Although my Halloween party starts later in the night — at 10 p.m. — I will have food. At larger parties where lots of alcohol may be consumed, it's best to offer guests a few savory nibbles to snack on throughout the night. Don't go gourmet, but keep things simple by serving classic, crowd-pleasing dishes.
I'll be pairing blue tortilla chips with green guacamole and gooey queso fundido. To keep the queso fundido warm, place it in a fondue bowl. Crispy cheese straws made from puff pastry round out the easy, no-fuss menu. For the recipes,
2 ripe avocados
1/2 red onion, minced (about 1/2 cup)
1-2 serrano chiles, stems and seeds removed, minced
2 tablespoons cilantro leaves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of fresh lime or lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
A dash of freshly grated black pepper
1/2 ripe tomato, seeds and pulp removed, chopped
Garnish with red radishes or jicama. Serve with tortilla chips.
- Cut avocados in half. Remove seed. Scoop out avocado from the peel, put in a mixing bowl.
- Using a fork, mash the avocado. Add the chopped onion, cilantro, lime or lemon, salt and pepper and mash some more. Chili peppers vary individually in their hotness. So, start with a half of one chili pepper and add to the guacamole to your desired degree of hotness. Be careful handling the peppers; wash your hands thoroughly after handling and do not touch your eyes or the area near your eyes with your hands for several hours.
- Keep the tomatoes separate until ready to serve. Remember that much of this is done to taste because of the variability in the fresh ingredients. Start with this recipe and adjust to your taste.
- Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the guacamole to prevent oxidation from the air reaching it. Refrigerate until ready.
- Just before serving, add the chopped tomato to the guacamole and mix.
2 fresh poblano chiles
4 ounces (1/2 cup) Mexican chorizo sausage, casing removed if there is one, store bought or homemade
1 medium white onion, sliced
8 ounces Chihuahua or other Mexican melting cheese such as quesadilla or asadero (lacking Mexican cheese, queso fundido is delicious made with everything from Monterey jack to mild cheddar), shredded (you’ll have about 2 cups)
About a teaspoon or so of crumbled dried oregano, preferably Mexican
tortilla chips for serving
- Roasting the poblano chiles. Roast the poblanos on an open flame or on a baking sheet 4 inches below a very hot broiler, turning regularly until the skin is evenly blistered and blackened, about 5 minutes for an open flame, about 10 minutes for the broiler. Be careful not to char the flesh—only the skin. Cover with a kitchen towel and let stand for 5 minutes. Rub off the blackened skin, then pull or cut out the stems and the seed pods. Tear the chiles open and quickly rinse to remove stray seeds and most bits of skin. Cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips about 2 inches long.
- Heat the oven to 350-degrees.
- In a medium-size skillet (preferably non-stick), cook the chorizo over medium heat, stirring to break up any clumps, until half-cooked, about 5 minutes. (As the chorizo heats, it should render enough fat to cook the meat; if the mixture seems dry, add a little oil.) Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is richly golden and the chorizo done, about 10 minutes. (If the mixture looks very oily, drain.) Stir in the poblano strips, taste and season with salt if you think the mixture needs some. Transfer the mixture to a 9- or 10-inch shallow baking dish, Mexican cazuela or pie plate.
- Stir the cheese into the warm chorizo mixture. Set in the oven and bake until the cheese is just melted but has not begun to separate or look greasy, about 5 more minutes. Sprinkle with the crumbled oregano and serve without a moment's hesitation, accompanied by the tortillas.
Make ahead: The chorizo-poblano mixture can be made a day ahead, covered and refrigerated; warm it in your baking vessel before stirring in the cheese and baking.
1 3/4 cups finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 package (14 ounces) frozen puff pastry, thawed
2 teaspoons coarse salt
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- Sprinkle work surface with 1/2 cup cheese. Place chilled puff pastry on work surface and roll out until it is about 1/8 inch thick. Trim to a 14-by-16-inch rectangle. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and 3/4 cup of the cheese.
- With the long side facing you, fold in half by bringing the top edge down toward you. Sprinkle with remaining teaspoon salt and 1/2 cup cheese. Using a pizza wheel or a very sharp knife, cut the dough horizontally into 1/2-inch-wide strips.
- Divide strips between two baking sheets, placing them evenly apart. Holding each end of a dough strip with your fingers, carefully stretch and twist the strip in opposite directions. Repeat process with remaining strips.
- Bake until golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes. Let straws cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes about 1 dozen.