Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Thanksgiving Antipasto

One of the best things about Thanksgiving is the antipasto or first course.Many Northern and Southern Italian families celebrate the holiday with platters of delicious charcuterie along with tasty nibbles. It's actually a nice way to open up any holiday party or dinner.

One of the most important parts of an antipasto is the variety of cold cuts being served. Prosciutto is a must.It's a dry cured ham that lends a delicate salty taste to the course. Most usually pair it  with a slice of cantaloupe but prosciutto shines when it's served on a slice of crusty Italian bread or rapped around grissini, the super thin breadsticks from Torino. Another antipasto meat is mortadella. This is a silky textured slice of heaven made from hashed or ground heat cured pork and lard.Pistachios, myrtle berries and black pepper give it its' unique flavor. Again it shines when it's highlighted on a slice of Italian bread. The classic salami is also featured in the first course. This is a crowd pleaser, because of it's strong ,salty flavor. It's usually made of pork but can be made of beef.The name comes from sale , the Latin word for salt., the meat being heavily salted to preserve it. It's good on its' own but can be served with crackers and flatbread.Certain wines go well with pork based charcuterie. Remember to avoid wines with really heavy tannins. Try a white wine such as Pinot Grigio that also goes well with the vegetables Even though it's a German wine, Liebfraumilsch,a dry white wine originating in Rhine Valley , is another good choice, Its'  taste complementing the charcuterie's dry saltiness.

Antipasto wouldn't be anything without the vegetables and other dishes. Marinated red peppers are always on an antipasto plate. They can be bought jarred at the local grocery or salumeria but they can also be made at home.It's just taking red pepper strips and marinating them in a brine of vinaigrette with the addition of basil and parsley. Artichoke salad can also be added, giving the course sweetness and color.Devilled eggs and stuffed celery are the nibbles that make antipasto festive. Devilled eggs are an easy cook. It's just hard boiled eggs halved and the yolks mixed with ketsup and mayo. The mixture can be piped back into the yolk hollow for a fancy look. Dust with paprika for an every fancier bite..  Stuffed celery is the perfect delicate foil for the rest of the antipasto's spiciness. The stuffing is a mix of hard boiled eggs with cream cheese mashed together. It's then stuffed into celery sticks for a tasty cool treat. No antipasto would be complete without olives. The pitted black ones are great nibbles but pimento filled green ones are also good. Bread is always served with an Italian antipasto,and a crusty Italian one is the best. Save the rolls for the turkey afterwards.

An Italian antipasto is a delicious way to start any holiday meal. The array of flavors and extures hets the appetite for what's to come. Enjoy it with a good bottle of wine.

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