July 2nd, 2009

Happy 4th of July! Hope everyone has a wonderful day with friends and family. This appetizer came to my attention when I was living in Greensboro, NC. There is a shop there called Roosters Gourmet Market and one of their guest instructors was Shirley O Corriher, a biochemist and the author of CookWise and BakeWise. She specializes in analyzing the chemistry of food. In an article in the local paper she talked about how interesting this appetizer was. The method of cooking and the way the cheese melts into the crackers makes for a very crispy treat. The pepper flakes add the heat that give the crackers their name. You can tame the heat by decreasing the amount of pepper flakes used but they really add a nice kick. Be sure to use FAT FREE saltine crackers. The seasoning you use is up to you. You can use an Italian herb blend or a grilling spice that is not overly salty. This is a very easy and different snack to offer your guests.


1/4 box (one sleeve) Fat Free Saltine Crackers
2 tsp seasoning of choice
1 Tbls hot pepper flakes (less if you do not like a lot of heat)
1/2 pound shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Arrange saltine crackers on a baking sheet with crackers touching. Sprinkle seasoning over crackers. Sprinkle with as many pepper flakes as you dare. Top with shredded cheese. Place pan on center shelf of oven, close door and turn oven off. Leave in oven overnight or at least 4 hours. The hot oven melts and browns the cheese, producing an even coating of crisp brown. Fat from the cheese soaks into the crackers and puffs them slightly. Leaving them in the oven dries them out well so that they are super crunchy. Break apart and eat or store. They keep well for several weeks sealed in an airtight tin.

Tea Sandwiches

March 7th, 2009

There was a time in my life when I became a caterer. It was not as a “professional” caterer by any means. It was just something that I enjoyed doing and had me flirting with the idea of going to culinary school. Before committing to that career move, I thought I would see what it was like to cook for a crowd. I made lunches for all of my friends and former co-workers at a large retail firm. With 200 employees it was not hard to get takers for boxed lunches. It was a very successful enterprise and I had more orders than I could sometimes handle. BUT – I was shut down. By management. Because I was taking business away from their in-house dining facilities. Oh well – what could I do? . . . I wasn’t licensed. . . BUT – my food was way, way better.
After that fiasco, I continued to do the occasional small wedding reception, church luncheons, and private home parties. I learned much from this experience and enjoyed it greatly, but came away from it knowing that, as much as I liked to cook, catering was not for me.
One of the most popular recipes that I made for wedding receptions and luncheons was Chicken Almond Tea Sandwiches. These sandwiches would also be good for bridal or baby showers. When my Daughter-In-Law had her baby shower, I brought them and everyone loved them – even the guys who were helping us set up.
The recipe originates with James Beard. I got it out of a Nantucket Cookbook, which included it because, for a time, James Beard cooked at the Straight Wharf Restaurant on the island. James Beard was famous for his hors d’oeuvres. Capitalizing on the cocktail party craze of the late 1930’s, he opened a catering business called Hors D’Oeuvre, Inc. and later wrote a cookbook called Hors D’Oeuvres and Canapes. That started his long career in cooking.
What makes these sandwiches so special is, of course, the way they look, but also because the chicken is flavored with tarragon (chicken and tarragon have a natural affinity), and the ground almonds add a nice crunch. Be patient when you make these, they take awhile but are well worth it. Another aside, try as I might I could not get 4 rounds out of each sandwich -3 was the best I could do. The scraps can be saved and eaten over the kitchen sink at odd times if you so desire.


4 chicken breast halves without skin

3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 stalks celery, finely diced
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons dried tarragon ( less if you like)
1teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
24 slices of Pepperige Farm white bread
1 1/2 cups chopped roasted almonds ( the kind that come in a can)
extra mayonnaise for spreading on edges

Place the chicken breasts in a large skillet with water to cover. Bring to a boil with the cover askew. Lower the heat a notch and simmer gently until the chicken is opaque throughout. Remove chicken from the liquid and let cool.

Place the mayonnaise in a bowl and add the celery, onion, tarragon, salt and pepper. Stir to mix well. Break the chicken into large pieces. Working in 2 batches, use a food processor to chop the breasts until they resemble oatmeal. Add the ground chicken to the celery mixture and combine.
Line up 4 slices of bread and spread each slice with some of the chicken mixture, forming a layer 1/4 inch thick. Cover each slice with a second slice. Repeat until you have 12 sandwiches. Using a 1 1/2 inch biscuit cutter, cut out 4 rounds from each sandwich.

Chop roasted almonds in a food processor to the consistency of fine gravel. Pour the chopped almonds into a baking dish or onto a dinner plate. Spread a film of mayonnaise around the cut edges of each sandwich round and roll the sandwich edges in the almonds to coat. Store covered with saran wrap in refrigerator until ready to serve. Makes 48 one (or two) bite sandwiches.

By the way, the cute tiered server came from an antique shop in St. Augustine called A Step Back in Time. It is not an antique, but I liked it, and they have more of them if you are interested.

Printable recipe

© Penny Klett, Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen. All rights reserved.