Carmel Valley Holiday Dinner Appetizers

Carmel Valley San Diego Community | Carmel Valley Kitchen Christmas List | Dave Clegg

Photo by Layla Mazdyasni

I hope all the Carmel Valley cooks are painstakingly planning their Christmas dinners… or I should say, Holiday Dinners, to be politically correct…and if you’re not, shame on you because you should be.  If your family is like mine you, you probably have a traditional menu for the meal that you’ve come to love and enjoy.  And like the Thanksgiving dinner spectacular, I’m sure it includes many venerable family recipes you look forward to all year.
All this considered, please stick with me for a few minutes and try to think “out of the box”.  Step up and consider a few new appetizers that will surely add some pizzazz and will definitely compliment your traditional menu.  We’re only suggesting an adjustment to a small part of the menu, so relax; we know you’ll enjoy our ideas.
Yes, yes, yes, a couple of these recipes are a bit difficult but come on, it’s Christmas, and you’re a terrific Carmel Valley cook so “kick it up a notch” (thanks Emeril) and accept the challenge:

Chilled Asparagus with Bay Scallop Ceviche

This is a super easy, healthy and off the wall appetizer that will appeal to all the sushi fans in the family. The ceviche with crackers is a terrific hor dourves by itself.

1 ½ lbs fresh bay scallops
¾ cup thinly sliced green onion
1 cup chopped cilantro
1 cup diced roasted red pepper
1 garlic clove minced or pressed
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of 2-3 limes
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
Dash of tobacco or siracha
Place all ingredients in a bowl, toss gently to combine, cover and refrigerate, stirring twice, for at least 3 hours.

24 fresh asparagus spears about 8 inches in length
4 cups European greens or frisee
Chopped chives for garnish

Parboil asparagus until aldente, about 3 minutes, and shock in an ice bath to stop cooking. Dry the spears.
Divide greens between eight plates, place 3 asparagus spears on the greens.  To serve, place about one third cup of the ceviche across the center of the spears and garnish with chopped chives.
Recipe by Dave Clegg 2010

Broccoli Cheese Soup

The ladies always love this soup and for that matter the guys should too. McNair’s book is a must for any kitchen.

1 ¼ pounds coarsely chopped broccoli
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup all purpose flour
4 cups low salt chicken broth
2 cup each heavy cream and half and half
Freshly ground pepper1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 tablespoon minced or pressed garlic
¾ pound fresh mushrooms chopped
3 tablespoons minced fresh jalapeno pepper
1 ¼ cups each shredded cheddar cheese and shredded Jarlsberg Swiss
Slivered baked ham for garnish.

Cook broccoli in boiling water until tender, about 6 minutes, rinse with cold water to stop cooking, drain well, finely chop and set aside.

In a large sauce pot or medium Dutch oven melt 3 tablespoons butter over low heat; add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes.  Whisk min the broth, cream and half and half. Increase the heat to medium high, bring to a boil whisking constantly.   Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 10 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons butter in a sauté pan or skillet over low heat.  Add the onion and sauté until soft but not golden, about 8 minutes.  Add the garlic, mushrooms and jalapeno and sauté until the mushrooms are soft, about 5 minutes. Transfer to the cream mixture.  Add the broccoli and cheeses and cook over low heat, stirring constantly until cheese melts, about 5 minutes.  DO NOT ALLOW TO BOIL. Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle into preheated bowls, garnish with the ham, and serve hot.

8 soup course servings

Recipe adopted from “James McNair’s SOUPS”, 1990


Oysters, Ham and Peas in Puff Pastry

 Absolutely one of our classics.  We love seafood but oysters are a hard sell on most diners.  This one should do the trick.  It’s very rich and delicious, and are we kidding…butter, oysters, puff pastry and sour cream…this is a once a year extravagance.

8 puff pastry shells (Pepperidge Farm frozen shells are perfect and available at most grocery stores)
1 ½ pints fresh shucked small-medium oysters with liquor
6 tablespoons butter
½ cup minced shallot
3 ounces prosciutto cut julienne (have the deli cut one piece about ¼” thick and julienne it yourself)
3 tablespoons dry vermouth
1 ½ cups sour cream
¼ teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1 cup frozen tiny peas thawed
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Puff pastry:
Bake according to the directions on the package.

