Q. Hi Jordan. What is a relatively cheap appetizer/finger food for me to make for a small party I’m having? I can handle most methods of cooking and prep, but I want to prep it then leave it.
A. Hey Matt! First, my advice would be to make quite a lot of a few things, rather than small amounts of tons of different appetizers/hors d’oeuvres. If you’re not serving dinner later, I’d put out two or three savory appetizers and one or two sweet dishes (in addition to a few little bowls of nuts, candies, etc).
Next, what to serve: I did a lot of entertaining when I lived in LA, and my go-to last-minute finger food solution was to top crackers with a bit of fruity spread (I like blackberry and raspberry), a thin slice of good-quality salami, and a thin slice of cheese. So simple, and everybody loved it.
What you serve depends, to some extent, on the feel of your party: if you’re going for sort of elegant and formal, try these ideas:
– They’re a little frou, but I really like tea sandwiches because they’re inexpensive and easy to make in vast quantities, and because you can make lots of different kinds (so your vegetarian/vegan friends will have options). My favorite combos are cream cheese & cucumber and egg & cress.
– These smoked salmon hors d’oeuvres are so, so delicious, and very pretty.
– Soups served in teacups are so unexpected and festive…and my butternut squash soup recipe is easy and affordable. If you’re serving a larger group, just go for clear plastic glasses – you don’t want any broken china!
– Jamie Oliver’s Amalfi Baked Lemons (you can prep these in advance and then stick them in the oven at the last minute). Just cut the ends off of lemons, and then cut them in half crossways so you get two 1″ circles. Scoop out the pulp, and then place the lemon wheels on waxed paper (shoot for 2 per person). Set the following inside each lemon wheel: fresh mozzarella, a basil leaf, half an anchovy filet, and half a cherry tomato. Sprinkle on a little salt & pepper, and bake at 400F until oozy (about ten minutes). Serve alongside grilled toasts.
– Radishes with butter and fancy salt (tres pretty and French, and radishes are excellent right about now).
And for a more casual party, try these:
– Macaroni & Cheese Balls (this recipe, which I tried at Morgan’s holiday brunch, is amazing). To make them into finger food, roll the mac and cheese into balls, freeze for a few hours, and then dip first in an egg/milk mixture and then in a breading mixture before frying in oil (click here for more detailed instructions).
– Baked Sweet Potato Fries (portion them out into paper cups in advance).
– Anything having to do with Jell-O.
– Jamie Oliver’s Cannellini Bean & Garlic Crostini (both Jamie Oliver recipes, incidentally, are from the very excellent Jamie’s Italy). Pound some rosemary sprigs in a mortar and pestle; add a little olive oil and set aside. Fry 2 sliced garlic cloves in olive oil until golden, then add 1 3/4 c. drained, rinsed cannellini beans and simmer 7 minutes. Mash up beans with salt & pepper and a little red wine vinegar until nicely blended, then smear over hot crostini and drizzle over a little rosemary oil. If you make these on the larger side they’ll be hearty enough to keep your hungrier guests happy all evening.
Any other ideas for Matt??