Traveling Dinner Party – Part 2 – Cocktails and Appetizers

Have you started your wild and crazy dinner party plans yet? To get started; be sure to check out Traveling Dinner Party – Part 1 – Introduction.

Let’s talk recipe ideas. If planning a 10 course affair, you’ll want to start the evening with an Apéritif. The point of an apéritif is to invite guests into your living room and serve them light alcoholic drinks and small appetizers to stimulate their appetites for the meal ahead. (A lot of “aps” in that sentence – but you get the idea). Nuts, olives and small crackers may also be served alongside these alcoholic beverages. Non-alcoholic aperitif drinks are set aside for any children or non-drinkers in attendance. (Sparkling apple cider is a nice alternative – giving that bubbly effect without the kick).

The intent of an Apéritif is to serve as a warm and friendly gesture. It serves as a means for everyone to relax while waiting for any latecomers. My personal favorite is Champagne or other sparkling wine. Most champagnes (from the Champagne region in France) or sparkling wines pair beautifully with a range of foods, making them the  perfect selection for appetizers or other early courses of the meal. Since real champagne can be pricey, other alternatives can be Prosecco, from Italy or a selection of sparkling wines from the Napa Valley in California. While still fun to drink, sparkling wines tend to be lighter in style with a slightly less effervescence (bubbles) than true champagne.

When serving an Apéritif, I like to keep it simple. A nice champagne or sparkling wine served in a fluted glass with a strawberry and a splash of Chambord does the trick for me. Other possibilities are:

  • Sherry
    Sherry is a fortified white wine generally made in Jerez, Spain. Since they can vary from dry to sweet, for an apéritif you should focus on the drier styles such as Fino and Manzanilla. Sherry should be served slightly chilled. Since Sherry is a little higher in alcohol, it is better suited for the cooler evenings of autumn and winter. Personally, I am not a fan of sherry.
  • Flavored liqueurs
    In some areas, people prefer more alcoholic, flavored liqueurs to start a meal. Some examples are Ouzo in Greece and Pastis (such as Pernod and Ricard) in southern France. Both are anise-flavored and usually served on ice with some cold water.
  • Cocktails
    Any cocktail can be an aperitif and many people prefer a stronger drink like a Martini or Manhattan to open the night and let the festivities begin.
  • Light-bodied beer
    Finally, not all aperitif must be wine or liquor-based. It is very common to offer a nice, cold beer in a less formal setting like a barbecue or casual dinner party. Lighter-styled beers are best for this. Good examples are lagers and pilsners but any lighter refreshing beer will do.

Okay, now that the opening cocktails are out-of-the-way, let’s talk about Appetizers. This would be the 2nd course in a ten course party; or the first course in the six or eight course dinners. When an opening aperitif is skipped, the cocktails generally accompany a selection of appetizers rather than precede them.

Unlike cocktail parties where appetizers are offered as the food focal point, in a multi-course dinner, appetizers are a promise of things yet to come, a sampling of the evening’s event and a way to get the juices excitedly flowing. You’ll want to leave room all the wonderful “mores” to come, so two or three selection, two or three “bites” per person are all you really need.  The most difficult part is to narrow down the selection to such a few. Depending upon season and location, the more simple the better. Remember; this is a Traveling feast. Anything that can be made in advance will allow the travel to flow more smoothly while allowing all the participants to be present throughout the evening.  Having a buffet table with a few platters of small foods or cocktail tables already set up and ready to go is best, if possible.

The appetizer recipes that follow are by no means “it” – this wild and crazy traveling feast is yours – make whatever you like. Get those creative juices flowing – have fun, play with it. Anything can be an appetizer – small bites of this or that. If your group has elected to have a theme, go wherever that theme takes you.

Want to keep it simple? Costco has a great selection of pop in the oven or microwave party appetizers all set and ready to go. Can’t get any easier than that!

Appetizers – Served Cold

Canapés à l’Amiral
Cucumber Rounds with Smoked Salmon and Lime Aioli
Deviled Cucumber Cups
Gazpacho Shooters

Canapés à l’Amiral
Ingredients – Canapés
20 slices (about 1/2-inch thick) baguette
1 teaspoon lime juice
10 small cooked shrimp, halved lengthwise
20 fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 tablespoons caviar

Ingredients – Shrimp butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large shallot, peeled, ends removed, minced
1 clove garlic, peeled, ends removed, minced
8 ounces shrimp in shell, rinsed
1/4 cup brandy
4 ounces cream cheese, softened (regular or reduced fat)
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Dash of vanilla

CANAPES: Place baguette slices on a baking sheet and toast under broiler for 1 minute per side or until lightly golden. Remove from broiler and set aside. Drizzle lime juice over cooked shrimp halves; stir and reserve.

