Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cocktail Party, Nu?

Hello, Chickens!  I hope Fall is as glorious where you are as it is here in Chicago.  I love the brisk air, the falling leaves, the football...well, some of the football, I am a Bears fan after all, which is ruinous at best. 

Remember last fall when I catered this party for my Dad? It went very well, and all the staff and board members had a terrific time.
So this year he asked me to do it again.  Since we had gone full on gourmet for last year, this year I wanted to do something where I could riff on a theme.  And being a Jewish organization, what could be more fun than cocktail party versions of items you might find at a classic Jewish delicatessen?

Charming Suitor was a huge help, brainstorming with me about what items would be delicious and how to miniaturize and elevate them to their highest potential.  Here was the result:

Some tips I've shared before....I like to stick with white and wood for serving pieces.  They show off the food to its best advantage, and pieces are usually readily available for very little money at places like Target and IKEA and Home Goods.

For a theme party like this one, pick your theme, make a list of all the foods you associate with that theme, and then think of how to make a one or two-bite version.  Be sure to remember dietary restrictions, and make sure you have options for vegetarians besides crudites. 

Mini Matzo Ball Soup in Espresso Cups

These were dead easy.  Made my regular matzo ball recipe, but made the balls with a scant 1/4 tsp. of batter.  They were about the size of a marble once cooked.  I skewered each one with a blanched sliceof baby carrot and put the skewers in espresso cups filled with chicken consomme.  Guests ate the matzo balls and carrot off the skewer and then drank the soup.

Borscht Bites

Borscht is a classic, and beets are in season.  I took red and golden beets, tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper and orange zest and wrapped them tightly in foil.  Then I roasted them at 400 for about 40 minutes until they were tender.  I peeled and cooled them, cut into cubes and topped with a squirt of sour cream seasoned with salt and lemon zest, and a sprinkle of chopped chives. 

Deviled Eggs with Chicken Bacon

I made a simple deviled egg, and topped with a piece of crispy chicken skin.  I just asked my butcher for some pieces of skin, they should have this from making all those boneless skinless breasts everyone loves.  I took the skins, and laid them on a parchment-lined sheet pan, and seasoned with salt and pepper.  I put another piece of parchment on top and weighted it down with a second sheet pan.  Bake at 400 for about 20-30 minutes until the fat is fully rendered and the skin is golden brown and crispy.  Let cool and break into small pieces for garnishing your eggs.  Will store for a couple of days in a ziploc bag.

White Anchovy Herring Canapes

I'm not a huge fan of herring, but it is classic.  So I updated it by using a marinated white anchovy instead.  Rounds of basic cocktail rye topped with a sour cream horseradish sauce, then a half an anchovy, a little slice of pickled red onion, and a sprig of dill.

Mini Chicago Hot Dog Buffet

No Chicago deli is complete without Vienna Beef dogs on a soft bun "dragged thru the garden" on the menu.  And lucky for me, they make a miniature version, just three inches long!  Your favorite bakery can custom make the rolls, or you can cut regular sized ones in half.  The toppings for a Chicago Dog are:  Yellow mustard (preferably Plochmans), neon green pickle relish, chopped onions, tomato slices, pickle spear, sport peppers, and a sprinkle of celery salt.  Sauerkraut is an acceptable addition.  Ketchup is strictly forbidden for anyone over the age of 8.  To keep with the mini theme, I used cherry tomatoes and small pickles.  The condiment holder is actually a bar tray used for drink garnishes, and I got it at a local restaurant supply house.

Mini Noodle Kugels wth Apple Compote and Creme Fraiche

Sweet noodle kugel is a favorite at all the holidays, my recipe is here.  To make a smaller version, I swapped out extra fine egg noodles for the usual wide versions, and baked in a mini muffin tin.  Instead of the traditional toppings of apple sauce and sour cream, I upgraded to an apple compote I made by cooking a small dice of apples in a little bit of butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon until the juices caramelized.  A little creme fraiche and these one-bite wonders disappeared quickly!

Chicken Liver Mousse

I can't do the organ meats, remember?  But chopped liver is as deli as can be.  Lucky for me, Charming Suitor came to the rescue with this fluffy and delicious chicken liver mousse.  He sauteed the livers in chicken fat with shallots, and then pureed them with some cream until smooth.  He seasoned to taste with salt and pepper and then let the puree chill completely.  He whipped some more cream to soft peaks and folded the chilled mousse into the cream for a very light texture.  I scooped the mousse onto Chinese spoons and topped with fried shallots and chopped chives.

Mini Bagels

I halved mini sesame and poppyseed bagels and gave them a generous schmear of chive cream cheese. A slice of lox and sprig of dill, and DIY garnishes of sliced baby cucumber, sliced cherry tomato, and capers.

Hummus and Crudites, Pumpernickel Pretzels and Beef Sticks

You always need some easy nibbly bits at a party like this.   I filled in the buffet with hummus, with baby zucchini, baby carrots and snap peas for dipping, as well as beef salami sticks and fabulous Pumpernickel Onion Pretzel twists from Snyder's, which were as big a hit as anything I cooked!

So, what are your favorite foods that you have miniaturized for a cocktail party?  Do share with the class....

Yours in Good Taste,
The Polymath