With Thanksgiving in the rear-view mirror, American cooks are on the Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/New Year’s express this month.
Yes, prime-time party season is among us, and everyone’s looking for some fun and tasty finger foods to put on the table.
What follows are some ideas — sweet and savory — for feeding friends and family this season.
A new favorite of mine are these warm cheese puffs made with gorgonzola and walnuts — a twist on the classic gougeres. They look like they took a lot of effort, but they can be ready to eat in about a half-hour.
Tell everyone that you made these puffs with pate a choux — the same dough used for profiteroles and eclairs — and they’ll be sure to be impressed. Unless perhaps they have made this dough themselves and learned how easy it is to do. Butter, water (or milk) and flour are cooked for a minute or two on the stove, then in go some eggs, and — voila! — the dough is ready to bake. A bit of cheese and nuts gets added at the end for a big bang of flavor.
Need something cool and light? Consider smoked salmon crostini. This gets seafood on the table — and stretches it — without breaking the bank. And the combination of goat cheese (or cream cheese) with smoked salmon and dill is classic.
If you’re looking for something more substantial, consider some sliders. I love this version with freshly roasted pork tenderloin, Muenster cheese, horseradish-mustard spread and soft and moist potato rolls. This is a great slider for a couple pickle slices, if you’re so inclined. Depending on the occasion and the size of your guests’ appetites, these can be made on tiny party rolls, dinner rolls, slider rolls or even full-size sandwich or hamburger buns.
The sliders are versatile in other ways, too. They can be served warm or room temperature. They can be made ahead. Party hosts can even display all the components and let guests assemble their own sandwiches.
The meats and cheeses also can be changed at will. Ham and sliced chicken breast work well.
Need a vegetarian version? Try sauteed mushrooms or mini black-bean cakes.
Instead of the horseradish mustard, try a little cranberry sauce or a sweet but tangy jam or chutney.
Speaking of cranberries and sweet but tangy foods, use store-bought biscuit dough to make a delicious warm bread. This is essentially pull-apart monkey bread made with cranberry sauce, brie cheese and herbs — a hot appetizer that straddles the sweet-savory line.
To cross over into sweets, try some fudgy brownies — a no-fail dessert that always gives a lot of satisfaction for very little work. Give your guests a pleasant surprise when they bite into the brownies by making them with some orange juice. Chocolate and orange are a great combination for the holidays or any time of year, and guests will appreciate this tasty twist on an old favorite.