How to Make a Simple Roast Beef Appetizer

These Mini Roast Beef canapes are a beautiful classic, with a slightly adventurous base component. Even with all the exciting and exotic things that are currently being done to vegetables, it’s hard to find a crowd (at least here in Idaho), where beef isn’t a crowd pleaser. My original plan for this appetizer was to use a simple beef tenderloin, but during one of my shopping trips I spotted a heavily discounted Wagyu tri-tip and snatched it up instead. A generous coating of kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, plus enough time on a hot grill to take it from raw to mid-rare was all the preparation it needed. I also found some adorable micro greens at Trader Joe’s to use for a pop of color, which meant that two of four items in these canape required little to no work on my part.

To glue my thin shaved beef to its base, I mixed up a fresh horseradish cream. You can usually find horseradish root in the produce section, looking a dusty and dingy cast off. But break the skin on it and its pungency will set any eyes in your kitchen to watering. It’s so powerful that you only need a little to give your creamy horseradish a strong kick. The main ingredient you’ll need is actually the sour cream. For about a pint of horsey sauce, I’ll combine 1 3/4 cups of sour cream with 1/8 – 1/4 cup fresh grated horseradish, a tsp of ground black pepper, and the juice of one lemon. If you don’t think it’s strong enough, let it sit overnight before throwing more horseradish in. This is definitely one of those flavors that blossoms with time.

Finally, the most complicated portion of this canape was the base. I’ve wanted to experiment with the flavors of pumpernickel for some time and if any of my toppings were going to stand up to ingredients such as rye, molasses, and caraway, they were the sturdy beef and pungent horseradish. I didn’t have a recipe for pumpernickel crackers, but I did have a recipe for pumpernickel grissini. It didn’t take much tweaking for me to convert the process to yield a proper canape base. Eaten alone, they had a pleasantly complex flavor, which blended seamlessly with the other components upon assembly.

Pumpernickel Crackers – adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Pumpernickel Grissini (makes about 80 1.5″ crackers)

1/4 cup warm water
1 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 tsp molasses
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3/8 cup rye flour
1 1/2 tsp dark cocoa powder
1 tsp caraway seeds
3/4 tsp fine salt
1 TBSP grapeseed oil

Whisk together water, yeast, molasses, and sugar. Let sponge for 15 minutes, then stir in the remaining ingredients. This will be a stiff mixture, but as you continue working it, it will come together into a smooth dough. Once your dough has come together, turn it out of the mixing bowl and knead it on a lightly floured surface for another 3-4 minutes.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. When the dough is risen, divide it into two parts, leaving one part covered while you work with the other. Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface until it is 1/8″ – 1/16″ thick. Cut into 1.5″ squares and transfer to a lightly greased baking sheet, leaving 1/4″ between crackers. Repeat with the remaining dough. Cover the baking sheets and let the crackers rest for about 1/2 hour. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Bake the trays for about 15 -20 minutes, until the crackers appear dry and puffy. If you’re worried about their doneness, pull one off of the baking tray, let it cool for 60 seconds and then test its snap. You want it to break cleanly, without any signs of a soft or moist center. If you aren’t happy with the consistency after they’ve cooled, you can always pop the trays back in the oven for a few more minutes. Sadly, I don’t have any secrets for rescuing burnt crackers, so do keep a close eye on them.

To assemble – pipe or spoon a teaspoon of horseradish cream onto each cracker, add a generous pinch of shaved roast beef, and top with a single micro green.

I highly recommend using any leftovers to build some French Dip sandwiches (even the bread here was leftover baguette from the Tomato Melts)