The Cookstr 10: Ten Killer Apps
Let’s move past the fact that Christmas lights and cookie-decorating kits went on sale in some places the day after Halloween. We’ll file that under F for “freakin’ ridiculous.” But we’re ready for the holidays now, it being December and all. (By the way, did anyone else hear that massive whooshing noise as November sped by?)
And with the holidays come many kinds of parties: dinner parties, open house parties, potluck parties, and one of our all-time favorites, cocktail parties. Little bite-sized phyllo-wrapped nuggets, pretty drinks, sprigs of rosemary nestled amongst the crostini…oh, oh, oh, who’s feeling festive now?
Make these for your own party, or bring a platter to a friends’ house and guarantee instant favorite-guest status.
1. Ruth Reichl’s Hot Crab and Artichoke Dip. Slightly retro, but not less appealing for it, this classic hot dip is great with crudités, crostini, or–if no one’s looking–a spoon. You can make the dip ahead and pop it into the oven as people arrive. Any recipe that includes the phrase “bake until bubbling” gets extra points in our book.
2. Nigella Lawson’s Bar Nuts. Salty nuts are always a welcome companion to just about any libation, but this spiced version is a hit-it-out-of-the-park home run. So simple, and seasoned with rosemary and touch of brown sugar. In about 15 or so minutes from start to finish, your cocktail will never feel lonely again.
3. Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso’s Salmon Mousse. This is fresh tasting, and light and so pretty. You can serve it in a bowl, with crackers or toasts for spreading, or fill a decorative mold with the mixture and turn it out onto a serving platter. It’s a great make-ahead appetizer.
4. Anne Byrn’s Little Crisp Crab Cakes. Another timeless little number. Everyone knows the best crab cakes are stuffed with crab and not a whole lot else, and these have Old Bay Seasoning for that Chesapeake flavor, and a nice crunch from dusting of panko bread crumbs. You can make the mixture ahead and fry them just before serving, or re-warm them in the oven if that works best.
5. Claudia Roden’s Little Cheese Fillo Rolls. These dainty little feta-filled rolls, or “cigars,” make ideal appetizers and canapés. Fillo (also spelled filo or phyllo) is thin and you should expect to rip a sheet or two your first time out the gate, but soon you’ll be flinging it around like a pro. These should be served hot, but they can be made in advance and reheated.
6. Amy Farges’ Mini Pitas with Honey Mushrooms, Blue Cheese, and Port. Blue cheese lovers will fall head over shiitakes for these mini pitas crammed with a mixture of wine-infused mushrooms, cheese, and a crunch from finely chopped walnuts. Make sure the bread is fresh; if not, it breaks as you try to cut and stuff it.
7. Lucinda Scala Quinn’s Coconut Shrimp. The nutty toasted coconut complements the shrimp flavor perfectly, and these look downright gorgeous on the platter. The sauce has a real kick from chopped fresh peppers and a sploosh of rum.
8. Michael Chiarello’s Crispy Sausage-Stuffed Olives. This appetizer has southern Italian attitude in every morsel. Everyone will be impressed at how you packed big tastes and textures into such a bite-sized snack. These make a nice partner for a platter of cheeses, and can be served warm or at room temp.
9. Dave DeWitt’s Beef Satay with Spicy Peanut Sauce. Frankly, you could dip a tongue depressor in this sauce and it would taste amazing. But that would be silly. Much better to make these savory coconut-y/gingery beef satays instead.
10. Diane Rossen Worthington’s Corn-Leek Cakes with Caviar, Smoked Salmon and Crème Fraîche. These delicate mini corn cakes look especially inviting on a large round platter decorated with watercress or dill sprigs. These are pretty fancy, but not as much work as you would think, and perfect if you’re looking for something to impress.