Checkerboard Tricks

Checkerboard Tricks

And the Oscar goes to…a timeless appetizer that has served me well, and can do the same for you with these updates.

If you plan to entertain friends on Oscar night, this presentation gets best picture!


Back in the day when I catered large parties, my favorite ingredient was party bread. I can’t believe it’s still around, but it is. Party bread is a small (usually 3-inch square) loaf that comes in pumpernickel, sour dough and rye. I slather these breads with everything you can think of, but the all-time favorite was a caviar checkerboard. I spread cream cheese on each slice and topped it with black and red caviar. Not only was it a great presentation, but it’s an easy appetizer for your guests to pick up.

I’ve upped my game a bit, over the years. I no longer use grocery store caviar for the squares. Instead I use smoked salmon and shrimp. I top the salmon with a twist on gremolata that incorporates red onion, capers and lemon zest. The shrimp is based on the same shrimp salad that I love to use in my shrimp rolls. This is topped with just a bit of really good caviar.
This is the perfect dish for a Valentine’s Day party or your contribution to Oscar night. You can switch around the squares to anything you like. No matter what you use, that party bread will serve you well!

Salmon and Shrimp Checkerboard
Serves a crowd
60 Minute Cuisine

A fun presentation of some typically Swedish inspired ingredients. It takes a little bit of time, but the dish is all about its WOW factor!

For Salmon:
1 package party pumpernickel bread, about 36 (3-inch) square slices
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
8 ounces sliced smoked salmon
2 tablespoons finely minced red onion
2 tablespoons capers
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Zest of 1 small lemon, about 1 tablespoon

For shrimp:
12 ounces frozen salad shrimp (150 to 200 count), thawed
¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup sour cream
Juice of ½ medium lemon, about 2 tablespoons
2 stalks celery, finely diced, 2 green onions, finely diced, about 2 tablespoons
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon coarse black pepper
2 to 3 teaspoons caviar

Spread the cream cheese on one side of 18 bread slices. Lay smoked salmon slices on top of the cream cheese. Use a sharp knife to trim the bread into neat squares. Place the red onion, capers, dill, parsley and lemon zest onto a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to finely mince these ingredients to create a caper gremolata. Sprinkle just a bit of this gremolata onto all of the salmon squares.

Place the shrimp into the bowl of a food processor. Add the mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, celery and parsley. Pulse to combine into a smooth paste. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Spread the shrimp paste onto 18 bread slices. Use a very sharp knife to trim each slice into neat squares. Top each square with just a bit of caviar.

Alternate the squares to form a checkerboard. Garnish the platter with thinly sliced lemon and fresh dill.

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