This week we’ll be celebrating the savoury side of Christmas, or whatever celebrations you observe during this wintry time of year. I’m not talking about the big meals like roast turkey and all the trimmings, but rather the savoury holiday treats that we all like to nibble on during the relaxed holiday season. This recipe roundup offers many different ideas for savoury celebratory foods; I’ll be showcasing individual recipes as the week goes on.
Let’s Get Savoury
A friend recently pointed out that my holiday celebration series has focused on mostly sweet recipes and, with so many people watching their sugar intake these days, savoury recipes would be appreciated. This was certainly a good point. My experience in observing the eating patterns of people at the large holiday gatherings I’ve hosted in the past has led me to conclude that the savoury to sweets ratio at an open house should be about 75:25. Not only that, but I have been committed to significantly reducing my sugar intake over many years now.
In fact, Sweetly Unrefined is the approach I’ve been taking on the blog for quite some time. As stated on my Welcome page:
Speaking of treats, I’m moving past the white sugar-filled recipes of my youth, and exploring a world of less refined and natural sweeteners like maple syrup, coconut sugar and others. Yes, they have more nutritional value than white sugar, but let’s keep it real: any sweetener is still a treat best enjoyed in moderation. Many of my new recipes are already sweetly unrefined, and I plan to convert more of my classic sweet treats over time.
All that said, having grown up baking since the age of eight or so, I confess that I still have an orientation toward making sweet baked goods for celebratory occasions. But, given the choice between a cookie or square and a cheesy gougere, I’d definitely select the cheese puff (or, let’s be real, several of them).
How I Work the Savoury to Sweet Ratio
When I host a holiday gathering, as mentioned above, I plan for the food I serve to be about 75 percent savoury and 25 percent sweet. I calculate this not by the number of “recipes” that I make, but by the volume of food. Let’s say that I want to make five savoury offerings and five sweet offerings, and have estimated that I need 100 pieces/individual servings of food. Of those 100 servings, 75 will be savoury and 25 will be sweet. By using my make ahead and freeze baking method for the sweet items (and also my prized gougeres), it’s easy to serve just the sweet treats I need for the event and use the rest later. This allows me to offer a variety of sweets even though the number of servings is fairly low.
So, in keeping with both empirical evidence and personal preference, let’s explore some savoury holiday treats for your own enjoyment or for when friends and family gather.
Savoury Holiday Treats
The savoury delights presented here are intended to be eaten as nibbles and bites, as opposed to being part of a meal. They all work for larger gatherings or when you want to put together a savoury holiday treats board for just one or two people. That said, many of these would work as appetizers at your holiday meals, and the meatballs are a miniaturized version of those that are served for dinner in my family heritage.
Yes, soup! Soup that’s not served in a bowl at a dinner table, but rather doled out in shooters or espresso cups for easy sipping and portability in case people are mingling. Just make sure the recipe you use has a smooth texture (I learned the hard way that split pea soup with smoked pork isn’t the best choice here). These Roasted Red Pepper & Tomato Shooters also look seasonal and merry!
Gougeres (Cheese Puffs)
Hands down, these cheesy bites are the most popular thing I serve at open houses or for an appetizer. They’re made with choux pastry (if you haven’t made it before, it’s much easier than you might think) and cheese, and you can add other elements to play with the flavour profiles. I have five different recipes on the blog, but three of them are in my Gougeres Variations post. You can see the flavours in the photo below.
Little meatballs are always popular. These are a miniaturized version of a cherished family recipe for Belgian Frikadellen. As you can see, we serve them with cherry sauce (such a delicious combination if you haven’t tried it before).
You can’t go wrong with a flavourful dip with pita bread or chips (just no double-dipping, please!). This is my version of Muhammara, a Middle Eastern roasted red pepper and walnut dip or spread.
Peperonata on Crostini
Another savoury winner is Peperonata, a medley of cooked onions, garlic, peppers, and tomatoes that are almost jam-like in consistency and excellent served on crostini.
Spicy and Herbed Nuts
I love nuts in all forms, and these Spiced Party Nuts and Rosemary Cashews say holiday for me. I suggest presenting them in bowls with serving spoons so your guests can scoop them into little dishes that they can eat from as they chat with others.
Coming Up Next: Exploring Savoury Holiday Treats
In the days to come, we’ll be having a closer look at these savoury holiday treats as part of our 2021 celebration of holiday baking and cooking.