Throw an Appetizers-Only Party!

Photo: Stephanie Pfriender Stylander

If you want to mingle with your guests and not languish in the kitchen, throw an appetizer party, says food and wine expert (and frequent Top Chef judge) Ted Allen. “The point is to spend time with people you like,” he explains. “If you keep it between 10 and 15 people, it’s possible to buy better quality wines and champagne and nicer food.” The menu can include parmesan crisps, fresh olives or deviled eggs with smoked salmon and caviar.

Be smart about timing: “Avoid having your party on Saturday when most people have plans – Thursday is the best night, people only have one day of work left,” says Allen, 43. And make it clear to guests that a full meal won’t be served. “You should say on the invitation that it’s a cocktail and appetizer party because people need to plan,” says Allen. “That means they won’t be completely full, but they probably won’t be hungry.”

Herbed Parmesan Crisps

Serves 12

"This is the easiest homemade cocktail snack you could ever imagine. Even better: it’s probably the most delicious one in existence – it’s salty, it’s cheesy, it’s irresistible."Ted Allen

1 cup finely shredded parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary or thyme
¼ tsp. freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

1. Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl.
2. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, spread one-tablespoon piles of the mixture with a couple of inches between each, and spread them out into ovals about 4 inches long and 2 inches wide.
3. Bake crisps in oven until they turn golden brown, about 6 to 8 minutes. If not shaping them around a spoon handle, cool crisps completely on a metal rack.

Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon and Caviar

Serves 6

"Everybody loves deviled eggs – there are never leftovers. Here’s a version that incorporates that Champagne-brunch classic, smoked salmon. The caviar is just a luxurious touch; you’ll still have a delightfully flavorful egg if you leave it out."Ted Allen

6 hard-boiled eggs
1 tbsp. mayonnaise
1 tbsp. sour cream
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1½ tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. minced shallot
1 tbsp. minced drained capers
1 oz. minced smoked salmon
1 oz. sturgeon caviar or salmon roe

1. Remove shells from eggs, and cut eggs in half lengthwise.
2. Place yolks in a small bowl and mash them with a fork. Add mayonnaise, sour cream, olive oil, Dijon mustard, shallot, capers and half of the minced salmon, and mix until smooth.
3. Spoon yolk mixture into eggs. Garnish each egg with remaining salmon, top with caviar, and refrigerate.
This recipe can be prepared 3 hours ahead.

Chunky Tuna Parsley Spread with Crackers or Cukes
Serves 10

2 (6-oz.) cans tuna, packed in olive oil
2 cups chopped flat leaf parsley, plus extra for serving
¼ cup minced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
½ tsp. salt, or to taste
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
12 green olives (stuffed with pimentos)
1½ tbsp. tiny (nonpareil) capers
Crackers, or sliced baguette

1. Put tuna with its oil, parsley, onion, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper flakes into the bowl of a food processor. Process to a paste, about 1 minute. Add olives and pulse a few times to incorporate.
2. Transfer to a bowl and fold in the capers.
3. To serve, spoon the mixture into a crock, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve with crackers or cucumber rounds.

Prosciutto Pastries and the Au Currant Cocktail >

Quick ‘Bao’ Pastries with Prosciutto

Serves 20

"Give these bite-sized pastries inspired by Chinese ‘bao’ an Italian accent by replacing the sesame oil with olive oil, and 1 tablespoon of the sesame seeds with fennel seeds."Ted Allen

1 (7½ oz.) tube buttermilk biscuits
1 tbsp. Asian sesame oil
4 oz. minced (about ½ cup) ham
3 white scallions and 3 inches green scallions, minced
1 egg white, lightly beaten
2 tbsp. raw sesame seeds

1. Preheat oven to 400ºF.
2. Open tube of biscuits and separate into 10 individual biscuits. Cut each in half crosswise, then stretch each half into a round about 2 inches in diameter.
3. Using a pastry brush, paint each round of dough with sesame oil. Spoon about ½ teaspoon ham and ½ teaspoon scallion in the center of each round, gather edges of the dough together above the filling, and then form into a ball.
4. Dip one side of each ball into the beaten egg white and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Sprinkle lightly with sesame seeds.
5. Bake until the tops are golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Serve hot or room temperature.

The Au Currant

Makes 1 Drink

"The regal color and deep grapey-ness of currants make a terrific and unusual mixer for vodka – and black current nectar has even more healthy antioxidants than the much-celebrated ‘superfruit’ pomegranate juice. Meanwhile, frozen orange juice cubes ensure not only that the drink doesn’t get watered down, but that it evolves and changes as you enjoy it. Add a sprig of fresh mint for color and aroma, and it’s time to celebrate!"Ted Allen

  • 2 oz. black currant nectar (Trouble finding it? Search for a store near you here)
  • 2 oz. vodka
  • 4 oz. club soda
  • 3 cubes frozen orange juice
  • 2 sprigs of mint

1. Crush one mint sprig in the bottom of a rocks glass. Add black currant nectar and orange-juice cubes.
2. Top with Perrier and garnish with additional sprig of mint

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