Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Prepared Hors d' Oeuvres for drinks

Having got the booze; and something to mix it with, a party must have some snacks. Thomas Mario goes over some cocktail snacks that are great to have on hand in case a group pops over, or in case a bunny pops under (insert snarky laugh). Some of the snack choices that he serves up may not be what most Americans in 2011 think of as party food. I love smoky, briny, fishy bits of food and that type of fare loves booze! So let's hash through the 1971 snack list and I will, of course, add my two cents.

  • Anchovies: I know. I have heard the same thing from people over and over. " I don't like anchovies. I never eat them on my pizza!" Not all anchovies are made the same. Look for white anchovies. If you have a good gourmet market look for them from Italy and oil packed. Some markets also cure their own and they are so yummy. They make a martini taste as good as cold vodka and caviar taste together for a lot less!
  • Anchovy Paste: I only use this if I am making my own Ceasar dressing or making a Putenesca sauce. For a cocktail party on it's own or with crackers... I don't know about that.
  • Caviar: We can't get Beluga. Sevruga is hard to find and very costly. So why not go domestic. The University of Georgia harvests some pretty amazing stuff at about $58 an ounce.  I also really love Idaho white sturgeon caviar from Hagerman, Idaho. It is very clean and delicious. Experiment and don't be afraid to try different varieties especially if you want to swank up your party and you don't have a lot of time to prep. A few fish eggs laid like jewels on a store bought Bellini or cracker with creme freche or sour cream and a sprig of dill takes no time but your guests feel really special!
  • Cheese: Mario goes into some very specific cheeses here. Bottom line- a cheese plate needs a soft, a hard and a blue. With these three cheeses there will be a match of flavors with wine and cocktails. In addition, you will please most. I usually garnish my cheese tray with whatever fruit looks good in the market. Grapes are the easiest, and fig jam. Never heard of fig jam? It's there, next to the mint jelly and the like- 2 shelves up from the peanut butter in most stores. Keep in on hand. It sort of makes an impromptu cheese plate feel like you know what your doing even if you are just "winging" it.
  • Clams: Not bearded. Smoked in oil. I like this but many a party goer these days wouldn't touch it.
  • Cockles: These are small English clams in vinegar or water. If you don't have a good specialty market don't bother with this.
  • Cocktail crackers, snacks, etc.: Buy what looks good. Crackers of a couple of types should be stocked in the pantry because they are great with cheese plates, pates, hummus and whatever else you have edible in the fridge. I love popcorn and I will often pop some with "fancy" toppings for parties. Try rosemary and butter, chocolate shavings and orange zest or Cajun seasoning. Even salt and fresh pepper with real butter or olive oil will satisfy.
  • Cod Liver: I don't know. I thought that the only thing called this was a supplement that really old people take?
  • Eels: Maybe canned are good but I have only had it in sushi. Party packs of sushi from your local store are common cocktail party fare but I think it lacks creativity at this point. It is almost a more "fresh" approach to get some really good canned seafood and offer it up like a kitsch buffet than to throw down rubbery vomit inducing sushi made hours before at a large chain market. My soap box just got tall. Stepping down now.
  • Fish Balls: I don't know but they must be so small. I don't know how many you would need to feed people. Maybe they multiply.
  • Frog's Legs: I have had these before but I have never had them hanging out in the pantry waiting for a cocktail party to happen. Mario recommends them smoked in oil but I have never seen them that way. Skip this one if you want your friends to actually stay for drinks. 
  • Ham: Finally a pork product. Get the good stuff. Something a butcher would cut for you. Don't buy the crap hanging in the grocery store display that may have been packaged in 1971 for all of the preservatives. Buy American versions of prosciutto and sorrento if you don't want to pay import prices.
  • Herring: My husband comes from a German and Polish family. They love herring. That's all.
  • Meatballs: Don't serve prepackaged meatballs in sauce to your guests. That would be the same as serving little smokies at your party. Unless you were having a retro party this would be bad.
  • Mushrooms: I think that marinated mushrooms are icky but if you like them go for it.
  • Mussels: Smoked in oil. I love them but I like smoky, fishy stuff. I want to drink more when I eat it.
  • Nuts: Besides crackers and popcorn and cheese this is the most loved no brainer snack of all. Just put them in nice dishes. Don't pop a can of peanuts and expect to get Mr. Smooth status!
  • Olives: My husband calls these briny bits. Don't limit your spread to just olives. Capers, caper berries, peppers, pickled vegetables, etc. These all are great go to cocktail munchies.
  • Oysters: Mario suggests them smoked in oil. I love them this way especially on Saltine crackers. This is a quirk of my personality. I wouldn't serve them at a 2011 cocktail party.
  • Pates: Yes. Fantastic, yummy, fancy food. No work for the host. Serve with great crackers and a few types of mustard and a cheese plate and the party is set. Buy whatever looks good at your market. I have recently been obsessed with a pheasant and mushroom pate that I have been buying for $7.99 at Publix. Not even the "good" Publix. It is one of the more run down locations.
  • Salami: Cured meat good. Great for party. Have some at hand if you want to be a Playboy.
  • Salmon: Smoked salmon is an easy party favorite.
  • Sardines: See anchovies.
  • Sausages: If I could live on cheese and sausage I would be a happy girl. Must be good for a party.
  • Shrimp: While I wouldn't recommend serving them preserved in oil as Mario did i do know that every large market has shrimp cooked, de-veined, shell off and tail on. This means that shrimp cocktail is there for the "pick up" any time. Dress up a store bought cocktail sauce with fresh lemon or lime juice and a little extra horseradish. Of course, use a nice plate to serve it on.  In no time you have a no prep, "fancy" snack to impress people. Anyone can do this.
  • Sprats: I don't normally text in non-phone situations but...WTF?
Happy drinking and happy munching.

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