A bowl of perfectly salty, crunchy potato chips with whatever beverage and I’m usually good to go. There are times when I think it just doesn’t get any better than that exquisite chip, but actually it does. We have crab, salmon, local artisinal cheese, apples . . . all of which can be used in appetizers that characterize the Pacific Northwest. These are expensive ingredients, the salmon, the crab and a good cheese, but they’re from relatively nearby and haven’t been transported around the world to get to our plates, which is worth a lot environmentally speaking, and these recipes call for relatively small amounts of each so it doesn’t have to break the bank. Plus, they’re rich in flavor, a little goes a long way.
Dungeness Crab Stuffed Mushrooms Recipe
A stuffed and baked mushroom is something to swoon over anyway and with crab added to the mix these are spectacular.
Ingredients: 12 medium-sized mushrooms, stems removed/ 2/3 C finely chopped mushroom stems/ 2 T melted butter/ 1 egg lightly beaten/ 4 T bread crumbs/ 4 t lemon juice/ 1/2 t Old Bay seasoning if you have it, or a combination, pinches only, of celery salt, lemon pepper, paprika/ A splash of cream, 2 T or so / 2/3 C crab/ 1/4 C finely grated Parmesan, reserved.
Directions: Preheat 375º oven. Rinse mushrooms and pat dry/ Gently remove stems from mushrooms so as not to break the cap. Some people do this with a small melon scoop. I prefer doing it by feel and nudging each stem out by hand./ Chop stems finely and measure 2/3 C/ Place mushroom caps on lightly buttered baking pan/ Place all ingredients except crab and Parmesan in a bowl and mix thoroughly/ Add crab and mix gently/ Place an ample teaspoon of crab mixture into the cap of each mushroom, pressing gently to make sure it’s in place/ Divide mixture evenly among mushrooms and sprinkle lightly with Parmesan. Bake at 375º for 15 – 18 minutes, until tops are golden and sizzling. Or, these can be refrigerated and baked a few hours later. Serve warm garnished with chopped cilantro or parsley. Next time: Before filling, I would marinate mushroom caps for a few minutes, tossed in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil, salt & pepper, a squeeze of lemon.
Dungeness Crab & Artichoke Dip Recipe
Just a couple of bites might suffice. This is the one that might kill you if you ate it often enough, but for a special occasion it’s the perfect decadent appetizer. Sunset magazine calls it “splurge worthy” and versions of it are served at many restaurants in the PNW. It has a rep, a good one. I used a recipe from Sunset online as a guide and modified to suit myself, which I invite you to do too. Other recipes call for a little more mayo and sometimes sour cream which I’ve added here.
Ingredients: 3/4 – 1 C mayonnaise, your call/ 2 T – 1/4 C sour cream/ 2/3 C drained and finely chopped artichokes/ 2/3 – 1 C crab/ 1/4 C finely grated Parmesan/ 2 t lemon juice/ 1/2 t Worcestershire. Directions: Mix ingredients together, gently stirring in the crab last/ Bake in a lightly buttered casserole dish, 375º for 20 – 30 minutes, until browned and bubbling/ Serve warm with crackers, bread, or crostini.
PNW Cheese Ball Recipe
My grandma, my mom, my aunties all made versions of the holiday cheese ball. I thought I’d gotten past it, but apparently not. There’s a lot of leeway in the kind of cheese used. A person could make an argument against using cheese of high quality because whatever cheese you use is transformed by other cheese ball ingredients. I used Beecher’s this time along with some Jack and a small piece of nameless something from the back of the cheese drawer. There are many locally produced cheeses and any number of combinations that would be fine in this spread. So, there’s plenty of room for variation. Basically you want the mixture to taste good and to hold a viable shape when finished. Use these ingredients as suggestions, and with flexibility and creativity in mind.
Ingredients: 2 C finely grated cheese, could be cheddar or a mix of almost anything you have on hand. The addition of blue cheese, even a small amount, is delicious/ 1 C cream cheese/ 1/2 t Worcestershire/ 2 T finely chopped shallot or green onion/2 T chopped pimento or red pepper – the Aunties always liked those red bits in the cheese ball and I do too/ 2 – 3 T milk or cream/ 1 C finely chopped hazelnuts or walnuts, 1/3 C reserved/ The addition of pimento lightly colors the entire mixture.
Directions: Place all ingredients, except for reserved nuts, in a food processor if you have one. (Or, using finely grated cheese and softened cream cheese, use a large bowl and mix by hand.) Process until thoroughly mixed and smooth, adding milk 1 tablespoon at a time. Mixture becomes sticky and should be stiff enough to hold its shape when molded. Scrape cheese mixture onto wax or parchment paper, cover and refrigerate for 45 minutes.
Remove from the fridge. Form a ball or a loaf or a reindeer, whatever shape you like and roll in or sprinkle with the chopped nuts. Chill until ready to serve. Or pat the cheese mixture to 1/2 ” thickness on waxed or parchment paper, cover and chill for an hour, and then cut out individual servings with cookie cutters (dip cutters in hot water before cutting). For the kids. Yeah, right, for the kids. Serve with apple slices and crackers.
PNW Salmon Spread Recipe
Like the cheese ball there’s plenty of room for negotiation within this basic recipe. Add more or less of any ingredient, add something new, taste it and move on. Another classic – spread some on a cracker and be happy. Loki’s salmon is available throughout the western part of the state these days at grocery stores and several weekly farmer’s markets. Check their website for locations, or order online via their site. This is a beautiful local product using sustainably harvested salmon. They use a local ‘smoker’ for their smoked salmon and this person has it down.
Ingredients: 6 – 8 oz. or about 1 cup smoked salmon/ 4 oz., 1/2 C low fat cream cheese/1 T finely chopped shallot &/or green onion/ 1/4 t Worcestershire sauce/ 1 T lemon juice/ a mere pinch, or 1/8 t of Old Bay seasoning if you have it, lemon pepper or celery salt.
Directions: Mix all ingredients together by hand, in which case the spread will be a little chunkier, or in a food processor, in which case it will be smoother. Either is fine/ Mix thoroughly, taste and adjust as needed. Maybe a touch more lemon or some pepper/ Place in a bowl surrounded by crackers, crostinis or grilled pita bread.
PNW in a bite . . . or a bunch of bites.