This time of year, hosts and hostesses turn their thoughts to the cocktail party, to pick-up appetizers that aren’t too much trouble—no individual bruschetta, thank you—but are distinctive and good. Here are some random thoughts.
I ate lunch the other day in a restaurant that offered deviled eggs as a starter, but the suggestion to ask for the day’s flavor threw me. It turned out the day’s flavor was Serrano chiles, lime and I forget what else. I passed. I don’t want a spicy hot surprise with my deviled eggs. I do often devil an egg for my lunch and here’s my secret: put the egg in cold water (add a drop or two of vinegar to prevent the white from spreading) early in the morning, bring it to a boil, turn off the heat and let it sit—yes, all morning. It will be easy to peel and will divide into two equal parts. I like mine plain—add salt and pepper, mayo, a bit of yellow mustard, and a chopped scallion to the yolk and you have the filling. But the variations are endless—you can put pickle relish in, you can top with caviar, bacon, shrimp, cornichons, whatever strikes your fancy. I love deviled eggs, and they seem to be trendy these days, so enjoy! Great appetizers but don’t do them for a large crowd—too much work.
If I’ve written about fromage fort before, I apologize for duplicating, but it’s such a great appetizer I’ll run the risk of repeating. Jacques Pepin first put it into print, saying his father used to do this. But I’m not stealing or plagiarizing—it’s all over magazines, the internet, wherever. You know those odds and ends of cheese that are just going to mold and go in the trash? Catch 1 lb. of them before they go bad (you do know you can cut the mold off and they’ll be fine, don’t you?); throw them in the food processor with three or four cloves of garlic, a half cup of dry white wine, and a half teaspoon of black pepper. Blend into a paste and serve on crackers. If you use blue cheese or Roquefort, it changes the whole character—good, but the blue cheese dominates. Also great with leftover cheddar, Manchego, whatever you have. I do it every so often just to clean out the cheese drawer. And this keeps longer than individual bits of cheese.
Finally try bourbon hot dogs, long a favorite of my children. Cut two lbs. of hot dogs into ½ inch pieces. Make a sauce of ¾ c. bourbon, 2 c. ketchup, ½ c. brown sugar packed, and 2 Tbsp. minced onion. Simmer the sauce and hot dogs an hour; then serve with toothpicks (and napkins, because they do drip!)
Enjoy. And happy holiday entertaining.