SHRIMP BUTTER: In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic. Cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes or until softened. Increase heat to high and add the shrimp. Sauté shrimp for 4-5 minutes or until the shells are pink and the flesh is opaque. Remove the shrimp and cool. When cool enough to handle, peel and discard shells.

Transfer shrimp mixture to a food processor fitted with the steel blade or a blender. Return skillet to the heat and add brandy. Cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds or until the brandy is reduced to a glaze. Scrape the glaze into the shrimp mixture. Pulse shrimp mixture until it is coarsely chopped. Add the cream cheese, butter, tomato paste, salt, pepper and vanilla. Process until almost smooth and set aside.

To assemble canapés: Place shrimp butter in a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tube. Decoratively pipe the shrimp butter onto the toasted baguette slices, or spread mixture on slices using a table knife. Top each with a cooked shrimp half, parsley leaf and a small amount of caviar.

Note: Recipe from the Last Night Aboard the Titanic

Cucumber Rounds with Smoked Salmon and Lime Aioli
1 small garlic clove, minced
Juice of 1 lime
1 egg yolk
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 large seedless cucumber, peeled
3 or 4 radishes
1/2 lb. smoked salmon, thinly sliced
1/2 pint fresh sprouts for garnish

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the garlic, lime  juice and egg yolk and process in short pulses until smooth. With the motor running, add the oil through the feed tube in a slow, steady stream until smooth and blended. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the lime aioli to a small bowl, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Using a mandoline or vegetable slicer, slice the cucumber crosswise into slices 1/4 inch thick to make about 30 pieces. Slice the radishes into paper-thin slices to make about 30 pieces.

To assemble, lay the cucumber slices out on a clean serving tray or platter, place a small amount of aioli on each slice and decoratively arrange a piece of smoked salmon over the aioli. Garnish with a piece of shaved radish and a few sprouts. Cover loosely and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Deviled Cucumber Cups
Ingredients – Cucumber Cups
3 large eggs
4 medium cucumbers (each at least 7 in. long)
2 1/2 tablespoons Green Chile Mayonnaise
2 1/2 tablespoons minced red onion, rinsed (about 1/2 small red onion)
About 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
About 1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 to 2 red or green Serrano chiles, seeded and silvered, for garnish

Ingredients – Green Chile Mayonnaise
1 large egg
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 to 1 red or green Serrano chile, finely chopped
About 1/4 tsp. sea salt
About 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Cucumber Cups: Put eggs in a medium pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then cover, remove pot from heat, and let sit 14 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer eggs to a bowl of ice and cold water (reserve hot water in pot). Cool eggs at least 10 minutes, then use a slotted spoon to transfer eggs back to hot water (to loosen shells) for 10 to 20 seconds. Pat dry and peel.

Meanwhile, cut cucumbers into 24 rounds (3/4 in. thick each; you may have some cucumber left over). Using the size of biscuit cutter that fits best (see Notes), cut out fluted rounds. With a melon baller or small spoon, scoop seeds from centers of cucumber rounds, leaving at least a 1/4-in layer of seeds and/or flesh. Set on a baking sheet.

Shred eggs with a razor-sharp grater (such as a microphone) or against the finest slatted (not punched-out) holes of a box grater and put in a medium bowl. Add mayonnaise, red onion, 1 tsp lemon juice, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Mash mixture together with a fork.
Fill cups with egg mixture, mounding slightly. Sprinkle each with salt and a few drops of lemon juice to taste and garnish with a sliver of Serrano.

Preparation for Green Chili Mayonnaise: In a food processor, whirl egg, garlic, chile, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1 tbsp. lemon juice until mixture thickens slightly, about 1 minute. Add oil drop by drop through top of processor until mixture starts to get quite thick, then drizzle in the rest in a slow stream. Whirl in more salt and lemon juice to taste. Mayonnaise keeps, covered and refrigerated, for 1 day.

Gazpacho Shooters
2 pounds fresh tomatoes, diced or 3 cups tomato juice
1 medium sweet onion, cut into fourths
1 large bell pepper, deseeded and cut into large pieces
1 large cucumber, peeled and cut into large pieces
3 garlic cloves, smashed
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon grated horseradish, optional
salt and pepper, to taste
1 large cucumber, peeled and sliced for garnish

Add tomatoes or tomato juice, onion, bell pepper, cucumber and cloves to a blender. Blend until well-blended, but not completely smooth and purred. Add olive oil, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, cumin and hot sauce. If using horseradish, add it as well. Blend until well-blended and the consistency you prefer.

