Checkerboard Tricks

Checkerboard Tricks

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.

A “Cocktail Hour” Appetizer Just for You!

A “Cocktail Hour” Appetizer Just for You!

When you’re thinking about Holiday Party cocktail appetizers, my recipe for Marinated Shrimp with Ginger-Peanut Dipping Sauce is a keeper!! This simple appy can be prepped hours before the game and finished just in time for kick-off. It yields six servings, so I don’t think anyone will go home disappointed. You may also have left over sauce to use as an aioli on the Sunday Best burgers I have in mind later this weekend, wink, wink…

Feel free to mess with the ingredients in both the marinade and the sauce until you find your perfect combination of flavors. By this point, Santa knows if you’re naughty or nice, so what’s the big deal about lots of extra peanut butter, right? And to add insult to injury, I gotta say that dirty martinis are amazing with this appy!

For more foodie naughtiness, order Sunday Best Dishes TODAY for the food’ophile on your Christmas list! For subscribers get your FREE autographed bookplate to insert into the book! Send an email TODAY to that includes your mailing address and the name you want me to personalize!!

Marinated Shrimp
with Ginger Peanut Dipping Sauce

4 to 5 green onions, thinly sliced, about ½ cup
4 medium garlic cloves, peeled and minced, about 1 tablespoon
2 stalks fresh lemongrass, tender white parts only (substitute with 2 tablespoons lemongrass paste)
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated, about 1 tablespoon
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground curry
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon all natural sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt (or kosher salt)
½ lb. fresh extra large shrimp, about 10 to 14

Place the green onions, garlic, lemongrass pieces and ginger into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to create a thick, yellow paste. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the vegetable paste and cook until golden, about 10 minutes. Add the spices, sugar and salt and stir until fragrant, about 2 minutes more. Cool this spice mixture to room temperature. Coat the shrimp with the spice mixture. Place into a re-sealable plastic bag and refrigerate for up to 3 hours.
Heat a grill pan, coated with vegetable oil spray, over medium high heat. Grill the shrimp for about 2 minutes, turn and cook until just opaque about 2 minutes more. The shrimp will be golden and moist on the inside.
1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk
½ cup all natural peanut butter
Juice of 1 large lime, about 2 tablespoons
½-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated, about 2 teaspoons
Whisk together coconut milk, peanut butter, lime juice, and ginger in a small pan over medium-low heat until smooth. Reduce the temperature to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and serve warm or at room temperature.
Serve the shrimp on a platter with a bowlful of ginger peanut sauce alongside.