There is no need to rush or to prepare several types of appetizers when you are having guests over at the cocktail hour or for dinner. Instead go with a crowd-pleaser and put on your coffee table a grazing board. Since you are certain to find all the ingredients that you need at a good delicatessen near you, you can pull it off even at the last minute. You save more time since no individual bite assembly is required. When you shop, assume that one board will feed 4 to 6 persons as appetizers.
Chantelle Grady of the blog Little Things proposed in the Montreal issue of Relish three killer compositions. Relish is her food digital magazine.
The first option is a classic. You can serve pâté de foie with caramelized onions and toasted bread. For a non-fuss version, check out the caramelized onions recipe by Chuck Hughes that he puts in his grilled cheese sandwich.
You can’t go wrong with serving baked Camembert or Brie. It is so good that I suggest that you keep one ready to bake in your freezer all the time. Jamie Oliver bakes his directly on the wooden cheese box. Other chefs line a baking dish with parchment paper. I use a Brie baker because it is easier to serve the warm wheel of Camembert or Brie in a dish. Chantelle served her version with Serrano ham and toasted bread.
At last, you can get a finger-sized hors d’oeuvres cookbook that will not require you to stay up all night or cook all day. Why do I say that? It is not obvious when you look at the stunning food presentation but the recipes proposed by Peter Callahan have shortcuts. For example, his peace of pizza contains only 4 ingredients, which includes store-bought pizza dough and marinara sauce.
Who knew that spaghetti and meatballs could become so stylish? You can save time when hosting a dinner party by preparing one type of hors d’oeuvres. You can stretch it to two hors d’oeuvre types, if they are simple to make. Select one bite as your show-stopper element, plus prepare a batch of simply tasty canapes.
It is really simple to serve personal vodka with caviar blinis. Individual alcohol bottles add panache to a common drink. As a bonus, you do not have to clean the glasses after the party. I love this idea!
This stylish entertaining cookbook can also help you organize your next kids party. All kids will be in awe when they see the cute doggy canapes or the tiny fudge pops.
See how one utensil makes all the difference. Take clues from these superbly done scallop ceviche for serving any appetizers on a seashell. I am inspired by the stylish way they display the seashells on a fork. This method is also practical since your guests will grab their fork at the same time.
Cut your zucchini or cucumber lengthwise to achieve a more sophisticated look. This is a simple trick to enhance how you serve your vegetable skewers. And if you lack the time to make your own, you can always buy them at Cool & Simple (or Gastronomia).
The Bombay Sapphire media event gave us the occasion to learn new cocktail recipes. They collaborated with a local chef to pair each cocktail with an appetizer. This year, Eric Gonzales of Auberge Saint-Gabriel was the invited chef in Montreal. I learned several cooking tips from Eric. His food was delicious. I shared his recipes so you can try it at home while sipping your drink.
Merlin Griffiths showed us how to make his modern take on the classic French 75 cocktail. The addition of pear nectar adds a rich, fresh flavor that helps to combat the acidity of the lemon and champagne. I helped Merlin prepared the Sapphire French Highball at the Bombay Sapphire media event. We put it on tape. The images aren’t great due to the lights from the windows but Merlin gives good insights.
Sapphire French Highball Recipe
1 oz Bombay Sapphire
0.5 oz Lemon juice
0.5 oz Simple syrup – 2 parts sugar & 1 part boiling water; stir until dissolved and chill
1 oz Pear nectar/juice
Top with Champagne or Sparkling Wine
Garnish: lemon twist and edible gold flakes
Add the gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and pear nectar to a highball glass. Stir. Fill the glass with cracked ice (lightly smash some ice cubes). Top slowly with champagne and stir once more. Garnish with a long “shoestring” lemon twist and edible gold flakes for pizzazz.
If you do not find it at your local grocery store, know that edible gold flakes are available at Indian food stores.
Cooking with Gin
If you wish to cook with the Bombay Sapphire gin, Chef Eric Gonzales thinks that it seafood and gin are a perfect combination. You can go with scallops, urchin or mussels. For the event, Eric cooked us a tasty clam recipe.
Speakeasy Clam Recipe
Serves 1 dozen clams
Canned clams were a favorite during the prohibition era. You have to remember that there were no fridge at the time; so canned food was more popular. This recipe is a spin on “Classic Clams Casino”, a dish that was served in the popular restaurants and supper clubs in the 1920’s. The use of toasted crushed almonds in this recipe highlights the almond botanicals featured in Bombay Sapphire gin.
50 cl Olive oil
60 g Shallots, finely chopped
1 Clove garlic
10 cl Bombay Sapphire gin
2 small sticks of Liquorice (or fennel) – Liquorice sticks can be bought at the drugstore.
2 springs of Fresh thyme
Zest of one lemon
Sea salt, freshly ground pepper
Heat olive oil in a saucepan. Add pepper (to taste), clams and deglaze with a drizzle of gin. Add lemon zest, thyme, liquorice, salt and pepper. Cover and cook over low heat for 5 minutes. Uncover, remove the clams and leave to cool. Remove clams from their shells. Reduce the juices by half.
Clam and crab topping
125 g Snow crab meat
35 g chopped Italian parsley
20 g finely chopped fresh basil
35 g melted Butter
50 g shredded Parmesan
60 g Breadcrumbs
40 g crushed, roasted almonds
Zest and juice of one lemon to taste
Heat the olive oil in a saucepan. Sauté the shallots until soft, deglaze with the gin, reduce by half. Add the clams after cutting them in half, the crab meat, herbs, parmesan and season with lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper.
Mix the almonds, breadcrumbs and melted butter together. Preheat the oven to 375º F, place the clam shelves on a cookie sheet, garnish with the clam and crab mixture, top with breadcrumbs and bake for 5 minutes.
