When the holiday season descends, we get some pretty funny questions for Josh Applestone. Sadly he can’t fix your brother issues or help you shame your in-laws for various concerns. Thanks for asking, though. We all have our stuff, you are not alone, we got your emails. Still, he can help come up with holiday party appetizer ideas and offer a few holiday gifts as alternatives to cookies you might never have considered. Finally, if you’re also curious what you’re supposed to do with marrow, Josh is here to enlighten you.
But before he does, we’d like to wish you a very happy holiday season, whichever ones you are celebrating. And for those of you feeling more bah humbug than festive, we’re here to tell you that January will come before you know it. Cheers!
Do you have a question for Josh? Let us know.
Q: I need ideas for holiday party appetizers that aren’t the same old. I’ve done satay, sliced steak on bread, meatballs, sliders. All of the regular stuff. What can I do that’s different?
Do stuff that is easy, my mom always said. Put stuff on a toothpick! Like, a seared piece of belly finished in the oven. Lately I’ve been thinking about a toothpick with a piece of pork belly, sweet potato, and onion. Yakitori, there is something to it. It’s all one bite.
Onions are naturally pre-sliced. Broccoli and cauliflower come pre-portioned—those tiny little trees. Gather a bunch of things you can stab. You do a quick blanch of the vegetables in salt water, and cut the potatoes small enough that they will roast in seconds. The pork belly is easy and quick. Cut it small and put in the oven at 250 for an hour or two. Then it’s an easy, quick assembly and easy clean up afterwards because you just cooked a bunch of stuff in a small area of your kitchen and there are very few dishes to wash.
Toothpicks are your friend; you know what I’m saying? Then have a contest: Who can make the coolest thing with toothpicks. Want something bigger? I saw a kebab on an old Simpsons the other night. Now I want kebabs. Here are other ideas for holiday party finger foods.
Q: Every year my family makes holiday cookies and hands them around to cousins and even co-workers as gifts. I’m sick of all of the sugar. Is there a way to use meat to make holiday gifts?
Try meat pies. Get tiny little cupcake tins and make little mini open face meat pies. Top them all with mashed potato if you want to go crazy. That is incredibly easy to do a with a couple pounds of ground lamb. The dough can be very simple: flour, water, salt. Or buy some. Cut corners for less stress and a better product. You don’t have to get fancy. It will feed a lot of people, but you will have carpal tunnel from squeezing them. I would love anything like that as a gift. And I would want it frozen so I could eat it when I need it. You can also make stock or other cooked and frozen food. I know I need it, which means other people need it.
My staff makes gifts with our product. Our Hudson retail manager, Erica Bartlett, is making everyone sausage rolls. This is her picture. They are gorgeous. And Robert Weickel, a member of our production crew who also helps out with recipe development, makes bone marrow fudge. If you still aren’t sure what to make, we do sell gift certificates.
Q: I don’t really understand how and when to use marrow. Can you explain?
Marrow, like lard, is fat that dissolves very easily. It’s easy to incorporate in sauces, rubs, finishing, greasing a pan, and making a dough. But it has a strong taste, so I’m careful how I use it. Like I don’t use it for sauces, really. I use it for when I want that strong flavor. I also use it on top of steaks to finish them instead of olive oil and butter. It tastes good; that’s why steak houses do this, too.
If I make marrow butter, I heat it so I’m not using raw marrow. It needs to be chopped up and rendered in whatever other type of fat you’re using its used for flavoring other things.