Fire it up with Chef Bob Medina!

Posted by: Philip Heppding

Story by: Robert Medina- Owner- Fire It Up Foods, LLC
This week we have a special guest contributor to Robert Medina is a local author and former fireman who brings us a few simple holiday hors d’oeuvres.

It’s that time of year again. I don’t mean the holidays. I mean that time when you are either having a party or going to one. In either case, you’ll be making food for your friends and family to enjoy.
Here are three simple-to-make appetizers for those gatherings. One is a New Orleans favorite. One was born from watching my wife eat salmon and eggs on toast points. The last is my attempt to put a salad on a stick. They are all easy to put together and travel well if you are bringing something to a potluck. Of course, there is the alternative. Make all three and keep them for yourself. I know it’s the season for sharing but when it comes to these dishes, I think sharing might be overrated.

Chef Bob's Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs
Chef Bob’s Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs

Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs

1 dozen eggs (hardboiled and peeled)
6 ounces of Nova smoked salmon (chopped small)
1 heaping tablespoon of capers (finely chopped)
1 heaping tablespoon of red onions (finely chopped)
1 large clove of garlic (finely chopped)
1/2 cup of Hellmann’s mayonnaise
Pinch of kosher salt
3 or 4 turns of fresh-ground pepper for garnish
1/2 teaspoon of dried dill for garnish (optional)
3 green onion tops (chopped) for garnish (optional)

Chop the salmon into very small pieces and place them in a bowl. Don’t use a food processor. It just doesn’t work. Get out the trusty old knife and do them by hand. It only takes a second.
Add all of your other ingredients, except the eggs, into the bowl with the chopped salmon. Fold them all together and cover. Place the bowl in a refrigerator for the time being.
Hard-boil one dozen eggs. When they are cool, peel them and cut them in half lengthwise. Place the whites on a platter and put the yolks into a bowl. Use a fork to break up the yolks. They will crumble into very small pieces. Next, add your salmon mixture to the crumbled egg yolks. Blend it all together with a fork. It should be almost pasty and thick. If it seems a little too thick and dry, add a bit more mayo.
Next, spoon the mixture into the hardboiled egg whites. Don’t worry about having enough to fill them all. There should be more than you need not only to fill the holes but also to spread some across the top of the entire egg…with a bit to spare. Give them all a final twist of fresh-ground pepper from the peppermill and serve. Garnish with a sprinkle of dill and green onion tops.
Note: At first, I had a tendency to keep them in the refrigerator and serve them cold. However, after I made and served them a few times, I changed that. People were telling me that they tasted better when they got closer to room temperature. So I have found that if you prepare them ahead of time and need to put them in the fridge until guests arrive, be sure to take them out early enough to serve slightly chilled but not cold.
Makes 2 dozen

Chef Bob's Artichoke Balls
Chef Bob’s Artichoke Balls

New Orleans Style Artichoke Balls

16 ounces artichoke hearts (drained and mashed)
2 large eggs (slightly beaten)
2 garlic cloves (minced)
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup of grated Romano cheese
3/4 cup of Italian-style breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons of olive oil

Sauté the garlic in olive oil in a large skillet. Add the artichokes and eggs and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly until cooked all the way through. You don’t want the eggs to be scrambled!
Remove the skillet from the heat. Combine 1/2 cup of the breadcrumbs with 1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese and 1/4 cup of the Romano cheese and add it to the artichoke mixture. Blend thoroughly and let cool.
Form the artichoke mixture into small (approximately 1”) balls and then roll them in a mixture of the remaining cheeses and breadcrumbs. Place the artichoke balls in the refrigerator to chill until firm.

Makes approximately 4 dozen

Chef Bob's Caprese Skewers
Chef Bob’s Caprese Skewers

Caprese Salad Skewer

24 ounces of fresh bocconcini (cherry-sized mozzarella balls)
32 ounces of cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar
1 cup of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of fresh basil (chopped)
1 clove of garlic (finely chopped)
Kosher salt
Fresh-ground pepper
2-3 leaves of fresh basil (chiffonade) for garnish

First, make a balsamic vinaigrette. Put the vinegar, basil, garlic, salt, and fresh-ground pepper in a bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until incorporated. Skewer one mozzarella ball and one cherry tomato per toothpick. Lay the skewers flat on a serving tray. Pour the balsamic vinaigrette over the skewers so that they are thoroughly coated. Keep the skewers refrigerated until ready to serve. Garnish with a chiffonade of fresh basil.

Makes approximately 3 dozen

Robert Medina is a retired New Orleans Firefighter, author of “If You Can’t Stand the Heat…A New Orleans Firefighter’s Cookbook” and a resident of South Walton. In addition to offering private cooking demonstrations, he created and distributes New Orleans Firehouse Flashover Creole Seasoning and Backdraft BBQ & Butt Rub.