Weeknight Entertaining - An Appetizer Party|
by Linda Larsen
Linda Larsen gives you the tools (and tasty recipes!) that you need to host a wonderful appetizer party with a minimum of fuss and worry on a busy weeknight. Part of her weeknight entertaining column, this week she shares great tips along with tried-and-true recipes like Swedish Nuts, Sweet and Sour Cocktail Meatballs, Filo Onion Rolls, and Parmesan Sticks.
I just love appetizer parties. They encourage mingling, laughter and conversation like no other type of gathering. The really fun part of making appetizers is using more exotic ingredients and inventive combinations, because when you're offering bites of this and that, people will be more willing to taste and try new ideas. Pick and choose from the list below, and add your own favorite recipes. Make sure to think about balancing hot and cold foods, crisp and soft textures, and sweet and savory flavors. Varying the colors of the food is also important, for making an interesting table that has visual depth and looks so appetizing.
My most successful appetizer party was a surprise party for my husband's 40th birthday. I made all the recipes ahead of time, at my house, then had some help the day of the party to get him out of the house and to set up. With careful planning and a lot of luck, he was taken totally by surprise. After the work of setting up the tables, all I needed to do was check the platters every 20-30 minutes and replenish as needed. It was a total smash!
Organization is a key part of this party. All of these recipes can be made ahead. There are some last minute cooking and preparation, but that just involves popping things in the oven and taking them out again. Make sure you have enough platters and serving utensils, and set them all out the day before the party. Label everything, so you're not searching for a tray when food is ready to be plated. Making a timetable will really help too. List each recipe, when it will be made, if it comes from the refrigerator or freezer, or needs to be baked or grilled before serving. You do need to be whisking in and out of the kitchen more with this type of party, but the richness and variety of the food you'll be offering makes more work worth it. And I do mean rich - these are not diet foods. But it's a party, and everything is bite-sized. You can also offer fresh fruit and roasted vegetables so your guests have a choice.
Since you're offering small bites, I think a good balance is to offer one big dessert - a cake or pie from the bakery, or an ice cream dessert. Give your guests a choice of beverages - hot tea, some fun fruit punches, coffee, and that ubiquitous chilled sparkling water. If you want to serve alcohol, I would suggest limiting your selection to some light wines, so the food really shines through.
Have fun with presentation. Gather eye-catching trays - glass, silver, wood, and copper all add interest to your table. Vary the height of the platters by using cake stands, or setting books or boxes under your tablecloth to raise platters. Add fresh flowers to your table, using one of the wonderful arrangements featured at Perfect Entertaining, or place small blossoms in tiny vases or votive candle holders and scatter them all around the table. It helps to have more than one table to encourage circulation. At the very least, have one spot for the food and another for beverages. I also like to separate cold and hot food. This makes it easier to replenish the food, and you can see at a glance what needs to be refreshed.
Follow these tips, organize carefully, send out your invitations in advance, and relax and have fun at your party. You are guaranteed to be a total hit.
The RecipesFilo Onion RollsRoasted Pork CubesBrie With Blueberry ChutneySwedish NutsBacon Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes
Sweet And Sour Cocktail MeatballsTomato Pesto TorteOrange Muffins With Smoked TurkeyParmesan Sticks
Next week...A Dessert Party.
Linda Larsen is a freelance Home Economist with a degree in Food Science from the University of Minnesota and a degree from St. Olaf College. She has been on the Pillsbury Bake-Off staff since 1987, and was in charge of Internet Recipe Search in 2000. Linda has developed recipes for Pillsbury and Malt-O-Meal, presented food to taste panels, held cooking seminars, and owned her own catering business "The Perfect Occasion". She loves to cook and entertain, write about food, talk about it, plan parties, read cookbooks and develop recipes. She has a cookbook collection of at least 1000 books and reads them as though they were novels.
Linda's first meal was a Mother's Day dinner from the Betty Crocker Children's cookbook, prepared when she was 11. Since then she has hosted wedding and baby showers, birthday parties, business dinners and cocktail parties, and wonderful simple meals for friends. Join her and learn simple and elegant ways to entertain your family and friends during the week.
Linda is also the Home and Décor host for Bella Online. Make sure to visit her excellent site for design tips, articles, links, and recommendations relating to home décor.
She is also the new About.com guide for Busy Cooks.
Linda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.