Tonight I was giving some thought to hosting an appetizer social.
The beauty of making appetizers is they are generally pretty quick to put together. You can make one specific base and then add different ingredients. This will accomplish two things. One, you will be able to make a fair amount at one time and two, you’ll save yourself from spending your rent money for the month.
One appetizer I find very simple is crostinis. Crostinis start with a baguette cut into thin slices (on the diagonal). Then they are brushed with olive oil and either grilled lightly or toasted in the oven. There’s your base. And you can get at least four dozen pieces per baguette.These can be made a few days ahead of time.
The best part about crostinis is what you put on them. The sky is the limit. Depending on whether or not your social has a theme will dictate the toppings. Here are a few examples: Honey goat cheese with caramelized onions, Cranberry walnut goat cheese with roast chicken, sun-dried tomato and basil with fresh mozzarella, curried chicken salad, fresh salsa with Monterey jack cheese, roast duck with lingonberry cream cheese and brie. Here are 6 examples. That’s six completely different apps. Do you just happen to have some soft-boiled quail eggs from dinner?? You never know? Add that with a fresh dill aioli. Simple appetizers that look expensive. Crostinis are also good for dips like spinach and artichoke.
I like to make chicken tender bite size pieces. This is probably going to be the best recipe I ever share. I swear I get more letters from this recipe and I really don’t get it. I can make swans out of sugar and cream puffs like the French but a simple chicken tender is the best requested recipe. All you have to do (and gluten-free friends, no one will ever know you’re serving GF) is take two gallon zip lock bags. Well, that’s not all you have to do. In one bag add 1/2 cup of mayonnaise, ranch dressing or even caesar dressing. In the other bag add 2 cups of panko style breadcrumbs (yes, even Gf breadcrumbs like Panebelle work the best), 1/4 cup Asiago cheese, salt pepper and I like to add a teaspoon of Cajun seasoning but that’s optional. Cut your chicken into bite size pieces and add to the mayo zip lock. Seal and toss to coat. Then in small batches, add to the breadcrumb bag and toss to coat. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 400° for about 10 to 15 minutes. That’s it!! Throw the bags away and easy cleanup too! I’m not Heloise but I will find a way to eliminate the dish step if I can. Remember the parchment blog?? Easy cleanup! Serve these with a ranch dressing, southwest style dipping sauce or even coat with a buffalo sauce. heck, do all three and combined with about appetizers, you have nine to choose from! And this party is just starting!
Here’s one that takes a little longer but let’s class it up a bit. You’ll need small wooden planks or boards. Four ounce canning jars (see the picture) will be perfect for adding condiments. You’ll also need small butter knives and those annoying little lobster picks with the tiny fork on the end. I say annoying because when I do the dishes, I stick myself every time but on a display like this, it looks nice and functions well. Now the fun part:
First you pick a main ingredient. It can be duck sausage, thinly sliced roast turkey, smoked salmon, italian sausages or even vegetarian with roast vegetables…whatever you have or want to use. Then you pick a nice homemade cracker or flatbread cracker but choose a good one. No place for Ritz here. Now the canning jars. It should complement what you have for the main ingredient. So the smoked salmon could have capers in one, pickled red onion in another and maybe a nice herbed cream cheese with dill. The roast turkey could have a pesto mayonnaise, caramelized onions, chilled cranberry sauce, some chutney and maybe some of those caramelized onions. Do you see where I’m going with this?? It can be as easy or as intricate as you want. It’s elegant and it gives people choices. It’s a great way to please the guest because they get to choose what they want. It’s also a great conversation piece. Remember, people eat with their eyes first. If it looks good, the brain has already conversed with the belly and it’s going to taste great.
Sometime picking a theme can be fun. I had a friend who called me and asked me to match up some wonderful wines he purchased during a trip to Africa with the appetizers. I made a barbecued ostrich empanadas as one of the main appetizers. I have to tell you, it was the conversation piece of the party. No one had ever eaten ostrich and couldn’t believe it was even possible to get. Believe me, there are specialty shops where just about everything is possible. I’ve been doing this for a very long time and after many years, you learn the right people to contact even when it’s ostrich. By the way, empanadas are a cream cheese pastry dough similar to pie dough and all you do is roll the dough out and place your filling in the middle. Fold it over like a half-moon and seal. I’ll share with you the recipe for the dough a bit later. Send me a message asap if someone happens to ask you for ostrich empanadas this weekend. I hardly believe it’ll happen but I’m here for you if it does.
You can see that an appetizer social can be done quite simply. I call it a social because a party sounds like too much work. A social implies maybe some relaxing beverages and great conversation. A party is anxiety. It will show in your presentation. A social is relaxing. The host should never be too busy to be social. Preparation should be simple and easily executed.
If you have some appetizers you want to recommend, feel free to post them here with pictures! I’d love to see them and ofcourse share them with everyone.
For those interested, I’m available for socials. Feel free to contact me and I’ll take the stress away from you so you can relax and socialize.