You Can Make Ultra-Impressive Party Food Without Spending a Fortune
Potatoes are a perfect food troll. They are somehow fries and chips and scalloped potatoes, but still a vegetable? You can polish them up like they're from Gourmet magazine, but they're still a 30-cent tuberous root.
First, get your tiny potatoes. I like to take the mixed bag of fingerlings that most stores offer, but baby red potatoes, baby Yukons, etc., all work. A bag will usually cost you three or four dollars.
Cut them in half lengthwise. Place the halves on a cookie sheet, season with salt and pepper, and bake at 375? until golden brown and easily pierced with a knife. If you feel like this situation needs olive oil, stop, and remember that these are handmade hors d'oeuvres, so we skip the oil to avoid greasy fingertips.
Now, you have two options. If the potatoes are really dainty, I like to leave them that way, because they'll be nice and fluffy inside. If the potatoes are a bit chubbier, you can scoop out the insides and leave the skin intact, mash the insides with cream and butter, and stuff the skin again.
Either way, the toppings are what make the scene here. Think of it as a blini with caviar on top. Caviar, that's very expensive, right? Not necessarily. Consider that you use very little, and you can get an ounce of trout roe or salmon roe for $10. The rest of the ingredients - chopped hard-boiled egg, chives, sour cream and shallots - are all pretty cheap, but they make for a very colorful, easy-to-eat snack.
If you want to spice it up a bit, you can always treat them like baked potato sheets, and stuff them with sour cream, cheese, tomatoes, etc. But I beg you - in the name of women with abundant chests everywhere - don't put chili or salsa on them or anything else that drips off your hors d'oeuvres.
Shots (of soup conviction)
Bowls of soup are a less-than-ideal option for a cocktail event, but that's why soup shots are a hit. Fill shot glasses or Asian soup spoons with just enough soup for a hearty sip. (Think a silky cauliflower cream soup or a single tortellini in a flavorful and rich broth.) Scooping soup is easy and inexpensive, yet filling, and a great way to get a vegetable option in. Plus, imagine a bowl of perfectly filled shot glasses topped with a small garnish sprinkled with herbs. Ooh la fucking la.
Cauliflower cream soup is a dream, like a real cloud, and takes 20 minutes to make. Coarsely chop the cauliflower, then simmer with enough broth to cover. I combine the Garlic and Vegetable Better than Broth with a little white wine to make this a decent broth, all to taste. Simmer until cauliflower is fork tender, then blend until super smooth. Add cream to taste (usually half as much cream as broth) and blend again. Serve with chives on top.
For the tortellini, get a pack of chilled fresh tortellini at the grocery store for five dollars. A mushroom filling would work well here. Next, make a broth with lots of flavor and even a little spice. Again, garlic and vegetable broth combined with a little chili oil and a tiny bit of rice wine vinegar is a nice spicy combination. The tortellini will float for added effect.
Spending $10 on a small piece of beef pays off big time. The best meal hack ever - and the only reason you need to purchase a sous vide machine - is to turn less-than-premium cuts of meat, such as chuck roast, into perfectly pinkish, tender roast beef. The cost is much lower than buying roast beef from the deli, and you can cook the roast beef to the desired doneness with ease. Claire Lower has a great recipe for doing just that.
Next, make a base for that roast beef, like latkes or potato pancakes or even store-bought hash-brown cakes. Put a layer of thinly sliced roast beef on top, along with some pickled onions and a dot of horseradish sauce on top. If you're too tired to bother with latkes at 2021, grab a dark rye bread or pumpernickel, cut it into unroasted 2-by-2-inch squares and use those instead.
Some more ideas
Hollywood has led us to believe that a shrimp cocktail is luxury, but it's also way too expensive. We can satisfy our inner Eleanor by serving a single shrimp on top of a cucumber round smeared with that same horseradish sauce. You can get a pound of medium-sized shrimp at the counter for about eight dollars, but don't be afraid to go to the frozen section - the frozen stuff is almost always the freshest.
By the same token, tuna tartare on a potato chip is a spectacular idea because lots of seafood counters now sell great tuna suitable for tartare, and you don’t need much. Grab half of a pound of very red tuna without any bloodline. At home, chop it into small cubes, and then toss with sesame oil, soy sauce and a little bit of sriracha to taste. Spoon a teaspoon full onto a hefty potato chip and serve on a tray.
Radishes with butter and fleur de sel is another simple and beautiful bite. Slice radishes in half the long way, use a knife to artfully streak it with good butter, then sprinkle on some dill and and a pinch of chunky salt. Perfection.
A baked brie is great, but messy and hard to navigate. Consider the brie bite. Buy $5-worth of frozen puff pastry and a $10 wheel of brie. Cut the wheel into slices, wrap them in puff pastry, and bake. You can also get a little fancy by making tiny obnoxious pizza bites. Use gruyere instead of brie, along with prosciutto and sundried tomatoes. To further cut costs, you can buy some cherry tomatoes, slice them in half, and dehydrate them in your oven on a low setting. Instead of buying an expensive pre-sliced package of prosciutto, walk yourself up to the deli and ask for ¼ pound of it, as thinly sliced as they’ll allow. It’s less expensive ounce for ounce at the counter and, because it’s sliced paper thin, a little goes a long way.
Remember: No one comes to your house to judge how much you spent on the food. These days, we’re all too damn thrilled to have a reason to celebrate to worry about such ridiculousness. When in doubt, serve food that makes you happy, and save a few bucks if you can.
Was this article helpful?11 Posted by: 👨 Cynthia D. Daniel