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Hors D'oeuvres For Your Holiday Party


Korean lettuce tacos with mushrooms.

Korean lettuce tacos with mushrooms.

John Rosman/OPB

Johanna Ware describes the fiery cuisine at her Beaumont-neighborhood restaurant as inauthentic Asian; refined yet eclectic, defined by no single influence.

Not surprisingly, the don’t-fence-me-in chef/owner usually lower-cases the “s” in smallwares, a moniker that neatly includes her own surname while referencing the little supplies every restaurant needs for daily operation. And that’s a lower-case “b” on barwares, the bar in back of smallwares, behind the fireplace lounge seating.

“B” is also for bold. The menus – dinner, happy hour, brunch and special meals – bristle with ingredients and combinations that might raise eyebrows along with internal temperatures. Can this lively fare be adapted for the home kitchen?

Ware invites you to spice up your holiday hors d’oeuvres, the bread and butter of seasonal entertaining. Whether you’re having a few old friends over for an early meal in the lowest of keys or ratcheting up the buzzy cocktail soirée, these nibbles will please and provoke.

If you’re serving alcohol, “try a dry white wine, a German Riesling,” suggests Ware. “And cocktails: Manhattans. Or something bourbon- or gin-based.”

Asian-influenced hors d’oeuvres from Johanna Ware of smallwares:

  • Spicy Candied Peanuts
  • Korean Lettuce Tacos With Sautéed Steak Or Wild Mushrooms

Spicy Candied Peanuts

Furikake rice seasoning, right, is an essential flavoring in Spicy Candied Peanuts. Try making this sweet, sandy-textured snack using other raw nuts such as pecans, walnuts or blanched almonds.

Furikake rice seasoning, right, is an essential flavoring in Spicy Candied Peanuts. Try making this sweet, sandy-textured snack using other raw nuts such as pecans, walnuts or blanched almonds.

John Rosman/OPB

When Ware added the bar to her restaurant, she tried popcorn on the happy-hour menu. “But these are a lot like the sweet, sandy-textured street nuts I remember from my seven years in New York,” she says.

Preparation time: 30 minutes | Difficulty: Medium

How To Prepare Spicy Candied Peanuts

Korean Lettuce Tacos With Sautéed Steak Or Wild Mushrooms

Easy-to-make Korean Lettuce Tacos With Sautéed Steak combine hot (flavors) and cold (crisp lettuce) for an Asian-inspired hors d'oeuvre. The steak can be grilled when weather permits.

Easy-to-make Korean Lettuce Tacos With Sautéed Steak combine hot (flavors) and cold (crisp lettuce) for an Asian-inspired hors d’oeuvre. The steak can be grilled when weather permits.

John Rosman/OPB

These lettuce tacos are a play on ssam, a traditional Korean-style family dinner featuring wraps constructed ad hoc from grill-your-own meats or other proteins plus elements like sauces, pickles and herbs. They are also related to Chinese pork buns, says Ware, who encourages cross-cultural innovation and taste adventures: “You can substitute spicy or citrus-flavored mayo for the hoisin. Or you could add miso sauce or tahini.”

Preparation time: 20 minutes (plus marinating/resting time for steak) | Difficulty: Easy

How To Prepare Korean Lettuce Tacos With Sautéed Steak Or Wild Mushrooms

For a vegetarian variation on Korean Lettuce Tacos, substitute mushrooms like chanterelles (shown in finished lettuce cups, left, chopped raw and sautéeed) or shiitakes. 

For a vegetarian variation on Korean Lettuce Tacos, substitute mushrooms like chanterelles (shown in finished lettuce cups, left, chopped raw and sautéeed) or shiitakes. 

John Rosman/OPB

 

Recipes 

 

Spicy Candied Peanuts

Makes 4-plus cups (to make more, increase recipe and use a larger pot)

Ingredients

Furikake rice seasoning is a dried mix typically incorporating Japanese or Hawaiian flavors. For this recipe, Ware suggests a plain nori-sesame style. You can make your own by grinding a nori (edible seaweed) sheet in a coffee grinder or tearing it into 1/4-inch pieces – “it practically shreds itself,” she says. Mix 2 teaspoons shredded nori and 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds.

Raw peanuts, jars of furikake and packages of 7-by-8-inch nori sheets can be found at Asian markets like Fubonn Supermarket on Southeast 82nd Avenue and Uwajimaya in Beaverton and some well-stocked grocery stores.

  • 2 teaspoons furikake rice seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste
  • 4 cups raw peanuts (unsalted)*
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water

* If unavailable, use unsalted roasted peanuts

To prepare

Expect to stand at the stove while the nuts are cooking. They will burn toward the end if you aren’t tending them. 

  1. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat baking mat. 
  2. In a small bowl, combine the furikake, salt and cayenne. Set aside.
  3.  In a pot with 8- or 10-inch-wide-bottom and high sides, combine the peanuts, sugar and water. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar dissolves and starts to thicken, about 10 minutes.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook the peanuts, stirring frequently, until the sugar starts to look sandy (don’t worry – this is the desired consistency). Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir every few seconds until peanuts are nice and golden brown. Let some of the sugar melt and coat the peanuts but leave them slightly sandy.
  5. Remove the pot from the heat and immediately stir in the spice mix, using a wooden spoon. Transfer peanuts to the prepared baking sheet and spread evenly in a single layer to cool.
  6. When peanuts are completely cool, break up any large clusters.

Serve in one large bowl or divide among smaller bowls.

 

Korean Lettuce Tacos With Sautéed Steak Or Wild Mushrooms

Makes about 15 tacos

Ingredients

  • 1 cup apple cider or juice
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • One-quarter of a medium white onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 10 ounces steak (flank, hanger or flat iron are good choices)
  • 2 heads Boston lettuce
  • 1 medium cucumber, unpeeled
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce*
  • Sriracha bottled hot sauce to taste (optional)*
  • 1/4 cup scallions, thinly sliced
  • Leaves of 1 bunch each cilantro and mint, washed and patted dry, torn into small pieces

* Available at many grocery stores

To prepare

  1. In a shallow dish, combine cider, soy sauce, onion, garlic, pepper and sesame oil. Pour evenly over the steak and marinate in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 hours.
  2. Separate lettuce leaves; wash and pat dry with paper towels. The smaller ones work best but you can cut larger leaves in half. To keep lettuce crisp and cold, prepare as close to assembly as possible. If working ahead, place lettuce pieces between damp paper towels in a plastic bag and refrigerate.
  3. Slice the cucumbers into rounds and toss with the salt and sugar. Let sit for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Drain the liquid that has leached from the cucumbers.
  4. Heat a 10-inch sauté pan over medium heat and pour in the oil. Sear the steak for about 4 minutes on each side, until medium-rare. Remove from pan and let rest on a cutting board for 15 minutes. The steak is good served warm or cold; to serve cold, let it rest in the refrigerator.
  5. To assemble: Slice the steak thinly. Depending on size of pieces and your preference, place one or two slices on each lettuce cup. Top the steak with a dollop of hoisin. Add a few drops of Sriracha to taste if you want more heat. Finish with a cucumber slice, scallions and a few cilantro and mint leaves.

Place lettuce cups on a platter to pass.

Vegetarian variation

This recipe works with other sorts of “meat.” For a vegetarian option, use 1 pound wild mushrooms like chanterelles or shiitakes (caps and stems), brushed clean and torn into quarters or sliced 1/2 inch thick. Place oil in a sauté pan over medium heat and add mushrooms. Stir occasionally for about 6 minutes or until they are wilted. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The herbs are versatile as well: Basil works great and Japanese shiso is delicious.

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