Looking for ideas for a splashy New Year’s nosh? Here are my biased prerequisites regarding what an appetizer/finger food should accomplish to guarantee it is admired and then devoured at a party.
1. Said appetizer is visually appealing; the more it looks like a fancy wrapped present, the more it will be appreciated.
2. When I say finger food, I mean finger-thumb food. One should be able to eat the appetizer using their forefinger and thumb. The other hand has its own job — clutching the stem of a wine glass or champagne flute insuring it’s at the ready, at all times.
3. The tantalizing morsel may be consumed in one bite and does not require a plate. A napkin, perhaps, but no plate. A plate requires two hands and one of the hands has its own responsibilities (see #2).
Technically, I’m referring to a canapé, which, according to Wikipedia, “… is a small, prepared and usually decorative food, held in the fingers and often eaten in one bite…The French started offering canapés to their guests in the 18th century, and the English adopted the practice at the end of the following century.”
If you were one of those kids admonished for playing with your food, you will love fussing with canapé preparation. If swatches of fabric are tucked into your wallet in case you happen upon decorative accents that would coordinate with your color scheme, you may already have an arsenal of canapé recipes. However, if you’re strictly a meat and potatoes person whose furnishings sole objective is of function and convenience, you may not get it. Indeed, I doubt you’ve read this far.
Some of the ingredients in the following recipes are pricey, to be sure; however, only tiny bits of the precious gems are required. For example, to make my Truffled Fillet and Watercress canapes, I used a half of a leftover filet mignon from the previous night’s dinner. That piece yielded more than two dozen canapés. I have a small bottle of white truffle oil, purchased for $10 from Fustini’s in Kerrytown, which comes equipped with an eyedropper so nary a drop is wasted. I used less than 3 tablespoons of salmon roe, which I purchased in the seafood department at Hiller’s.
The canvas for your chef’s d’oeuvres can be made from day-old bread, thinly sliced and cut into various shapes; they could be toasted or not. For ease, I always use pre-made phyllo or puff pastry shells, which may be found in the frozen section at most groceries in town. I used Athens Mini Fill Shells (15 to a box), which I purchased at Hiller’s. It’s easy to make your own creme fraiche, but I saved time by using pre-packaged Vermont Creme Fraiche, which is quite good.
In circles more fashionable than mine, canapés are often referred to as “amuse bouches,” which translates to “mouth amusers,” or — loosely — “a party in your mouth.”
Whether you welcome 2012 with canapés and champagne or potato chips and Coke, let the good times roll. Happy New Year!