If you have dozens of servingware pieces, but still find you never have exactly the dish you need, it may be to look for more versatile options – like these two from Vacu Vin.
The “Bread & Dip” does double duty as a multi-functional service and storage piece. A ceramic tray provides vessels for multiple dips, while the custom fit bamboo cutting board provides a place to slice bread or cheese and also acts as the container’s cover to store leftovers. You could also consider serving fruit with multiple dips like yogurt, caramel and chocolate.
With six sizes that work individually or in combination, the “Serve & Stack” is a contemporary twist on the classic TV tray. They’re a perfect option if you’re planning an appetizer buffet since you can serve snacks and dips together in one dish. The double trays also allow you to keep foods separate to prevent flavours from overpowering one another. When it’s time to store the dishes, the “Serve & Stack” lives up to its name without taking up too much-needed kitchen cabinet storage.
If you are looking for a no-fuss appetizer to prepare that will be a crowd pleaser, check out this recipe by Matt Bittman. No need of cooking skills to prepare his Broiled Sardines With Lemon and Thyme.
It can be a challenge to come up with a creative Thanksgiving menu, especially if your guests are turkey-and-mashed-potato purists.
You can serve something special and satisfy traditional tastebuds by using typical Thanksgiving ingredients in surprising ways. Consider adding one or two of these dishes to your dining table, or if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, make it a truly memorable meal with our suggestions for Thanksgiving menu alternatives.
+ Sweet Potatoes with Pecans and Goat Cheese from Smitten Kitchen. Typically served as a side, sweet potatoes are a Thanksgiving must-have. But when thickly sliced and topped with a seasonal mixture that includes cranberries and pecans, they’re an unexpected appetizer.
+ The Winter Squash Dip is a flavourful, garlicky dip that can be made ahead of time, so you can spend time enjoying it with guests. From Martha Stewart.
+ Stir-fried Brussels Sprouts with Lemon and Parmesan from Simple Bites. Brussel sprouts have a bad rap; kids and adults alike tend to steer clear of this cruciferous veggie even when it’s in season. Surprise their taste buds with this stir-fried version. A healthy splash of lemon and a pinch of parm keep the flavour light, balancing out a typically heavy meal.
I keep on my fridge a pack of mini blinis. These Russian mini crepes come handy whenever I host an impromptu cocktail.
Sunday Suppers talked about the blini bar. Their concept is even simpler since they suggest that your guests make their own canapés. You can even add a friendly competition on whom made the best canapé. If you keep a jar of caviar on your pantry, you need 15 minutes to go at the grocery to grab the fresh ingredients. Then, add a few more minutes to style your blini bar and your drink bar. Voilà!
Last weekend, my husband bought a pouch of imported Burrata cheese. The real Burrata comes from Italy and naturally, they are the best. To tell you the truth, Burrata tastes even better in Italy since the fresher the Burrata, the best it tastes. You must know that it is a cheese that you must eat quickly. After two weeks, it will be too hard.
I read on CurdNerds that Burrata is essentially unspun mozzarella curds mixed with fresh cream (“burro” is Italian for butter) stuffed into sheets of pulled mozzarella. This little pouch is then wrapped in Asphodelus ramosus leaves, an herb with leaves similar to leeks.
I improvised how to serve it based on a list of ingredients provided by my friend Nathalie Rivard. It is really simple but so so delicious. Remember this if you have friends over that you wish to spoil. The good Burrata is expensive; it costs about $30 a ball in Montreal. It is so good that 4 people, 6 at the maximum, will eat this as an appetizer. Naturally, you could add a big antipasto plate to feed a group of 8 or 10 persons.
Recipe of Burrato with vine tomatoes, olive oil, old balsamic vinegar and basil
The first drink pairing combination from last week Bombay Sapphire event can be done if your guests announce themselves 10 minutes before the event.
Merlin Griffiths entertained us with the hoax story behind the Tom Collins drink. The first written recipe of the Tom Collins was in 1986 edition of The Bar-Tender’s Guide by Jerry Thomas. You can memorize the story and tell your friends as you prepare their drink.
Tom Collins Recipe
This basic drink is build in the glass. A lemon squeezer and a bar spoon are the only bar tools you need. Prepare an ice bucket with a big spoon if you expect a big crowd. Take the time to freshly squeeze the lemon juice; we can taste the difference. Avoid the powder mix.
1 large measure of your favorite gin – which happens, for us, to be Bombay Sapphire
Freshly squeezed lemon juice of half a lemon
A hint of simple syrup
Chilled soda water
Pour the gin in a highball or Collins glass followed by the lemon juice that you can squeeze over the glass and the sugar syrup.
Fill the glass with ice cubes
Top with soda water
Mix the ingredients with the spoon
Garnish with a lemon slice and sprig of fresh mint.
It is a refreshing drink to serve all summer. Although I love the mojito, this is so much easier to make that it is good to have it on your repertoire. For a twist on the Tom Collins, replace the simple syrup with maple syrup, honey or even passion fruit juice.
Prosciutto and Sundried Tomato Rolls
This recipe by chef Louis-Francois Marcotte is pretty good. You can make a few extra.
12 Prosciutto Very Slim Slices – ask your butcher to align the slices on after the other to cut your preparation time
1 ball of buffalo mozzarella, cut in 12 slices
6 Sundried tomatoes, cut in 2 – place the tomatoes 2 minutes in warm water and dry them in a tea towel before cutting them in 2
1 cup of arugula
Old Balsamic vinegar
Freshly Ground Pepper
Put a few arugula leaves on each prosciutto slice.
Deposit the cheese and the halved sundried tomato
Make a roll.
Place the 12 rolls on a platter, lightly drizzle the balsamic vinegar and ground fresh pepper to taste.