the home chef … on Christmas appetizers

By Harlene Deane

Christmas dinner in our family always begins with an appetizer while final preparations for our main dish are being completed. So, grab a glass of wine (or your favorite libation) and try these. They might just become a holiday tradition!

Sweet-and-Spicy Pecans


• 1 large egg white

• 2 cups unsalted roasted cashews

• 2 cups unsalted pecan halves

• 1/2 cup sugar

• 1 tablespoon ground cumin

• 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

• Kosher salt

Directions: Preheat the oven to 250. Beat the egg white with 1 tablespoon water in a large bowl until foamy. Add the nuts, sugar, cumin, cayenne, cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon salt and mix well. Spread the mixture on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until the nuts are mostly dry but still slightly sticky, about 40 minutes.

Remove the nuts from the oven and stir. Reduce the temperature to 200. Return the nuts to the oven and bake until crisp, about 30 minutes. Stir to loosen the nuts from the baking sheet; cool completely. Can be made ahead and stored in air tight containers.

Brie with Toasted Almonds and Cranberry Chutney


• One 8-ounce round Brie, chilled

• 3 tablespoons toasted slivered almonds

• 3 tablespoons store-bought chutney*

• Water crackers or thinly sliced French baguette

Directions: Preheat the oven to 325. Scrape the rind off the top of the Brie with a sharp knife. Cut the Brie in half horizontally so you have 2 circles. Place the bottom circle on an ovenproof glass plate. Top with 2 tablespoons chutney and spread evenly. Sprinkle evenly with 1 tablespoon almonds. Top with the remaining circle and spread with the remaining 1 tablespoon chutney.

Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons almonds. Bake for about 7 minutes, or until the Brie is very soft but not melted. Place on a trivet to serve. Accompany with the water crackers or baguette slices.

This can be made up to 6 hours ahead through step 2, cover, and refrigerate. Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before baking.

*Can’t find cranberry chutney? Try apricot jam.

Merry Christmas!!

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