The holidays mean parties, potlucks, office events, and family get-togethers requiring a dish of some sort. Rather than going to your local grocery and picking up a clamshell-packaged pie, why not inject some nerdy flavor into your winter spread? I've rounded up and bastardized recipes for a couple appetizers, a couple sides, and some desserts, the types of things you'd be likely to bring to a potluck. None of the following dishes are overtly geeky, so you won't have to explain the unsettling significance of Fruity Oaty Bars to your relatives. You can simply bask in the knowledge that you brought some nerd to the table, and get your geek eats on.

SWISS CHEESY BACON DIP
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"It always amazes me what your Swiss-cheesed brain chooses to remember." Quantum Leap, "How the Tess Was Won"

Sam Beckett has a whole mess of problems. He's literally dropped into someone else's body, forced to correct some mistake or another in their life, and then wrenched out of the situation only to replay it again and again. Not only is he stuck in this endless loop of time-traveling do-goodery, but he's suffering from a hefty dose of amnesia to boot. Al, Sam's smarmy, holographic companion, loves referring to this as Sam's "swiss-cheesed brain," and Sam has to live with hearing that line over and over again, too.

Thankfully, I didn't have any brains on hand, so here I substituted bacon. Try serving this dip with bagel chips or multigrain crackers, and be thankful that your next leap will very likely be the leap home.

  • 1 package (10-12 slices) thick-cut bacon
  • 1 8 oz package cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 ½ cups shredded Swiss cheese (if you want to be fancy, try Gruyère)
  • 4 green onions, chopped (green part only)
  • ½ sliced almonds (roasted or smoked)

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Fry the bacon. Drain on paper towels, crumble it up to your liking.

Mix all seven ingredients in an oven-safe dish. Bake, uncovered, until golden on top and bubbly (about 15-20 minutes).

SPIKE'S ONION BLOSSOM
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"See, the genius of it is, you soak it in ice water for an hour so it holds its shape. Then you deep-fry it root-side up for about 5 minutes." Buffy The Vampire Slayer, "Empty Places"

Spike was one of Buffy's most layered characters. His character arc, drawn very broadly, went very bad guy, mildly bad, sort of good, would-be rapist, bad again, but not entirely his fault, almost love interest, really very good. His likes and dislikes were pretty specific, and suited how we understood the character (black leather, The Sex Pistols, etc), but his love for The Bronze's onion blossom was pretty incongruous with all we knew of Spike.

As a vampire, he gets no benefit from solid food, and really? It's a flower. This made his affinity for it almost charming, because everyone loves deep-fried flowering onions, even William the Bloody.

  • Vegetable oil (for frying)
  • 1 large Vidalia onion
  • 3 cups cold water
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ½ cup beer
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper

Peel the onion and cut off the top. Slice the onion in ¾ inch wedges, but do not cut all the way through, leave the thing attached on the bottom. As Spike says, soak it in cold water (but you don't need to wait a whole hour; 20-30 minutes should be sufficient. You'll know it's ready when you see the wedges start to open up). Drain and pat the onion dry.

Preheat the vegetable oil in a large, deep saucepan (you want the oil deep enough to fit the whole onion).
Mix eggs, beer, and milk in one medium-sized bowl, and the flour and baking powder in another. Dip onion into liquid mixture, then the flour mixture. Repeat. Throughout these two rounds of dipping, make sure the onion is getting pretty well-coated.

Carefully place the onion, "root-side up," in the hot oil, and fry until it's golden, but still tender (should be about 15 minutes; keep an eye on it). Drain well on paper towels. Sprinkle with cayenne pepper and salt, and avoid sun and crucifixes for a bit.

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