There is nothing quite as enjoyable as sharing good conversation with friends -- especially with delicious appetizers.
When we say "appetizers," we usually mean one of two things: hors d'oeuvres, which are served at cocktail parties or with drinks before a meal; or starters, the first course of the meal.
When planning appetizers, make them light and in small portions, so your guests have room for the rest of the meal. Because so many appetizers are served cold, they can be prepared ahead. Many, particularly patè, are improved when the flavors have time to blend and mature.
Pastries and crepes, which are best when made the same day, have the advantage of needing ingredients that are generally in the pantry: flour, butter, eggs and milk.
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Fillings can range from simple scrambled eggs to luxuries such as lobster, shrimp, oysters or asparagus.
Appetizers should be an invitation, but they must not overwhelm the dishes to follow. Go lightly on the seasoning and take time on presentation. Add color to cold appetizers with lettuce leaves and lemon decorations.
1 pound uncooked sausage
1 (10 oz.) package extra sharp-cheese
1 teaspoon paprika
3 cups biscuit mix
Have sausage and cheese at room temperature. Combine and mix well. Add paprika and biscuit mix, mixing well. Roll into small balls and bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes.
Source: Sharon Peterson in "Favorite Recipes From the Members of MCAS Beaufort Federal Credit Union"
CHICKEN LIVER PATE
A delicious hors d'oeuvre to be served on toast triangles, or crackers
3/4 cup butter
1 onion, chopped
1/2 pound chicken livers
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons brandy
1/3 cup clarified butter (see below)
Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a medium skillet. Stir in onion. Cook over low heat until soft but not browned. Stir in chicken livers. Cook over medium heat 2 to 3 minutes until browned on all sides but still pink in center. Stir in shallots, garlic, salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking one minute. Remove from heat; cool slightly. Puree mixture in food processor or blender or press through a sieve. Let cool to lukewarm. Beat in remaining butter and brandy. Taste for seasoning. Spoon into custard cups.
Pate can be made at least four days ahead.
HOW TO CLARIFY BUTTER:
Clarifying eliminates the milky residue in butter, leaving only the pure fat. Clarified butter is ideal for frying because it does not burn easily.
Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat. With a spoon, skim and discard the froth from the surface of the butter. Carefully pour the clear melted butter into a bowl. Stop pouring the butter when you reach the milky residue in the bottom of the pan. Discard the milky residue. The butter is now clarified.
Source: "Anne Willan's Basic French Cookery"
BUFFALO CHICKEN DIP
2 (10 ounce) cans chunk chicken, drained
3/4 cup red hot pepper sauce
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup ranch dressing
1 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
Heat chicken and hot sauce in a skillet over medium heat until heated through. Stir in cream cheese and ranch dressing. Cook, stirring until well blended and warm. Mix in half of the shredded cheese and transfer the mixture to a slow cooker. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top, cover and cook on low setting until hot and bubble. Serve with celery sticks, crackers and chips.