"My friend Natalie's mother, who lives in Amsterdam, brings me aged Gouda each year," chef Barbara Lynch says. "I wanted to serve it as a fondue instead of on its own as an hors d'oeuvre." For those without an overseas cheese connection, Lynch suggests buying an eight-month-aged Gouda—"Nothing too smoky; just a beautiful, salty Gouda."
These spicy, tangy little hors d'oeuvres are chef Dean Fearing's take on the classic combination of smoked salmon, red onion and capers—he throws in roasted garlic, lime juice and jalapeño and replaces the standard cream cheese with sour cream. To make the dish especially Southwestern, he serves the tartare on tortilla chips. "Everything is good on a chip," he says.
For this classic tapa, Jose Garces stuffs his delicious crab salad into individual piquillo peppers and roasts them until hot. An easier way is to spread the crab mixture in a baking dish, top it with slices of the peppers, then cook until warm and melty.
New Orleans chefs often drown seafood in rich, spicy sauces, but here, chef Jason McCullar of Cure simply dresses sweet crabmeat (a Louisiana staple) in lemon-scented aioli. The crab salad is wonderful piled on hot dog buns like a New England lobster roll or arranged delicately on small rolls as hors d'oeuvres.
"My grandpa always used to make pimento cheese for me with sharp cheddar, or even Velveeta," says Katie Lee about the sweet pepper–studded spread, a Southern classic that's also a great dip. "I wanted to make it more grown-up." Katie's goat-cheese version is light and silky.
Vitaly Paley, the chef and owner of Paley's Place, created this deliciously indulgent version of the classic tuna melt while competing in a cook-off sponsored by the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission. Pairing moist chunks of crab with brioche, truffle butter and nutty Gruyère cheese easily snagged him a first-place prize.