Sambal is a spicy chili-based sauce or paste that cooks well with chicken, beef or seafood. Here it flavors chunks of dark-meat chicken. (Reshma Seetharam)

Sambal is a spicy chili-based sauce or paste that cooks well with chicken, beef or seafood. Here it flavors chunks of dark-meat chicken. (Reshma Seetharam)

Kickstart your winter festivities with these chicken starters

Make one of these five spicy and savory chicken appetizers for your next holiday party or potluck.

Kick-start your winter festivities with these five savory and spicy chicken or egg recipes.

While starters can be a delight at parties, it can be a tedious task to make bite-sized snacks. I prefer to serve large platters of finger foods that I can carry around or set on the counter for guests to pick up and devour.

Tangy, salty and spicy appetizers usually pair well with wine and cocktails — the taste that lingers in your mouth and awaken your guests’ appetites.

Starters don’t have to be complicated. Simple recipes designed so they can be prepped the day before give you more time to entertain and relax at holiday potlucks and parties.

Spicy egg puffs

Make these pastries vegetarian by skipping the hard boiled eggs and the egg wash. Just seal in the eggless filling and bake.

4 eggs, hard boiled, peeled and cut in half

1 egg, for egg wash

2 ready-bake pastry sheets

For the filling:

1 cup onions, diced

1 cup tomatoes, diced

1 cup peas, fresh or frozen

½ cup carrots, diced

½ cup peppers, diced

½ teaspoon pepper

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon ginger and garlic minced or paste

Salt to taste

1 pinch sugar

1 tablespoon oil

In a pan on medium heat, add oil. When the oil begins to smoke, add the onions and ginger garlic paste. Saute for 1 minute until lightly brown. Toss in the tomatoes, carrots, peppers and peas. Cook until the tomatoes are soft and pulpy.

Add in all the powders, salt and sugar. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Turn off heat. Let the filling cool.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Beat a few teaspoons of water and an egg in a bowl with a fork. Set aside.

Place the ready-bake pastry sheets on a floured surface and roll out very lightly. Cut the sheet into squares, with a 4-by-4-inch dimension. Add a spoon of the filling in the center. Place half an egg, yolk side down, on the filling. Hold a pair of opposite sides of the sheet and wrap it over the egg and seal it by pressing them with your thumb and index finger. Repeat these steps until 8 puffs are ready.

Place the puffs in a baking sheet about 2 inches apart, giving them space to bloom. Brush them with the prepared egg wash. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until they are golden brown and flaky. Serve warm. Makes 8 servings.

Turmeric chili chicken skewers

These chicken skewers can be marinated a day before and grilled in your stovetop pan before the guests arrive. You may use boneless or boned chicken. I prefer boned chicken, as they are more flavorful.

Note: You will need metal skewers and a stovetop grilling pan — preferably cast-iron — to make this recipe.

2 pounds chicken, boned or boneless, cut into 2-inch pieces

8 to 10 green chilies

1 onion cut into chunks

1 tablespoon oil

For the marinade:

1 cup plain yogurt

1 teaspoon lime juice

½ teaspoon ginger paste

½ teaspoon garlic paste

2 green chilies

Salt and pepper to taste

1 teaspoon oil

Grind the marinating ingredients into a paste. Add the chicken and marinade into a resealable plastic bag, mix well and set in in the fridge overnight.

When you are ready to grill, poke the chicken, whole chilies and onions onto skewers.

Heat the pan on high, brush some oil on the prepped skewers and cook on high for a few minutes to sear all the sides of the skewers evenly.

Lower the heat and cook covered for 8 to 10 minutes turning at regular intervals. You may sprinkle a few drops of water on the pan to keep the chicken moist.

Serve hot. Makes about 6 servings.

Pepper cumin chicken drumsticks

These are simple to make because they have so few ingredients — and they taste amazing.

8 chicken drumsticks

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 cups onion, cut into chunks

For the marinade:

1½ teaspoons cumin powder

1 teaspoon black pepper powder

1 tablespoon sour cream

½ teaspoon ginger paste

Salt to taste

In a mixing bowl, whisk the marinating ingredients together. Make diagonal slits in the drumsticks, so they can absorb the marinade. Throw them in a resealable plastic bag, pour the marinade and let them soak in for about 20 minutes or overnight.

When you are ready to grill, heat the oven to 400 degrees. Set them on a greased baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes.

While that is cooking, in a large pan on medium heat, add 2 tablespoons oil. When it begins to smoke, add cumin seeds and onion, saute for 1 minute. Add the cooked drumsticks to the pan and let them sear a bit.

Serve hot. Makes about 8 servings.

Sambal chicken

Sambal is a spicy chili-based sauce or paste that cooks well with chicken, beef or seafood. Here it flavors chunks of dark-meat chicken.

2 pounds chicken, boneless or bone-chicken thighs, cut into 2-inch pieces

For the marinade:

2 tablespoons sambal paste

1 cup onions, cut into chunks

1 teaspoon garlic, minced

2 teaspoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons vinegar

1 teaspoon corn starch

1 tablespoon soy sauce

Salt to taste

2 tablespoons oil, 1 for the marinade, 1 to saute

Place chicken pieces in a resealable plastic bag. Add the rest of the ingredients, except sambal paste; combine and let it rest for about 20 minutes or overnight.

Pre-heat the grill to 400 degrees. Place the chicken pieces on a greased sheet and grill for 20 minutes. Remove. Reserve the remaining marinade.

You may also pan roast it on the stovetop for about 10 minutes until the chicken is golden brown. Set aside.

In a large pan on high heat, add a tablespoon of oil and the remaining marinade. Once it starts to bubble, add in the grilled chicken pieces and onion chunks. Saute on high for 1 minute, or until the onions get lightly brown. Add the sambal paste and coat evenly.

Turn off the heat. Toss well to combine. Let the chicken rest for a few minutes. Serve hot. Makes 6 servings.

Minty chicken wings

These chicken wings are bursting with flavors of mint, chilies, garlic and lime.

2 pounds chicken wings

3 cups of fresh mint leaves

4-5 green chilies

1 cup onion, diced

1 teaspoon garlic, diced

1 tablespoon oil

For the marinade:

1 teaspoon lime juice

Salt and pepper to taste

Massage the chicken wings with a mixture of lime juice, salt and pepper. Set aside in a resealable plastic bag for 20 minutes or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 18-20 minutes, flipping the wings half way and cooking until they are brown.

While the wings are cooking, in a food processor, add in the mint, chilies, garlic and oil. Pulse until they are in fine bits. Set aside.

In a large pan on medium heat, add a teaspoon of oil, and throw in the finely minced mint and chili mixture. Cook for just a few seconds.

Toss in the cooked wings, stir well to coat. Sprinkle some more salt and pepper. Pour a teaspoon of lime juice, toss with the wings and serve right away. Makes about 6 servings.

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