Make a big splash at New Year's by serving tiny foods
In 2010, did we finally learn that less is more?
After nearly 20 years of supersizing, American's aren't so shy about downsizing these days. Their homes, their cars, their wardrobes and, with careful attention to diet and exercise, their waistlines, too.
And few things are bigger right now than small foods. Diminutive versions of our favorite foods have been appearing on restaurant menus and in grocery store aisles, none more prominently than the slider, a miniature sandwich that even the fast-food chains who pushed for triple patties in the 1990s and 2000s have put on their menus.
Blame it on the economy or our obsession with all things cute, but you'll find baby bananas next to baby carrots, single-serving bags of popcorn, kid-sized pita bread and rice cakes the size of half-dollars just around the corner from ready-to-bake chocolate chip cookies that are the same size. Tillamook is now selling slider-sized slices of Cheddar cheese, and you can buy mini Blizzards at Dairy Queen and mini cookies at Starbucks.
Tiny-themed birthday parties have been all the rage this year for little kids, but why not shrink the foods you're serving at this year's New Year's Eve party? You can make piglets in a blanket by wrapping little smokies in crescent rolls and serve them with hamburger or pulled pork sliders.
Use a melon baller to scoop meatballs the size of gumballs. Toss tiny pasta shells instead of regular sized ones with a cheese sauce or pesto. Serve itsy-bitsy shrimp with cocktail sauce and bite-sized quiches as an appetizer before a dinner of cornish game hens and new potatoes. For dessert? Mini cupcakes, of course.
Pulled Pork Sliders
You can make sliders out of just about any ground or pulled meat, and for this New Year's dish, we looked to the experts at America's Test Kitchen, who create Cook's Illustrated and the "America's Test Kitchen" TV series, to help us create the perfect pulled pork slider.
If it doesn't offend your guests who are diehard Texas barbecue fans, you can serve these sliders with coleslaw on them as well.
1 cup plus 2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. liquid smoke
1 boneless pork butt (about 5 lb.), cut in half horizontally
1/4 cup yellow mustard
2 Tbsp. ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 dozen small rolls, cut in half horizontally
Lexington Vinegar Barbecue Sauce
1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
Dissolve 1 cup salt, 1/2 cup sugar, and 3 tablespoons liquid smoke in 4 quarts cold water in large container. Submerge pork in brine, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 2 hours. While pork brines, combine mustard and remaining 2 teaspoons liquid smoke in small bowl; set aside. Combine black pepper, paprika, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, remaining 2 teaspoons salt, and cayenne in second small bowl; set aside. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees.
Remove pork from brine and dry thoroughly with paper towels. Rub mustard mixture over entire surface of each piece of pork. Sprinkle entire surface of each piece with spice mixture. Place pork on wire rack set inside foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Place piece of parchment paper over pork, then cover with sheet of aluminum foil, sealing edges to prevent moisture from escaping. Roast pork for 3 hours.
Remove pork from oven; remove and discard foil and parchment. Carefully pour off liquid in bottom of baking sheet into fat separator and reserve for sauce. Return pork to oven and cook, uncovered, until well browned, tender and internal temperature registers 200 degrees on instant-read thermometer, about 1½ hours. Transfer pork to serving dish, tent loosely with foil and let rest for 20 minutes.
For the sauce, while pork rests, pour 1/2 cup of defatted cooking liquid from fat separator into medium bowl. Whisk in ingredients for sauce.
To serve, using 2 forks, shred pork into bite-sized pieces. Toss with 1 cup sauce and season with salt and pepper. Place shredded pork on rolls and serve with extra sauce on the side. Makes about two dozen sliders.
— Adapted from 'The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook,' (America's Test Kitchen, $39.95)
You've probably seen J.M. Hirsch's byline before. As the food editor for the Associated Press, he develops a number of recipes that appear in newspapers across the country.
This year, he published the working-family friendly cookbook, "High Flavor, Low Labor," which features weeknight dishes that don't require many ingredients or take long to prepare.
You can make these miniature meatballs — adapted from his full-sized version — a day ahead of time and reheat them in the oven before serving. Makes about 100 small bites.
3 slices whole-wheat bread
1/2 small red onion
1/4 cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup packed fresh cilantro
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 cup prepared or homemade hummus (see recipe below)
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 lb. lean ground beef (ground turkey could be substituted)
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. In a food processor, pulse the bread until it is finely ground. Add the onion and pulse until it is finely chopped and blended with the bread.
Add the parsley, cilantro, cumin, cinnamon, allspice, and paprika. Pulse several times or until thoroughly blended. Add the hummus, egg, salt and pepper, then pulse until blended.
Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add the beef, then mix well. Use your hands to form the mixture into balls by the tablespoonful. Arrange them on the prepared baking sheet. Spritz the meatballs with cooking spray. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until cooked through.
— From 'High Flavor, Low Labor,' (Ballantine Books, $24) by J.M. Hirsch
Northwest Coast Hummus
Vancouver food stylist Julia Gillis says dill is the key to her favorite hummus recipe. She serves this dip with small rice cakes, baby carrots and any other vegetables she has on hand. Even with the olive oil, it is a relatively healthy dish to serve at parties, especially when it encourages guests to eat their veggies. This recipe makes enough hummus to make the meatballs with enough leftover to serve on its own.
2 cups chickpeas
4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
8 cloves garlic
3/4 tsp. ground pepper
2 tsp. dill
1/4 tsp. salt
Juice of one lemon
In a blender or food processor, purée chickpeas with olive oil. Press garlic with a garlic press and add to dip. Mix in pepper, dill, salt and lemon juice.
— Julia Gillis