First Bites Recipes

Ham Croquettes

Ham croquettes by chef alexis hernandezIngredients: 

Serves 4

  • 8 ounces of cooked ham steaks chopped
  • 1 cup of minced carrot
  • 1 cup of minced yellow onion
  • 3 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2-3 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1-cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 whole eggs
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 teaspoons chopped thyme leaves 2 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 3 tablespoon minced chives
  • 1 cup braising liquid  (the liquid the ham was in)
  • 1 quart of canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh black pepper

In a large stockpot place large enough to hold the first six ingredients, fill with water one inch above ingredients. Bring to a boil then immediately cover and set aside for 30 minutes.  Take 1 cup of the liquid and place in a medium saucepan with the butter and bring to a boil.  Immediately add all the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until a ball is formed and some of the four has been cooked out about one to two minutes.  Remove from the heat and add one egg at a time, mixing the egg into the dough quickly before adding the rest of the eggs.  Add the egg whites and quickly mix into the dough.  In a food processor place the ham and pulse until the ham is chopped up finely.  To the ham add approximately the same amount of dough; add the chives, parsley, thyme, salt, pepper and pulse in the food processor until combined.  Roll 1-inch balls of the mixture. (You can use a small scoop that you use to make cookies.)
In a large pot fill half the pot with canola oil and bring to 350 F. Cook the croquettes for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown.  You can freeze the excess croquettes in a sheet tray then transfer them to a freezer bag for later use.

-Heating the water with the meat and vegetables removes the salt from the ham and also adds flavors the dough.  If you skip this step the croquettes may be a little salty.
-When making the dough work quickly mix it over the stove until a ball forms but continue to stir and cook over the heat for an additional one-minute so that the flour is cooked.
-When adding the eggs to the dough quickly mix the egg and the dough together stirring trying not to allow the egg to cook.  Wait for each addition to be mixed before adding any more eggs.
-When cooking frozen croquettes, remove them from the freezer, allowing them to defrost for about 20-30 minutes prior to frying.  If you do not allow for them to defrost the oil temperature will drop and make the croquettes soggy.
-The croquettes can be frozen for up to two months.


Pear and Cream Cheese Tortilla

Pear and Cream Cheese Tortilla by chef alexis hernandez

Pear and Cream Cheese Tortilla by Chef Alexis Hernandez


  • 4  9 or 10 inch Flour Tortillas
  • 2 Bosc Pears (or any Pear) cut in half, core removed and sliced thinly with mandolin or by hand
  • 4 oz of Cream Cheese
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Spread 1-2 tablespoons of cream cheese over only half of the tortilla.  Take the pears and place 3-4 slices (or until covered) on top of the cream cheese.  Season with a pinch of salt and pepper then fold in half and place aside.  Make the remaining tortillas following the same process.

Over medium heat in a non-stick skillet, brush one side of the tortilla with olive oil and cook for 3-4 minutes until it is golden brown.  Flip over carefully and cook on the other side for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown.  Repeat the steps with the rest of the tortillas.  Cut the tortillas into triangles and serve as an appetizer.



Salsa & Cheese Quesadilla

Salsa and cheese quesadilla by chef alexis hernandez

Photo by James Carrier


  • 8 flour tortillas 8inches
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Cheddar cheese
  • 1 jar of store bought salsa
  • 1/4 of olive oil

Take 2-3  tablespoon of the salsa and spread it around 4 of the tortillas.  Place about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a non stick pan.  Over medium heat place the tortilla with the salsa in the pan.  Sprinkle with some of the grated cheese and top the first tortilla with the second tortilla. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes until the bottoms of the quesadilla is toasted.  Carefully flip the quesadillas and continue to cook for 1 – 2 minutes until the bottom is toasted and cheese is melted.  Place the tortilla on a cutting board and cut into quarters.  Sprinkle with some kosher salt and serve.



Artichoke and Spinach Dip

Artichoke dip by chef alexis hernandez


  • 1 6 oz can of artichoke hearts
  • 1 1o oz package of spinach thawed and squeezed dried and chopped
  • 1 3/4 cup of fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon of Kosher salt
  • 3 Tablespoon chopped chives

Preheat oven to 400 F (175 degrees C).

Mix the artichoke hearts, spinach, sour cream, mayonnaise, garlic and salt in a bowl and set aside. Mix the rest of the ingredients except the chives.  Place in a 1 quart baking dish .  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and cook for 25-30 minutes.  Remove from oven and sprinkle the dish with chives.  Serve with pita chips.

- You can make this the day ahead without cooking covered with plastic in the refrigerator.



