It’s a party, it’s a party, party, it’s a party, party weekend … um … I mean month. December is the party month for most of us young Americans, so bring on the holiday bashes—whether thrown by employers, friends or family—just relax and enjoy, right?
Well, just hold on a second. What if you happen to be hosting one of these seasonal affairs or tasked with supplying a dish for the celebration? That means the pressure’s really on. Remember it’s extremely important to not be lame! Don’t be that guy who runs by Publix after work and nabs one of those “distinctive” party platters. Don’t do it. Instead, put a little thought into what you’d like to serve or eat. Now’s the time to give all your friends’ palates a break from the usual Taco Bell fare. It’s your chance to show off your hip foodie side.
Last week, I tried to convince y’all of the joys sharing a simple, well-executed yet extremely delicious salmon entrée. That entrée recipe is just one of the many ways in which you can impress even your most discerning guests with the fruits of your skillful cooking techniques. But party fare does not consist of entrées alone. No, sir. Many casual holiday fêtes are centered around the cocktail hour. Cocktails are rather lonely without their best friend: the noble hors d’oeuvre.
A hors d’oeuvre, by definition, is a one-bite to three-bite hand-held savory dish, served outside of the meal. This makes it different from an appetizer, which is served as part of the meal. In other words, munchies in one hand and a beverage in the other—kinda of like heaven, don’t ya think?
Not to make this difficult, but there are actually three kinds or categories of hors d’oeuvres. The first is the most formal: the Tea Sandwich. This is a small sandwich, easily consumed in two or three bites. It’s constructed of two pieces of untoasted bread slices with a thin, evenly spread filling. Uniformity is crucial in executing a proper tea sandwich—no room for shoemaker sloppiness here. BTW, I adore tea sandwiches. I can and have eaten these delicate little gems by the dozen, so make plenty if I’m on the guest list.
The next kind of hors d’oeuvre has the lofty title of canapé. A canapé consists of a toasted bread base for any conceivable topping. An especially elegant version might include sliced, roasted beef tenderloin poised atop a picante horseradish and watercress crème and garnished with a petite wedge of Camembert cheese. YUM! The third kind is simply called hors d’oeuvre. As long as you heed the hand-held item edible in one to three bites rule, you can be as creative as Willy Wonka. Here’s a delightful chipotle shrimp salad recipe that goes great atop any toasted bread base you wish. I really like to slum it and use saltines
Chef Bill’s Chipotle Shrimp Salad
•1/2 pound shrimp, peeled & deveined
•1 Tbsp. sour cream
•1 Tbsp. mayonnaise
•1/4 cup red pepper, brunoised
•1/4 cup scallions, sliced
•1 tsp. Old Bay seafood seasoning
•1 tsp. shallot, brunoised
•1 Tbsp. lime juice
•1 tsp. lime zest
•1 tsp. cilantro, chopped
•2 tsp. chipotle, minced
1. Poach shrimp in court bouillon. Chill, dice into half-inch pieces.
2. Mix all the other ingredients, then add enough of that to the shrimp to moisten.
3. Adjust seasonings to taste.
4. Enjoy the party!
Email Chef Bill Thompson, owner of Fernandina’s Amelia Island Culinary Academy, at [email protected], for inspiration and to get Cheffed-Up!