Elegant Crackers and Dip for New Year’s Eve
You could almost float away on these crackers as they’re so thin, light and delicate.
34° Crispbread is a wonder — round, fragile wafers that are made from whole wheat flour, salt and natural cheese flavor, then baked until shatteringly crisp. The name comes from the latitude of Sydney, Australia, where company founder Craig Lieberman hails from. The product is inspired by his favorite Australian crispbread.
Now made in Boulder, Colo., the crackers come in six varieties: Whole Grain, Natural, Sesame, Cracked Pepper, Rosemary, and Lemon Zest. They’re sold at Safeway, Whole Foods and Walmart. Nine crackers have a total of 35 calories. A 4.5-ounce box is about $4.99.
I had a chance to sample a couple of boxes recently. I especially liked the Cracked Pepper variety with is subtle hit of spice. The crackers crumble easily so handle them gently. But they can stand up to the likes of charcuterie, cheese and all manner of dips if you spread them on with a knife rather than dunking them.
I served them over the holidays to great acclaim with food writer and blogger superstar Dorie Greenspan’s “Sardine Rillettes.”
The recipe is from her new book, “Around My French Table” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).
Cream cheese gets mashed with canned sardines, lemon juice, fresh herbs, shallots, scallions and a pinch of piment d’Espelette. Then, the mixture is chilled in the fridge for a couple hours or overnight to firm up. How easy is that?
The result is sort of a richer, thicker, more assertive tuna-like salad, only made with sustainable, inexpensive, omega-3 powerhouse sardines. Besides on crackers, the sardine rillettes is dynamite spread in a thin layer on dark bread, then topped with a few leaves of peppery arugula. Think of it as a high-concept, high-tea finger sandwich.
Even your friends who think they don’t like sardines will be spreading it on thick.
(Makes 1 cup or about 6 servings)
2 (3 3/4-ounce) cans sardines packed in olive oil, drained
2 1/2 ounces cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese
2 shallots or 1 small onion, minced, rinsed, and patted dry
1-2 scallions, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
Juice of 2 limes or 1 lemon, or to taste
2-3 tablespoons minced fresh herbs, such as chives, cilantro, parsley and/or dill
Pinch of piment d’Espelette or cayenne
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
You can use skinless, boneless sardine fillets. If you buy ones that have not been boned, use a paring knife to cut them open down the belly and back and separate the fish into 2 fillets. Lift away the bones and, if there is a little bit of tail still attached to the fish, cut it off.
Put cream cheese in a medium bowl and, using a rubber spatula, work it until it is smooth. Add everything else except the sardines — holding back some of the lime or lemon juice until rillettes are blended — and mix with the spatula. Add sardines to the bowl, switch to a fork, and mash and stir sardines into the mixture. Taste for seasoning, adding more juice, salt and/or pepper, if you’d like.
Scrape rillettes into a bowl and cover, pressing a piece of plastic wrap against the surface. Chill for at least 2 hours, or for as long as overnight.
To serve: Offer the rillettes in a bowl surrounded by toasted country bread, crackers or Pringles, if you dare, or use it as a stuffing for cherry tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, or piquillo or Peppadew peppers.
To store: Wrapped airtight, the rillettes will keep for up to 2 days; stir well before serving.
From “Around My French Table” by Dorie Greenspan
More Sardine Recipes: Fish Cakes with Caper-Parsley Sauce