When creating a menu for a cocktail party be sure to look for recipes that can be made in advance. You don't want to spend the entire party in your kitchen. Make everything ahead and cook off batches as guests arrive. Choose several grocery store staples like nuts, olives, cheeses, crackers, and salumi to supplement a couple of homemade savory bites.
At my party I'll serve Moroccan style chicken rolls with a spicy tomato dipping sauce. Ham and cheese sandwiches grow up with caramelized onions and watercress. Tomato quiche tartlets are cute and bite sized. Sweet potato chips with caramelized onion dip rounds out the menu. To take a look at these tasty recipes,
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
Scant teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 1/4 lb chicken thighs (with skin and bones)
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup water
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted, cooled, and coarsely chopped
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
8 (17- by 12-inch) phyllo sheets, thawed if frozen
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons brown mustard seeds
Spiced Tomato Sauce, for serving, recipe below
- Make filling: cook onion in oil along with salt, cumin, ginger, turmeric, pepper, and coriander in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add chicken, broth, water, and cinnamon stick and simmer, covered, turning chicken over once, until meat is very tender, about 45 minutes total. Transfer chicken with tongs to a bowl, reserving cooking liquid.
- When cool enough to handle, shred chicken, discarding skin and bones, and transfer to a large bowl. Transfer cooking liquid to a 2-cup glass measure (do not clean saucepan) and let stand 1 minute, then skim off fat and discard cinnamon stick. Return liquid to saucepan and simmer over moderately high heat, uncovered, until reduced to about 1/4 cup (liquid will look like a glaze in bottom of pan), about 8 minutes, then stir into shredded chicken along with almonds.
- Reserve 2 tablespoons beaten egg in a cup for egg wash.
- Lightly season remaining egg with salt and pepper, then cook in 1/2 tablespoon butter in an 8- to 10-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat, stirring, until just set but still slightly soft. Stir scrambled egg into filling.
- Make rolls: put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 450°F.
- Put 1 phyllo sheet on a work surface, keeping remaining phyllo covered with overlapping sheets of plastic wrap and a damp kitchen towel, and brush generously with some melted butter.
- Evenly sift 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon over buttered phyllo using a fine-mesh sieve, then top with another phyllo sheet and generously brush with butter.
- Halve buttered phyllo stack crosswise, then arrange 1 half with a long side nearest you. Spread 1/4 cup chicken filling in a narrow strip along edge nearest you, then roll up filling tightly in phyllo, leaving ends open. Transfer roll, seam side down, to a cutting board set inside a baking pan (to help contain mustard seeds when sprinkling). Make another roll with remaining half stack. Make 6 more rolls in same manner, transferring to cutting board.
- Lightly brush top of rolls with egg wash and immediately sprinkle with mustard seeds, pressing lightly on seeds to help adhere. Cut each roll crosswise into 4 pieces and arrange pieces 1 inch apart on 2 baking sheets.
- Bake, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until phyllo is golden brown, about 12 minutes total.
- Transfer rolls to a rack to cool slightly.
Make ahead: rolls can be assembled (but not coated or cut) 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Rolls can be assembled and cut (but not coated or baked) 2 weeks ahead and frozen, wrapped well in plastic wrap. Coat frozen rolls, then bake (do not thaw) in a preheated 350°F oven about 20 minutes.
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon hot paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of cayenne
Pinch of ground cloves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 (14 1/2- to 15-oz) can whole tomatoes in juice, coarsely chopped (reserving juice)
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- Cook onion, garlic, ginger, and spices in oil in a 1- to 2-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring, until onion is softened, about 4 minutes.
- Stir in vinegar and simmer over moderately low heat 1 minute. Add tomatoes (with juice) and brown sugar, then increase heat to moderate and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 30 minutes. Cool slightly, about 5 minutes.
- Purée sauce in a blender until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids). Serve at room temperature.
Make ahead: sauce can be made 3 days ahead and cooled completely, then chilled, covered.
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced
8 slices thin white bread, recommended: Pepperidge Farm
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large or 2 small green apples
4 to 6 ounces aged Gouda
1 tablespoon Dijon or whole grain mustard, apple butter or chutney
1/2 bunch watercress
8 thin slices prosciutto
Freshly cracked black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Bring water, vinegar and brown sugar to a boil. Add the onions and remove from the heat. Cover, and set aside until the onions come to room temperature.
- Trim the crusts off the bread and cut the bread into thirds, for 3 rectangles per piece. Lightly brush both sides of the bread pieces with olive oil and lay out on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven until just crisp and lightly brown, about 5 minutes. Cool.
- To assemble: quarter, core, and very thinly slice the apple, (a mandolin is terrific for this). Very thinly slice the cheese into triangles or shards that will fit nicely on the bread.
- Place a dab or smear of mustard on the bread. Place a piece of apple, cheese and 1 or 2 sprigs of watercress on each piece of toasted bread. Wrap a small piece of prosciutto around each stack to make a neat package. Top with a little bit of the pickled onions, a drizzle of olive oil and freshly cracked black pepper. Serve at room temperature.
Make ahead: toast the bread ahead, and thinly slice the apple, placing them in lemon water to prevent them from turning brown. If you need to assemble the sandwiches ahead, don't add the watercress, and cover them with a very light moistened paper towel.
2 2.1-ounce packages baked miniature phyllo dough shells (30 shells)
1/2 cup finely snipped dried tomato (not oil packed)
2 eggs, slightly beaten
3 tablespoons half-and-half, light cream, or milk
1-1/2 teaspoons snipped fresh basil or 1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
Dash ground black pepper
3/4 cup finely shredded Swiss cheese (3 ounces)
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Place phyllo dough shells on a baking sheet; set aside.
- For filling, in a small bowl, combine dried tomato and enough boiling water to cover; let stand for 2 minutes.
- Drain well. In a medium bowl, combine eggs, half-and-half, basil, salt, and pepper. Stir in soaked dried tomato and Swiss cheese.
- Spoon about 2 teaspoons of the filling into each phyllo shell. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until filling is slightly puffed and a small knife inserted into the centers of the tartlets comes out clean. Serve warm or cool.
Make ahead: prepare and bake tartlets as directed; cool. Place tartlets in an airtight container and chill for up to 24 hours. Place tartlets on a baking sheet. Bake in a 300 degrees F oven about 10 minutes or until heated through.
3 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups sour cream
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped chives
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 sweet potatoes
- In a medium saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 5 minutes more; let cool.
- In a medium bowl, stir together the sour cream, mayonnaise, milk and vinegar. Stir in the onion mixture and chives; season to taste with salt and pepper and refrigerate.
- Heat the remaining oil in a medium, deep skillet fitted with a deep-frying thermometer until the oil registers 350°.
- Meanwhile, peel the sweet potatoes and thinly slice them crosswise into thin rounds with a vegetable peeler. Rinse under cold running water and pat dry.
- Fry the sweet potatoes in 5 or 6 batches, turning frequently with tongs, until crisp, about 3 minutes per batch. Drain on paper towels.