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"A great start"
Simple hors d'oeuvres make for tasty beginnings


By Margarita Venegas

This week, Chef Ryan Raney wants to go back to the beginning, of a meal that is.

Two simple hors d'oeuvres, spinach and artichoke dip and crab cakes (recipes follow), can be a delicious start to any meal.

The spinach and artichoke dip starts with the making of a roux, a cooked mixture of melted butter or other fat and flour, used for thickening sauces, soups, gravies and similar foods. When making a white roux sauce, such as for the spinach and artichoke dip, do not overcook it, he said. Once the flour and butter come together the cream should be added immediately, Raney said.

However, for other recipes requiring a darker roux, longer cooking time may be required, he said.

"When making a dark sauce, cook the roux until it gets some color, about the color you want the sauce to be," Raney said. "Keep in mind the more you cook it, the less thickening power it has."

The recipe for the crab cakes is simple enough, but cooks may want to dress up the hors d'oeuvres with a favorite sauce, fruit chutney, cream-based sauce or tartar sauce, Raney said.

"When using real crab meat, spread it out on a paper towel and pick through it to remove any shells that may be there," Raney said.

Chef Ryan Raney's spinach and artichoke dip


1/4 pound butter
1/4 pound flour
1 1/2 quart half and half
1 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
3 15-ounce cans artichokes
2 1-pound boxes frozen spinach


Melt butter in sauce pot and add the flour. Mix thoroughly and add the half and half. Whisk constantly until mixture begins to thicken. Add salt, pepper and Tabasco sauce. Drain and rinse the artichokes. Cutting rough chop them. Defrost the spinach and squeeze out excess water. Combine spinach with the artichokes and then with the cream sauce mixture. Place in bowl and serve with corn chips and salsa.

Chef Ryan Raney's crab cakes


1 pound lump crab meat
2 cups crushed saltine crackers
2 tablespoons yellow pepper (finely diced)
2 tablespoons red pepper (finely diced)
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon garlic (minced)
1/2 teaspoon old bay seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste


Mix all ingredients, except for the crab and crackers. Add the crab meat and toss lightly. Be sure not to break up the crab too much. Add the crushed saltine crackers. Toss lightly or until everything comes together. Form into patties and saute.



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