Pour into a large non-reactive bowl, such as glass, and chill for at least one hour to up to three days. Serves 6

Note: For smoother Gazpacho, add more tomato juice to reach desired consistency.

Appetizers – Served Warm

Bourbon Cocktail Meatballs
Crab Napoleons
Scallop Amuse with Mango and Blood Orange Vinaigrette
Tomato Jewels

Bourbon Cocktail Meatballs
3/4 lb ground beef
3/4 lb ground pork
1/2 cup (1 sleeve, finely crushed) Ritz Cracker crumbs (you can use plain bread crumbs)
1/2  cup finely chopped onion
1/2  teaspoon salt
lots of fresh cracked pepper
1  egg
2 Tbsp olive oil (for browning the meatballs)
Bourbon Sauce
1 jar apricot preserves (about a cup, give or take)
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 Tbsp hot chili sauce (use mild chili sauce if you can’t take the heat)
1/2 cup bourbon
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
1/4 cup water

Put the above ingredients, except the olive oil, in a large mixing bowl, breaking up the meat as you put it in.  Mix together, using the tips of your fingers to gently combine everything without compacting the meat.  Form into small 1″ balls, I use a small scoop to make them nice and uniform.

Heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a skillet and brown the meatballs, working in batches.  Transfer the meatballs to a baking sheet, and bake for about 10 minutes, until cooked through. (Check with a thermometer, they should read 160 degrees)

To make the sauce, combine all the sauce ingredients in a skillet and bring to a simmer. Simmer gently for about 10 minutes until thick.

Place cooked meatballs into the sauce, and let heat through until ready to serve.  Serve on a plate with toothpicks, a drizzle of sauce, and lots of napkins.  Serve a bowl of sauce on the side for extra dipping.

Crab Napoleons
1 sheet Pepperidge Farm® Puff Pastry
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened*
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 (6 ounce) can refrigerated pasteurized crabmeat, drained
4 green onions, sliced
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Unfold pastry sheet on lightly floured surface. Cut into 12 rounds, using 2-inch cookie cutter. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Bake 15 minutes or until golden. Remove from baking sheet and cool on wire rack.

Stir cream cheese until smooth. Stir in milk, horseradish, pepper and crabmeat.

Split pastries into 2 layers, making 24 layers in all. Spread crabmeat mixture on 12 bottom layers.

Top with onions, almonds and top layers. Sprinkle with paprika. Makes 12 Napoleons.


Scallop Amuse with Mango and Blood Orange Vinaigrette
10 medium-sized scallops (they need to fit in the spoon)
1 mango, not too ripe (2/3 diced in small cubes, 1/3 grated)
1 blood orange, half peeled in quarters and cubed, the other half juiced
1 tsp chives, chopped
cayenne pepper
1.5 tbs olive oil
2 tsp orange champagne vinegar (or raspberry vinegar)
salt and pepper

First peel mango, cut 2/3 of the mango in small cubes 1/3 inch thick. Place in a bowl.

Peel orange, separate the quarters and remove the membrane. Cut a few quarters in small pieces and add to the mango.

In another bowl, grate the rest of the mango, add olive oil, vinegar, juice of 1/2 blood orange, orange pieces, cayenne, salt and pepper.

Grill or saute scallops in a pan until browned on both sides.

Place a few mango dices and orange pieces in each spoon, add a little vinaigrette. Add scallops on top, and spoon additional vinaigrette on top.

Tomato Jewels
4 oz. goat cheese, softened
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 of a 17.3-ounce package Puff Pastry Sheets (1 sheet), thawed
24 cherry tomatoes

Heat the oven to 400-degrees.

Stir the goat cheese, parsley, chives, Parmesan cheese, black pepper and lemon zest in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Unfold the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Roll the pastry sheet into a 10-inch square.

Cut into 4 (2 1/2-inch) strips. Cut each strip into 6 (3x3x3-inch) triangles. Discard any remaining pastry.

Press the pastry triangles into the bottoms and up the sides of 24 (1 1/2-inch) mini muffin-pan cups.

Bake for 7 minutes.

Cut slits in the tops of the tomatoes and scoop out the seeds.

Spoon about 1 1/2 teaspoons cheese mixture into each tomato. Place the tomatoes in the center of the warm pastries and press down lightly.

Bake for 5 minutes or until the pastries are golden brown.

CAREFULLY lift jewels from muffin cups. Place on serving platter and serve.

Do you have a favorite appetizer or cocktail recipe? I’d love to hear from you.

Author: Rosemarie's Kitchen

I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and avid home cook.I believe in eating healthy whenever possible, while still managing to indulge in life's pleasures.

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