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Party appetizer: liptauer

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The Runaway Spoon

(Read caption) This cream cheese spread made salty with briny capers can be served with sliced pretzel bread or rye melba toast.

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Many years ago, as a kid, I saw a recipe and photo for Liptauer in a cookbook or magazine, and I remember that it looked impossibly elegant and sounded so exotic and sophisticated to me. I didn’t understand all the ingredients – capers and caraway sounded foreign and out of reach.

The picture showed a fancy mold surrounded by intricate garnishes – carved radishes and celery fans. I can still call that image to mind. For years, I’d come across recipes for Liptauer and still imagined it was above my palate and skill level. The first time I ever tasted Liptauer was in Vienna on a family vacation. We visited one of the “huerige” wine halls and sat outside under a canopy of trees. We drank local wines and enjoyed a big Viennese meal. But to start it out, our local guide ordered Liptauer. Far from the fanciful creation I had imagined, it was served in a rustic pottery crock with brown bread. And it was delicious. I knew the time to work on a recipe at home had come.

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Years later, at a book signing in North Carolina for Pimento Cheese: The Cookbook, a woman approached me and said she was from Austria, and she grew up eating a spread with cream cheese and paprika, and since she’d been living in the States, she had come to liken it to pimento cheese. I’d never thought of it that way before, but I love the idea of cross-cultural, cross culinary links.

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Now this is totally different from pimento cheese, but it makes a wonderful party dish; since I’ve started serving it, I either get reactions from people who remember it as a 1970s party dish their parents served, or people who’ve never had it before but ask for the recipe. It’s become a staple dish for me, one I turn to whenever I need an easy to make but exciting appetizer. I love to serve this with sliced pretzel bread or rolls or rye melba toast.

Liptauer

3 teaspoons capers in brine, drained
1 small shallot, peeled
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley leaves, loosely packed
1 tablespoon roughly chopped chives
1-1/2 teaspoons caraway seeds
16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1-1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika (if you have half-sharp, sub it for 1/2 teaspoon)

1. Put the capers, shallot, parsley, chives and caraway seeds in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and pulse until everything is well chopped. Scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times. Add the cream cheese and butter, cut into pieces, and pulse a few times. Add the mustard and paprika and blend until smooth and well combined.

2. Scrape the liptauer into a bowl and refrigerate until firm. This will keep covered in the fridge for up to 5 days. If you would like to serve a molded liptauer, line a bowl or mold with plastic wrap and press the liptauer into it. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate, then turn the spread out onto a platter, unwrap and serve.

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