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It’s December, the most festive month of the year! With all of the shopping, events, and travel this time of year, my favorite holiday party recipes are ones that are delicious and fun, but also really quick and easy. Enter, Beet, Mustard and Fennel Appetizers served with classic Martini cocktails.
I’ve been wanting to create a savory small bite to pair with classic martinis for a while, and those cute organic, pre-cooked baby beets at the grocery store got me thinking. After a few different attempts that were overly complicated and not particularly delish, I arrived at this simple, elegant, and tasty hors d’oeuvre with baby beets, crème fraîche, fennel, walnuts, and my all time favorite mustard, Maille Old Style. I have a bit of an obsession with this mustard, and it’s the only one my daughter has ever had (she loves a charcuterie plate just as much as mommy). These little bites might look involved, but they’re actually super simple, and require only about 10 minutes to prepare!
Want to make perfect martinis to accompany your festive hors d’oeuvres? Fixing great martinis is also really simple! Although popular culture might have you think otherwise, martinis are best stirred, rather than shaken, as they typically contain only a spirit + vermouth. A ratio of 4 parts London Dry gin to 1 part quality dry vermouth, stirred with ice for about 30 seconds, makes for the perfect martini, in my opinion. Martinis can be easily batched for get togethers, and you can even get creative and set out a garnish bar with lemon twists, olives, or cornichons for your guests to choose from.
These hors d’oeuvres are incredibly quick to make if you can find pre-cooked baby beets, which are often readily available in the natural foods or organic section of the grocery store. If not, simply wash and trim a few beets and steam them until tender. It’s then very easy to remove their skin and slice them thinly.
Shaved fennel is delicious and lends a gentle anise flavor. When I first started experimenting with fennel, I had no idea how to use it, let alone how to prepare it, so for convenience I’ve included photos showing how to trim the bulb, remove the core, and shave it using a vegetable peeler. Larger slices are great if cooked, but can be too tough to eat raw, so shaving it is a great way to enjoy it fresh. Reserve any leftovers for a fresh fennel salad, it makes a fabulous side dish!
- 24 whole wheat crackers
- 3 cooked baby beets (often available packaged in the natural foods section of grocery stores)
- 1 small fennel
- ¼ cup crème fraîche
- ¼ cup Maille Old Style Mustard
- ⅛ cup crushed walnuts
- If you are not able to find pre-cooked baby beets, remove stems and greens from three small beets. Wash and then steam beets for about 30 minutes or until tender, then peel.
- Using a sharp knife, slice beets thinly, about 8-10 slices per beet, and set aside.
- Wash a fennel bulb and pat dry. Remove stalks and reserve fronds. (Stalks can be frozen for later use in a broth or cooked along side dishes like fish.)
- Cut the fennel bulb in half and remove core. Using a vegetable peeler, shave thin slices from the bulb and set aside.
- Place walnuts in a small bag and use a rolling pin to crush into small pieces. In a small bowl, combine Maille Old Style Mustard with crushed walnuts and mix well.
- Arrange crackers on a platter and top each with a dollop of crème fraîche (about ½ tsp), one thin beet slice, about ¼ tsp of the walnut mustard mixture, and a curl of shaved fennel. Top each with a fennel frond. Serve immediately. (Leftover shaved fennel works beautifully in a salad with arugula, lemon and olive oil and can be topped with any extra beet slices or walnuts!)
- 2 oz London Dry gin
- .5 oz Dry vermouth
- Add ingredients to a mixing glass with plenty of ice.
- Stir for about 30 seconds, or until thoroughly chilled
- Use a julep strainer to strain into a chilled martini glass
- Garnish with olives, or as desired. Serve immediately.