil that has had just a bit of salt and pepper added to it, to cover the peppers.
            Let sit, refrigerated, overnight before serving.
            Serve shooters at room temperature with lemon wedges.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Sonny_Funzio

              Thanks Sonny_Funzio. All good suggestions. The thought of Peperoncini Ripieni did cross my mind as I have made them in the past and even gone to the trouble of pickling my own cherry peppers. The one thing that stops me from serving them this time is that I will have the giardiniera on the same plate.