MAYBE I'VE WATCHED too many old movies, but I've always wanted to throw a black-tie party complete with lots of hors d'oeuvres and plenty of champagne.
Here's a make-ahead appetizer menu that is sure to delight your guest. These appetizers are easy to make and the ingredients are available in most major grocery stores. And, if you're going to someone else's party, these appetizers are easy to transport to homes across the street or across town.
We choose appetizers that could be made ahead of time and gave a lot of value for the dollar. Our only extravagance is the wine marinated shrimp, a very easy recipe that's made in the microwave.
The miniature quiches are made in tiny muffin tins. The recipe uses slices of bread for the crust and a quick and easy filling. The beautiful salmon mousse, garnished with red pepper, is also inexpensive. A large can of salmon is about $5. The baked brie is my favorite recipe. It looks spectacular but assembles in only minutes.
When planning your menu, keep in mind that there are new products on the market that can help you. Everyday chicken or tuna salad takes on new life when served on tiny cocktail mini-toasts or in mini-puff pastry shells.
Savoir Faire makes the cocktail mini-toasts; they are available in the gourmet section of some stores and the cracker section of others. Pepperidge Farms' makes the tiny puff pastry shells. They can be found in the frozen food section.
I made this brie recipe for my friend's, Chris and Ruth, Christmas party. The guests loved it and several asked for the recipe. The recipe can be made up to 48 hours ahead of time and reheated at the party or served at room temperature. We reheated ours, one at a time, in the microwave at medium power. The actual reheating time will vary depending on your microwave.
Brie en Croute 1 package 17 1/4 -ounces frozen puff pastry dough, thawed according to package directions
2 packages 4 1/2 -ounces each whole, round brie cheese
1/4 cup apricot preserves, divided
1/4 cup chopped pecans, divided
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
Unfold one sheet of puff pastry on a floured board and roll it out slightly so that it is big enough to enclose the brie. Place one brie in the center.
Cover the top with two tablespoons preserves and two tablespoons pecans.
Gather the edges of the dough over the cheese to resemble a bag. Tie top of bag with cotton twine. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Place each bundle on a lightly greased baking sheet and chill one hour.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush the dough with egg yolk. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until pastry is puffed and golden.
If pastry browns too quickly reduce the temperature to 350 degrees. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes eight to ten servings per brie.
-- Adapted from "The Spirit of Christmas" edited by Anne Van Wagner Young; Leisure Arts -- 1989, $18.95.
These tiny quiches taste wonderful and can be served hot or at room temperature. They are very simple to make.
24 slices of fluffy white bread, like Wonder or Blue Ribbon
3 large eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream
1/2 cup finely shredded mozzarella cheese
Salt and pepper to taste Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly spray two miniature muffin tins with a vegetable coating spray such as Pam.
Roll each slice of bread as thin as possible with a rolling pin. Using a sharp round cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out a circle from the bread that is just slightly bigger than the muffin tin.
Make sure no crust is showing on the finished round.
Carefully fit a round of bread into each cup. Give the entire muffin pan, including the inside of the crusts, a fine misting of vegetable spray. Bake for about five minutes or until lightly browned. Remove and set aside.
Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees. Combine eggs, cream, cheese and salt and pepper and mix well. Carefully spoon about one tablespoon into baked crusts. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for about ten to 15 minutes or until filling is set.
Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 24 quiches.
The quiches can be frozen if desired. Reheat a few at a time in a microwave at 50 percent power until warm.
There are many delicious variations. For example, finely chop some ham, turkey or cooked bacon and place about a teaspoon in each quiche before topping with the filling. Or substitute Cheddar or other cheese for up to half of the mozzarella. Or add some finely sliced green onion or fresh herbs to the filling mixture.
Wine Marinated Shrimp 1 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 pound fresh or frozen raw medium shrimp (15 to 20 in shells) peeled and deveined
Mix all ingredients except shrimp in two-quart casserole. Cover tightly and microwave on HIGH three to six minutes or until boiling. Stir in shrimp.