Drain oysters well, reserving liquor, and set aside.  Strain liquor into a large measuring cup and add enough water to equal 1 ½ cups.  Transfer to a large nonaluminum sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Remove pan from heat, add oysters, cover and set aside.

Melt butter in a large skillet over low heat.  Add prosciutto and shallot and cook gently until shallot is tender, about 3 minutes.  Increase heat to medium, add vermouth and cook until vermouth has evaporated.  Reduce heat to low, add sour cream and nutmeg and simmer, stirring constantly until cream is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.

Add oysters and peas to sauce and cook until warmed through.  Season with salt and pepper.  Remove “lid” from each shell and place on a small warmed dish or saucer.  Divide filling evenly among shells and cover with lids.  The filling should slightly over flow the shell and spill down the sides onto the plate.

Recipe adapted from BON APPETIT, December 1981


The Best Shrimp Cocktail with Uncle Bob’s Legendary Sauce

Our Uncle Bob is an expert in everything shellfish.  He has lived along the Connecticut shore for most of his life and plies the beaches and tidal waters around Madison and Guilford 365 days a year (he wears thermal waders during the winter) for the best clams and oysters anybody has ever eaten.  His sauce is legendary.

The Shrimp:

24 U15 or 40 U21/25 fresh or fresh frozen shrimp

1 tablespoon salt

8 large green or red leaf lettuce leaves cleaned and dried

Thaw the shrimp in a pan with room temperature tap water if frozen.

Bring a medium sized pot half filled with water, add salt and bring to a boil.  Remove the pot from the heat, cover and let stand about 3 minutes.  Keep the pot of water off the heat; add the shrimp and let them cook in the hot water for about 10 minutes.  Check for doneness and when ready remove shrimp to a large bowl filled with ice water.  Peel and clean (if necessary) the shrimp and dry on a paper towel or dish towel.  Cooking this way will insure the shrimp and moist, plump and not rubbery.

Place the lettuce leaves on each of eight plates.  Distribute the shrimp evenly, and spaced on the leaves in any configuration you like.

The Sauce:

1 16 ounce bottle Heinz Chili Sauce (no substitutes please)

4 tablespoons Heinz Ketchup

2 ounces bottled Atomic Horse Radish or Gold’s (both available at Ralphs, our favorites)

2 cloves minced or pressed garlic

2 tablespoons Lea & Perrin’s Worcestershire Sauce (ditto Atomic)

2 tablespoons dried crushed basil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice

1 tablespoon finely crushed black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a container.  Store in a container with a tightly fitting lid.


Fresh lemon wedges.

Spoon some sauce over the shrimp and garnish with the lemon wedges.

1 ½ cups

Recipe by Uncle Bob 1989


Pineapple Sorbet with Champagne

Not an appetizer per se but a “palate cleanser” to be eaten between the salad course (unless it’s served prior to dessert) or the appetizer course and the main course.  Very easy, very classy and something people rarely think of.  Think refreshing and ”out of the box.”


2 20 ounce cans pineapple rings, drained, juice reserved


Arrange the pineapple rings on a baking sheet and freeze until firm.  Cut into small pieces and transfer to a food processor.  Add ¼ cup reserved pineapple juice and process until creamy.  Scoop 20 1 inch balls of the mixture onto a baking sheet and freeze.

Arrange 2 scoops of sorbet in a wine glass or sherbet dish.  Let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes.  Pour 3-4 tablespoon of champagne over each sorbet and serve immediately.

8-10 servings

Recipe courtesy Bon Appétit December 1981


Carmel Valley San Diego Community | Dave Clegg | Self-Taught Chef & Recipe Author

Dave Clegg

Dave Clegg is a self-taught amateur chef and recipe creator who has always been inspired by his mom’s great cooking.  He has been cooking for over 40 years and has lived in Carmel Valley with his family since 1985.  He created “Carmel Valley Kitchen” as a way to share his passion.

Dave was recently selected as a semifinalist in the “Next Great! News Instructor Cooking Challenge” and his basic cheese cake took third place at the 2011 San Diego County Fair.  Dave has a comprehensive knowledge of ingredients, equipment and cooking techniques that he is always happy to share.


Carmel Valley San Diego Community | RIDE Cyclery Encinitas

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