Sunday, November 28, 2010

Jezebel Dip: Out of the ordinary appetizer ideas #1

When parties or large get-togethers appear on the calendar, one of the first things I do is start looking for new, cool, fresh ideas for things to bring, usually dessert of an appetizer of some sort. Thanksgiving is one of these events and with large numbers of people bringing food for potluck meals, I'm even more anxious to find an unusual dish that will stand out from the crowd and yet thoroughly please the crowd.
Last year, during my exploration I came across a dip that caught my attention with its strange name: Jezebel Dip. Ever heard of it? I hadn't, so of course I went about reading the recipe and all of the reviews on it. I was intrigued and disgusted with what I found. The dip consisted of a block of cream cheese covered in a warm sauce of (ready for this?) apricot jam, Dijon mustard, and horseradish! The intriguing part of this was the reviews, not only were there many of them (meaning there were lots of brave people in the world who had tried it), but almost all of them were very, very positive with high marks!  Still, these comments were not enough to sway me and I went on to choose something a bit safer to bring to the party.
Now here I am, a year later, with another year of cooking under my belt and a widened taste bud horizon, and holiday parties arriving once again. Although our celebration this year took place in our own home, my immediate family was still enough of a crowd for me to find myself cooking up a few things in the kitchen. After making some favorite snacks like Muddy Buddies and Stuffed Mushrooms I thought it was time for something a little different...that Jezebel Dip had been in the back of my mind for a while.
Right off the bat I almost forgot the first step of the directions to mix up the ingredients the night before serving to allow the flavors to meld. Thus, at about 11:30pm I quickly, quietly whipped up the sauce, feeling very strange sneaking around in the dark kitchen with such odd ingredients. I had to resist the great urge to taste the smelly goo as I was about to go brush my teeth and had no desire to taste minty horseradish all night. Instead I put the mixture in the fridge and away to bed I went, wondering if I would find something magical or something horrific the next morning.
It turns out the orange glob was not much different after its over-night flavor-development period thingy. While the contrasting tastes of the horseradish and the jelly were much more unified, it still wasn't something I would consider delicious, in fact it was still in the "weird" category for me. But now that I'd gone this far with the experiment I certainly wasn't backing down so I followed directions and heated the sauce in the microwave until it was slightly more than warm, then I spooned that mixture over a block of room temperature cream cheese in a platter with slightly inclined sides. When all of the sauce was out of the bowl and into the platter, the cream cheese looked like an island in a sea of marmalade except that this definitely was NOT marmalade. This look was really not doing anything to advertise the dip, but I was not feeling very inspired so I just sprinkled some dried red chili pepper and paprika over the top and stuck a cracker in the side. It was far from beautiful, but it was better and if the reviews had been correct then the dip would be devoured so fast that the appearance would not be too much of an issue.
In the end, the results were about what I expected: the more daring of my family members who sampled the dip thought it was great...unusual, but still tasty. My not-so-open-minded siblings just gave it a few wary glances before reaching for safer snacks. Personally, I was somewhere in between these opinions as I thought it was interesting, but that it had lots of room for improvement. The sauce and the cheese went very nice together with the spicy, tangy, sweet and creamy all balancing out well, but the plating made it hard to get a good scoop on a cracker and of course lacked visual appeal. I also thought nuts would have added a nice element, texturally and flavor-wise, but these ideas will have to wait because my I've only got a few months left of holiday parties to try the other weird names on my list. In the meantime, if any of you wanna mess around, here's the recipe, have fun!

Jezebel Dip

- 1 (12 ounce) jar apricot preserves (some of the reviews also suggested peach and apple)
- 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
- 2 tablespoons Dijon-style prepared mustard
- a few grinds of black pepper, to taste
- 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1) In a medium-size bowl, combine apricot preserves, horseradish, mustard and black pepper. Taste the mixture and add more horseradish, mustard, and pepper to taste. Cover and chill this mixture overnight.
2) When ready to serve, place the cream cheese on a serving plate gently warm the sauce in the microwave. Pour or spoon the apricot mixture over the cream cheese.
3) Sprinkle with dried red chili pepper or black pepper.Serve with a basket of your favorite crackers.

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