Appetizers for New Year Party: Caramelized Walnut and Stilton “Brains” and Parmesan-stuffed Bacon-wrapped Dates

We’ve given up the russian tradition to celebrate New Year with a full-course dinner starting at midnight. Now our fancy dinner begins at a more appropriate hour, somewhere around 7PM, and later I serve little bites and nibbles. I thought to share some of these recipes with you.

These “flavor bombs” ideas are Bob Blumer’s. I tweaked the first recipe though, by caramelizing nuts with honey and spices, and used Stilton instead of Gorgonzola (I just have a very special relationship with Stilton, it’s called love). But, really, any blue cheese would work here.

I wish everyone the Happiest New Year!!!

Makes 12 each

For the walnut “brains”:

The recipe for caramelized nuts makes way more than you’ll need for sandwiches but they are fantastic on their own.

  • 12 walnut shell halves (for presentation)
  • Demerara sugar (for presentation)
  • 2 cups walnut halves
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp ground cardamom
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ tsp cayenne
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup corn syrup
  • 6 oz Stilton or Gorgonzola, or your favourite blue cheese, at room temperature
  • About 3 tbsp liquid honey for drizzling

For the stuffed dates:

  • 12 large Medjool dates
  • 4 oz chunk Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 6 slices bacon, cut in half widthwise

Make the walnut “brains”:

Center the oven rack and preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper, if using the parchment, spray it with oil.

In a medium bowl, combine the nuts, spices, and salt. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, or in a MW-safe bowl in the MW, heat the honey and corn syrup until warm and fluid. Pour over the nut-spice mixture and mix well to coat. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and spread the nuts to a single layer. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the nuts are rich mahogany colour. Cool on the sheet on a rack. Separate the halves and store in an air-tight container untill needed.

To assemble, spread the demerara sugar on a serving plate and set the walnut shells in sugar. Sandwich 1 teaspoon of cheese between 2 caramelized walnut halves. Place mini walnut sandwich upright in a walnut shell. Just before serving, drizzle honey over each walnut brain.

Make the stuffed dates:

Preheat the oven to 350F. Cover a baking sheet with parchment or foil (to minimize clean-up).

Make a small slit in the bottom of each date and remove the pit.

Using the sharpest knife, cut the Parmigiano-Reggiano into 1/4-inch slices. Cut the slices into 1/4-x-1-inch pieces. Insert the cheese stick into each date. Wrap the dates with a slice of bacon. Set the dates on the baking sheet, seam-sides down, and skewer each with a toothpick to hold the bacon in place.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the bacon is crispy. Cool for a few minutes before serving. Be careful, they are extremely hot right from the oven.

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8 Responses to “Appetizers for New Year Party: Caramelized Walnut and Stilton “Brains” and Parmesan-stuffed Bacon-wrapped Dates”

  1. Those look mighty good. A fabulous combo.

    Happy New Year!



  2. Gorgeous appetizers! They look divine!
    Happy New Year!

  3. Stephane in Alaska on December 30th, 2010 at 8:38 am

    I once served a several-course dinner on New Year’s at midnight–but it was completely accidental and the result of too much drinking and gnoshing on nibbles beforehand. It was fun but (even at 29) it was more rich food than my stomach could happily manage that late/early in the day. Happy New Year!

  4. These look delicious! I love how you called the first appetizer “brains”! :)

  5. Thank you for these recipes. They look so yummy, can’t wait to try them.

  6. Love the Brains!!!!

  7. Thank you all for the kind comments! I hope everyone had wonderful holidays.

    Stephane, I remember myself once (I was in my twenties) almost forgetting about the upcoming New Year when we started beforehand with nibbles and drinks :) Nowadays we start drinking after midnight. Happy New Year to you too!

  8. I usually grab the gorgonzola, but I am going to have to try stilton. I could probably eat a whole tray of these little brains.. yum, they look delicious! Happy New Year Vera!

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