Sauteed Sweet Pecans

Sauteed sweet pecans by chef alexis hernandezIngredients:

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons of butter
  • 3 1/4 cups of pecans halved
  • 1/4 cup of dark brown sugar packed
  • 2 teaspoons of cumin
  • 1/4 cup of white sugar
  • 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper

Preheat the oven to 350F
Over medium heat melt the butter then add the pecans.  Continue to cook for 3-4 minutes until the pecans are golden brown.  Add the sugars and continue to stir until sugar is caramelized.  Add the cayenne pepper, cumin and paprika and stir.  Add the apple cider vinegar and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.  Then remove from the heat and place pecans on a sheet pan making sure they are spread out and not touching.  Place in the oven and bake for 4-7 minutes or until they are crispy.  Allow to cool and serve.



Quick Sliders

Quick sliders by chef alexis hernandez


  • 1 1/2 pounds of 80/20 ground beef chuck
  • 2 cups of shredded Gruyere
  • 2 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
  • 1 (1 ounce) package dry onion soup mix
  • 24 Hawaiian sweet dinner rolls

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

In a medium bowl,  combine the beef, mayonnaise, onion soup mix and cheese. Place the dinner rolls on a cookie sheet lined with foil.  Spread 1/4 cup portions of the ground beef onto the bottom half of each roll. Place the second bun on top of the beef mixture.  Cover the cookie sheet tightly with foil and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the meat is barely pink inside. (The meat will continue to cook as it sits on the counter)
Serve immediately with ketchup and mustard and enjoy!

- 80/20 beef has 20% fat.  This is the best proportion of fat and meat to make great burgers.
- Do not use egg bread.  The egg bread falls apart very easily.



Honeyed Deviled Eggs

Honeyed deviled eggs by chef alexis hernandez


  • 12 eggs hard cooked, cut in half and yolks separated into a bowl
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons of lime juice
  • 2 1/2  teaspoons of honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons of softened butter
  • 1/4 cup of mayonnaise
  • 1/4 of sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped chives (optional)

Set the egg whites on a serving platter.  In a bowl add the egg yolks, lime juice, salt, butter and mash with a fork until combined.  Add the mayonnaise, chopped chives and sour cream.  Take the egg yolk mixture and spoon it into a zip lock bag.  Cut a small piece off the corner of the bag in order to create pipping bag.  Squeeze the mixture onto the egg whites and cover with plastic and place in the refrigerator for one hour but preferably overnight.  When ready to serve allow to come to room temperature.

- The butter needs to warm up a little  in order for the eggs to be creamy.  If you just pull them out of the refrigerator and serve them, the  butter will be too firm and won’t carry the flavors of the egg well.


Appetizer Meatballs

Appetizer meatballs by chef alexis hernandez

  • 1 – 1 1/2 ground beef 80/20
  • 2 french baguettes cut into 1/2 to 1 inch slices
  • 1/4  cup of soy sauce
  • 1 medium egg yolk
  • 3  teaspoon of light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar
  • 1 bunch of chives chopped


Preheat the oven to 425F
Place the bread pieces on a sheet pan.
Mix the rest of the ingredients until combined.  Take the mixture and using a tablespoon make small meat balls.  Place the meatballs on the bread and make and indentation with your thumb on top of the meat ball.
Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes or until the meat balls are cooked through. Serve immediately.



Tomato Bruschetta

photo chef alexis hernandez making tomato bruschetta

Chef Alexis Hernandez Making tomato bruschetta


  • French Bread, sliced into 1/2-inch slices
  • 2 tbs of Olive Oil
  • 1 Shallot, minced
  • 1 clove of Garlic
  • 1 14oz can of Chopped Tomatoes, drained
  • 2 tbs of Soy Sauce
  • 3/4 pound Fresh Mozzarella, sliced thinly
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a sauté pan over medium heat, add the olive oil and shallot and cook for 4-8 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.  Add the tomatoes and continue to cook for 5-8 minutes.  Add the soy sauce and cook for three minutes or until most of the liquid is gone.

Pour two teaspoons of the tomato mixture over each of the bread slices.  Top with a slice of fresh mozzarella.  Place in the oven for 8 minutes or until the sides of the breads are golden and the cheese is melted.  Remove from the oven and season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.



Country Ham and Mozzarella Toasted Rounds

photo Country Ham and Mozzarella Toasted Rounds by Chef Alexis Hernandez

  • French Bread, sliced into 1/2-inch slices
  • 10 slices of Country Ham, thinly sliced and chopped
  • 3/4-pound Fresh Mozzarella, sliced thinly
  • 4 tablespoons Butter
  • 9 Sage Leaves
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Place an equal amount of country ham on the entire cut French bread.  Place a piece of mozzarella on top of the country ham.  Place in the oven for 10-14 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and bread is golden on the sides.  Remove set aside.

In a small sauté pan, place the butter and the sage and cook over medium heat.  Continue to cook until the butter turns brown about 3-5 minutes.  Drizzle the sage brown butter over each slice and top with one sage leaf.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.