Gourmet Game Night – This new book gurantees no more sticky fingers with mess-free eating for board-game parties, bridge clubs and poker nights!

If you’ve ever put Cheetos in a bowl next to a game of Life, you know that soon you will have florescent orange fingers! What about that great hand of cards – now getting sticky and gooey with cheesy pizza hands!? My good friend and food writer Cynthia Nims has come to the rescue with her new book, Gourmet Game Night! Cynthia’s book is chock full of delicious, imaginative yet convenient options; drinks made in pitchers and lots of mess-free, bite-sized snacks and entrees turned bite sized. (And I know they are delicious since I was a game-playing taste-tester!)

With autumn in the air it’s the perfect time to invite some friends over, get out your favorite board game and whip up some tasty Homemade Pretzels with Three Mustards and Green Pea and Mint Spread with Crispy Pancetta. Popular treats get a make-over like Almost Bite-Sized Pizzas, Itty Bitty BLTs, and even Caesar salad is given a tasty game-night treatment as well.

Packed with menu-planning guides, information on food-themed games, and a listing of some independent game stores, Gourmet Game Night is a creative and contemporary collection of recipes that make eating well a neat and tidy prospect when rolling the dice or moving your marker! And why not spread the work out – send a recipe to each game night player to bring along.

Isn’t it time to get a good night of munching and Monopoly or sipping and Scrabble going? – Kathy Casey

Photo by Sheri Giblin for Gourmet Game Night

Green Pea and Mint Spread with Crispy Pancetta
Makes 24 pita wedges

Those Trivial Pursuit wedges eluding you? You can turn to one of these pita wedges while you’re waiting for the perfect category.

Sweet green peas make a wonderful purée base, and the flavor is brightened by fresh mint and accented with crisp pancetta. For a vegetarian version, omit the pancetta and top the spread with thin crispy fried slices of shallot.

2 cups fresh or thawed frozen green peas
3 tablespoons chicken or vegetable broth or water, plus more if needed
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh mint
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 thin slices pancetta
2 thick (6-inch) pitas (preferably without pockets)

Bring a pan of salted water to a boil and prepare a bowl of ice water. Add the peas to the boiling water and simmer over medium heat until tender, 2 to 3 minutes for fresh peas, about 1 minute for frozen peas. Drain, add to the ice water, and let cool. Drain the cooled peas and scatter them on paper towels to dry.

Purée the peas, chicken broth, and mint in a food processor until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. The texture should be firm enough to hold its shape but not stiff; add another teaspoon or two of broth if needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate, covered, until you are ready to serve.

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta slices and cook until nicely crisp and lightly browned, about 5 minutes, turning the slices occasionally. Drain on paper towels.

Preheat the broiler and set the top rack about 5 inches below the heating element. Set the pitas directly on the rack and broil until lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes per side (use tongs to turn the pitas easily). Let cool, then cut each round into 12 wedges.

Top the broad end of each pita wedge with about 1 tablespoon of the pea purée. Break the pancetta into bite-sized pieces and press a piece or two into the purée on each wedge. Arrange the wedges on a platter and serve.

-Double or triple all the ingredients, but make the purée in batches.
-Halve all the ingredients.
-Make the purée up to 1 day ahead, cover, and refrigerate. Toast the pitas and cook the pancetta up to 4 hours ahead. Assemble shortly before serving.

© Cynthia Nims, Gourmet Game Night, Ten Speed Press (2010)

Photo by Sheri Giblin for Gourmet Game Night

Homemade Pretzel Sticks with Three Mustards
Makes about 30 pretzels

There’s no comparing standard snack-aisle pretzel sticks with these homemade chewy treats. Certainly feel free to buy a few fancy flavored mustards at the store to use for the dips, but these do-it-yourself combinations will have brighter fresh flavor. Offer perhaps four small bowls of each, letting guests pick the flavor they prefer. But don’t be surprised when there is long-distance dipping in a neighbor’s dish at the table.

Pretzel Sticks
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3⁄4 cup warm (about 105°F) water
1 teaspoon (1⁄2 package) active dry yeast
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons water
Coarse salt, for finishing

Herbed Mustard
1⁄2 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons minced tender fresh herbs (chives, flat-leaf parsley, chervil, tarragon, and/or basil)

Roasted Garlic Mustard
1⁄2 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons puréed roasted garlic

Smoke and Spice Mustard
1⁄2 cup Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1⁄2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

To make the pretzel sticks, combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl and stir to mix. Make a well in the center. Pour the warm water into the well and sprinkle the yeast over. Set aside until the yeast is frothy, about 5 minutes.

Stir the dough with a wooden spoon, drawing in the flour from the edges. Continue to stir the dough until it begins to come together in a ball. Transfer it to a lightly floured work surface and knead the dough until it becomes smooth and satiny, about 10 minutes, adding a bit more flour if needed. Put the dough in a bowl (it could be the same bowl in which you mixed the dough), cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel, and set aside in a warm place until the dough has doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

While the dough is rising, make the mustards. Stir the ingredients for each in a separate small bowl.

Just before the dough has finished rising, fill a large skillet or sauté pan with 2 to 3 inches of water and set it over medium-high heat; reduce the heat to medium-low if it comes to a boil while you’re still working on the dough.

Punch down the dough and cut it into about 30 even portions, each roughly the size of a marshmallow. Roll one portion of dough to a stick 7 to 8 inches long. Set on a lightly floured baking sheet and continue with the remaining dough.

Return the water to a boil if needed, add the baking soda, and reduce the heat to medium. Add 8 to 10 of the pretzel sticks to the water and simmer for 1 minute, then roll the pretzels to their other side and simmer 1 minute longer. Lift the pretzels out with tongs or a large slotted spoon to a tray, then arrange them on a wire rack to drain and cool. (I put a dish towel under the rack to catch drips, and excess salt later.) Repeat with the remaining dough, reheating the water between batches as needed.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line 2 baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper. Set 2 oven racks on the centermost levels.

Beat the egg yolk with the water in a small dish. Brush the pretzels with the yolk mixture and sprinkle with coarse salt. Transfer the pretzel sticks to the baking sheets about 1 inch apart. Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes, switching the trays about halfway through for even cooking. While the pretzels are baking, transfer the mustards to serving bowls.

Let the pretzel sticks cool a bit on a wire rack and then arrange them on a platter or upright in a large glass, slightly warm or at room temperature. Set the bowls of mustards alongside, with spoons for guests to spoon some onto their own plates.

-Make a double batch of pretzel dough. You may have enough mustard with the original recipe amounts.
-Best not to halve.
-The pretzels can be baked up to 4 hours before serving. The dips can be made up to 2 days ahead, covered, and refrigerated.

© Cynthia Nims, Gourmet Game Night, Ten Speed Press (2010)

Posted by Kathy Casey on September 30th, 2010  |  Comments Off on Gourmet Game Night – This new book gurantees no more sticky fingers with mess-free eating for board-game parties, bridge clubs and poker nights! |  Posted in Dishing with Kathy Casey Blog, Recent Posts

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