TasteFood

Just like a little black holiday dress, this creamy mousse is classic, popular and unfailingly dependable during the festive party season. It's an ideal recipe to have on hand and a perfect addition to your repertoire of go-to recipes for easy entertaining. Not only is the mousse a snap to prepare, it's extremely versatile -- elegant enough for a fancy party and simple enough for a fireside dinner. The ingredients are minimal and may be easily purchased in advance and stored in the refrigerator, ready to be mixed up at a moment's notice or a surprise guest's arrival.

The salty, smoky fish is fluffed and brightened with cream cheese and lemon, then crowned with crunchy toasted almonds and fresh chives. The flavor is so addictively good you might want to double up on the quantities, so you can make a separate stash for yourself -- it will keep in the refrigerator for up to four days. Serve the pate smeared on baguette slices or pumpernickel rounds, or with crudites for dipping. And don't hold back on the almonds. Their nutty flavor and crunchy texture are key to the success of these small bites. Smoked mackerel may be substituted for the trout.

Smoked Trout Mousse

Active time: 15 minutes

Total time: 15 minutes

Yield: makes about 2 cups

Mousse

8 ounces smoked trout (or mackerel), skin and any bones removed

6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

1/4 cup coarsely grated yellow onion with juices

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for garnish

1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

Thinly sliced European-style pumpernickel squares, rounds or baguette slices

1/3 cup almonds, toasted, coarsely chopped

Chopped chives

Process all the mousse ingredients in the bowl of a food processor until light and smooth. If too thick, add a little more lemon juice. Taste and add a little salt if desired. Transfer to a bowl. To serve, smear on pumpernickel bread or baguette slices and garnish with the almonds and chives.

CAPTIONS AND CREDITS

More like TasteFood