The holiday (party) season is almost upon us! One of the best parties I ever threw consisted of a bunch of small appetizers - amuse bouche, in French. It means ‘entertain the mouth’. I love this idea because it didn’t require me to make a big meal or provide seating around a table, so I was able to invite more ladies. This party idea suggests you have each lady bring an item, but you may choose to make them yourself. I’ve included some recipes from Finger Food which I made and liked, but you can use any appetizer recipes. I’ve also included my recipe for mulled wine, at the end. This is a Thanksgiving favorite in my family!
Have each person bring a plate of small bites. Suggested recipes are listed. The hostess is responsible for set up and clean up.
4 c. Mixed Nuts
1 egg white
2 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp cumin
Preheat the oven to 300F. Spread the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 10 min. Whisk the egg whites until frothy, add the nuts, curry powder, cumin and 1 tsp salt. Toss together and return to the oven for another 10-15 minutes. Cool.
Wild Mushroom Pate on Melba Toasts
¾ oz dried wild mushrooms (porcini, chanterelles, morels)
¼ c butter
¾ lb Portobello mushrooms, sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tbsp brandy
¼ c heavy whipping cream
1 tsp fresh thyme
¼ tsp juniper berries ground
30 mini melba toasts
crème fraiche (to serve)
30 fresh Italian parsley leaves
Soak the dried mushrooms in a bowl with 1 cup hot (not boiling) water for 2 hours or until soft. Drain, saving 2 tablespoons of the soaking liquid. Discard any pieces of mushroom that are still tough and woody after soaking.
Melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat, then add the mushrooms and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, then add the dried mushrooms and soaking liquid and cook for another 5 – 8 minutes, stirring regularly. Pour in the brandy and cook for 2 minutes or until evaporated. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
Transfer the cooked mushroom mixture to a food processor with the cream, thyme, juniper berries and ½ teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper and blend for 4 – 5 minutes or until finely chopped.
Spoon the pate into a bowl and refrigerate, covered for at least 3 hours or until chilled. Put a teaspoon of pate on each toast and top with ½ teaspoon crème fraiche and fresh parsley leaf.
Polenta wedges with mozzarella and tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil
1 2/3 c polenta
¾ c grated Parmesan
2 ½ tbsp pesto
1 c thinly sliced mozzarella
12 cherry tomatoes cut in quarters
½ c fresh basil, larger leaves torn
Lightly grease an 8 X 12 inch baking pan with the olive oil. Bring 4 cups lightly salted water to a boil in a saucepan. Once the water is boiling, add the polenta in a steady stream, stirring constantly to keep lumps from forming.
Reduce the heat to very low and simmer, stirring for 20 – 25 minutes or until the polenta starts to come away from the sides of the pan.
Stir the parmesan into the polenta and season with salt and pepper.
Spoon the polenta into the baking pan, smooth the top with the back of a wet spoon, and leave for 1 hour or until set. Once the polenta has set, carefully transfer it onto a cutting board and cut into 24 2-inch squares. Cut each square into 2 triangles. Cook the polenta in batches on a preheated, ridged grill pan for 2-3 minutes on each side or until warmed through.
Spread each triangle with 1 teaspoon of the pesto, top with a slice of mozzarella and a tomato quarter. Season and toast under the broiler for 1-2 minutes or until the cheese is just starting to melt. Garnish with basil and serve immediately.
Hazelnut cream squares
4 eggs separated
½ c superfine sugar
½ c self-rising flour
2/3 c ground hazelnuts
2/3 c unsalted butter, softened
½ c chocolate hazelnut spread (Nutella)
½ c confectioners’ sugar, sifted
cocoa powder to dust
Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease an 8-inch, shallow, square cake pan and line the bottom with baking parchment.
Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer in a bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar, beating until thick and glossy. Beat the egg yolks into the mixture, one at a time. Sift the flour over the mixture, add the ground hazelnuts, and fold in with a metal spoon. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter with 2 tablespoons boiling water in a small bowl, then fold into the sponge mixture. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes or until cooked. Leave in the pan for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool. Cut the sponge in half horizontally through the center.
Beat the hazelnut spread and the remaining butter with an electric mixer until very creamy. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar, then gradually add 3 teaspoons of boiling water and beat until smooth. Fill the cake with the icing and refrigerate until the filling is firm. Dust with the cocoa powder, then cut into squares.
Inexpensive Red Wine - I usually buy a Bota Box of Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon
Mulling Spices - I make my own by wrapping whole cloves, whole allspice, whole nutmeg (cracked open), whole cardamom split, and whole star anise in cheesecloth and tying it up with cinnamon sticks (World Market is a good place to buy inexpensive spices)
Pour the wine into a large pot or crock pot with the mulling spices and simmer for until hot. In the crock pot, this can warm for several hours. Serve in mugs with the sliced oranges and sugar to taste.
Happy Holiday Season!