The best thing about homemade crackers is that they require almost zero prep, and can be seasoned however you like – a simple sprinkle of coarse sea salt, or a more complex blend of seeds and spices. My favorite is pink Himalayan sea salt and dehydrated minced garlic. It’s like the best part of an everything bagel.
These crackers also cook so quickly, you even could make them fresh just before – or even during – the party.
And if you really want to put people over the edge, consider pairing the crackers with homemade ricotta cheese dip. I recently took a cheese making class in California and fell in love with the process. It was an artisanal cheese class and we used “just milked” raw cow’s milk and various starters.
You’ll need no special ingredients or equipment to make this treat, which relies on slightly acidic buttermilk to form cheese out of a blend of heavy cream and whole milk. Add a touch of salt and that’s all you need.
Once the cheese is strained and cooled, I put it in a pretty bowl, add a sprinkle of good salt, best quality extra-virgin olive oil, fresh herbs and citrus zest. You can customize it and add your favorite herbs, or take a sweet approach and add a little jam and country ham or prosciutto. Delicious.
We’ve added a couple of other dip and app ideas for your New Year’s Eve party.
Buttermilk Ricotta Cheese Dip
3 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Fleur de sel or pink sea salt, about 1/8 teaspoon
1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh herbs, such as thyme, oregano or basil
Zest of 1/2 lemon or orange
In a large, stainless steel saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk, buttermilk, cream and salt. Slowly bring the mixture to a gentle simmer. As the milk solids begin to separate from the whey, give it a stir, then return it to a gentle simmer. When you see steam rising and solid chunks (curds) forming, turn off the heat and let the mixture cool for about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, line a mesh strainer with several layers of cheesecloth. Using a ladle, spoon the cooled curds and whey into the strainer. Place one layer of the cloth over the cheese. It will strain quickly at first. The longer you let it sit, the drier and more concentrated the cheese will become. Strain the cheese at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours.
Once strained, discard the liquid. The cheese can be used immediately, or covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days.
When ready to serve, place the ricotta in a decorative bowl. Use a spoon to form a well in the center. Sprinkle the cheese with the fleur de sel, then fill the well with olive oil. Sprinkle with fresh herbs and citrus zest.
12 round fresh flour or corn tortillas, at room temperature
2 tablespoons olive oil
Seasonings (such as fleur de sel, truffle salt, dehydrated minced garlic, minced dried onion, sesame seeds, etc.)
Heat the oven to 350 F.
Brush the tortillas on both sides with a thin layer of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt or the seasonings of your choice. Arrange the tortillas on 2 baking sheets (or bake them in batches). The tortillas can be close together, but not touching. Bake on the oven’s center rack for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the pans after 12 minutes, until slightly puffy and golden brown.
Let cool and break into irregular shapes.
Bolinhos De Bacalhau
Makes 40 snacks
1 lemon, halved
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 pound salted cod fillets,* soaked overnight in cold water (replace water every few hours) and drained
1 cup mashed potatoes, warmed
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 medium sweet onion, peeled and diced (about 1/2 cup)
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 quart vegetable oil for frying
Fill a medium pot three-fourths with water. Squeeze in lemon juice and drop in lemon halves. Add thyme. Over medium heat, bring liquid to a simmer. Add drained cod fillets and poach for 15 minutes. Discard poaching liquid.
In a large mixing bowl, shred fillets with two forks (or use your fingers). Add mashed potatoes and mix until just combined.
Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add to fish mixture along with green onions, egg, parsley, and salt and pepper. Gently fold to combine. Form mixture into small balls, about 2 tablespoons each, and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour. (Tip: Refrigerating helps firm up fish balls so they won’t fall apart when fried.)
In a large pot, preheat oil to 365 degrees. Fry fish balls in small batches 4 to 6 minutes, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and season with pepper. Serve immediately with Lemon-Caper Dipping Sauce.
*This popular Portuguese snack (pronounced boll-in-yoos de ba-cal-yao) is a flavorful version of cod fritters. We’ve kicked things up a notch by pairing our mini appetizer with a zesty lemon-caper dipping sauce. It’s like fish sticks and tartar sauce for grown-ups’.
Note: Salted cod fillets can be difficult to find; substitute plain cod fillets that have been poached in a mixture of 3 cups clam juice and 1/2 cup salt. For an extra-briny flavor, add diced olives to the shredded fish mix.
Lemon-Caper Dipping Sauce
Makes about 1/2 cup
1/3 cup mayonnaise (regular or light)
2 tablespoons sour cream
3 tablespoons minced capers
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste
In a medium bowl, stir to combine all of the ingredients. Season with salt and pepper. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate.