Booooo! Scary Side Dishes!
October 4, 2011 6:50 AM   Subscribe

We're having a Halloween party, and I'd like your suggestion for scary side dishes - with some specific issues to address inside.

While working on our menu, we've come to discover that we're solid on main dishes, snacks, and desserts. It's when we come to side dishes that we're lacking. We've invited about 40 people and the food will be served as a buffet. *SPECIAL ISSUES* Gluten free, low sodium, vegetarian - I'd like at least one side to accommodate each of those people.

I'm not going "comic scary" or "cute Halloween" as much as kinda-sorta realistic scary - so far we've found a Jello salad that looks like gloopy dark red chunky blood, and are thinking of a pasta salad with various orbs (tomatoes, mozzarella, olives). Otherwise we're stuck. I've searched the archives, online, and Pinterest, but most of the suggestions I've found are for main dishes or desserts (well covered), or broadly for panna cotta modifications (blech).

We're sort of known as foodies, and aren't really limited by skill, time, or budget. As much as I'd like it to be creepy and fit the theme, I'd also like it to be delicious. Thank you so much!
posted by librarianamy to Food & Drink (16 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
You could make deviled eggs that look like eyeballs!
posted by arveale at 6:52 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Vermicelli in squid ink sauce which looks like the wispy hair of a J-horror ghost.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:55 AM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm not hugely familiar with what ingredients are/aren't gluten free, but you could make finger cookies - shape gluten-altered cookies like fingers (wider at knuckles, slightly thinner between), sliced almonds for fingernails ("glued" to the cookie with red jam), and light knife marks at the knuckles. Or bloody ice-hands for a punch (freeze red colored juice or water with red food coloring inside dish gloves). Tie the ends and freeze, then cut open when frozen and put in punch bowl.
posted by raztaj at 7:10 AM on October 4, 2011

This might be too pedestrian for you as foodies, but the creepiest thing I ever had at a Halloween party was baby carrots, lightly sanded (hit with a fine-grit cheese grater), and marinated in beet juice. They looked like bloody nubs, and they were disgusting looking. But delicious! And definitely meets all three of your requirements at once.

You can also mold small mozzarella balls with egg molds if given enough time to set. I've seen ones shaped like teeth. They were gross looking. Those would not work for your low-sodium friends.
posted by juniperesque at 7:20 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I was at a halloween party last year, and they served some fairly normal food - but they labeled the food with funny halloween labels.

On the ketchup, they taped a new label on to it that said, "sweet human blood sauce".
They had a crook-pot of of beef stew with a sign that said something like, "stewed zombie"

Serving their normal food, but adding funny signs, worked for them.
posted by Flood at 7:20 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

These marbled spiced hard-boiled eggs are pretty cool. They are probably delicious, but do not look one bit appetizing to me. So yes, Halloweenie.

This also sounds like a call for SuperMartha! Her Halloween issues are about the only ones I keep.

You could have this Eye Popping Soup in a crock pot? (The bugs made from Kalamata olives with rosemary needles for legs and chives for antennae are cool too, and the mozzarella balls with pimento olives can be a plate on the side too.) I'd say her Squash Leaf Canapes would be good with it, but instead of leaf shapes, I'd do bats or skulls with the goat cheese oozing through it.

Here's a recipe for a gluten-free pumpernickel bread, which, if you do the round pumpernickel cubed bread thing, you can always do one of those gross looking but delicious spinach dips. Pumpernickel is always dark and fall-y bread to me.

And last, as a side, also gluten-free, you can always make some Boo-tatoes. They're less delicious (in my opinion) if you skip butter and cream and just use veg stock - but if your vegetarians don't eat dairy, it helps. You could pipe them into muffin cups and twice-bake them ahead of time just to make them easier to handle on the buffet, and just warm them before they go out. The sweet potato pumpkins are also adorables, but seem more fiddly.

I also think this Jerusalem Artichoke Gratin sounds delicious, and I'd eat it until I had to unbutton my pants and nap on the sofa, but it looks like a plate of barf.
posted by peagood at 7:25 AM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

You could mock up some kind of half opened corpse torso and stand your side dishes in it; then you could get away with those dishes being only threateningly reminiscent of organs and guts rather than obviously representative. A mashed potato and food colouring heart? Some kind of noodle dish? Red cabbage? Bok choy in oyster sauce? If the base of your torso is safe to put food on, you could lay trails of spaghetti and sauce and odd bits of things artfully around the side dishes.

Some kind of concoction of spinach and xanthan gum could be green and slimy, while still allowing for the addition of whatever you would normally use to make spinach tasty.

Any kind of edible insects would make a good salad or garnish.

Maybe you could do something inventive with the legs from an octopus or two.
posted by emilyw at 7:25 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh! One more thing - you could do a "rotten" cauliflower bake, using whatever recipe you can find that works, but using either the purple cauliflower if you can get some - or make it "moldy" by adding green stuff like broccoli or rapini.

I just made some Kale Chips, which can look pretty gross - call them seaweed or alien skin - but are easy and delicious, and are good for everyone but the low-salt people.
posted by peagood at 7:37 AM on October 4, 2011

Martha Stewart living this moth had some excellent ideas for halloween food party foods (!) But not sure if they would meet all your parameters. Maybe worth a perusal?
posted by bquarters at 7:54 AM on October 4, 2011

Oh, sorry I'm back - because I love this question - but to make some of my suggestions more "foodie", of course, just use the idea and make the tomato soup a locally sourced organic heirloom tomato soup made with unicorn tears etc. Make whatever a foodie would make - mashed frou frou potatoes with frou frou stock - just shape them like wee ghosties. Amazeballs Exotic Vegetable Bake that just looks like Barf. Whatever. I don't know what foodies do - I just cook a lot and eat a lot, and I like tasty things.
posted by peagood at 7:55 AM on October 4, 2011

Easy and gross. I've also seen them done with snippets of green pepper as the fingernails (like a mossy zombie) but I think the "blood" and almonds are more realistic looking.
posted by dlugoczaj at 8:15 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Martha Stewart had some good stuff in her 2009 Halloween issue, but I picked up this year's issue, and wanted to make EVERY single dish. I'll pick it up at home, and post again tomorrow. (If I don't please feel free to MeMail me.)
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 9:44 AM on October 4, 2011

Make breadsticks shaped as 'bones'?
posted by easily confused at 9:45 AM on October 4, 2011

I've accidentally ruined gluten-free chicken bratwurst, and when they explode they look suuuuuper nasty. Like growths or something... It's super easy to cook them badly! Maybe you could combine them with something else to make a scary masterpiece.
posted by ShadePlant at 11:35 AM on October 4, 2011

Green Bread sticks with Almond "nails" and Asiago "hair" = Witches fingers
as for your pasta salad idea, it is very easy to dye noodles by boiling them in water with food coloring, maybe brain colored with chunks of tomato, baby onions, etc?

Good luck!
posted by Jayed at 3:06 PM on October 4, 2011

I don't have time to write down the MS recipes, sorry. But here are two I found (I made the finger cookies, but not the brain):

"Finger" Cookies
Yield: 5 dozen
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 egg
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla
2 2/3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup whole blanched almonds
raspberry jelly

In bowl, beat together butter, sugar, egg, almond extract and vanilla. Stir dry ingredients together, then add to wet and stir thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes.

Working with one quarter of the dough at a time and keeping remainder refrigerated, roll a scant tablespoon full of dough into a thin log shape about 4" long for each cookie. Squeeze clost to center and close to one end to create knuckle shapes. Press almond firmly into the end of the cookie for nail. Using paring knife, make slashes in several places to form knuckle. You want them a bit thin and gangly looking, since they'll puff a little when you bake them.

Place on lightly greased baking sheets (or use silicone sheets or parchment); bake in 325F oven for 20-25 minutes or until pale golden. Let cool for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, melt jelly over low heat in a small saucepan.

Carefully lift almond off of each finger, spoon a tiny amount of jelly onto nail bed and press almond back in place so the jelly oozes out from underneath. You can also make slashes in the finger and fill them with "blood.

Panna Cotta (brain style) with Pomegranite Sauce
1 cup milk
5 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
4 cups heavy cream
1 cup + 1 Tb sugar, divided
pinch salt
2 Tablespoons vanilla
8 oz. pomegranate juice
1/4 cup cornstarch

Place milk in a small bowl and sprinkle gelatin over the top. Stir and let sit for about five minutes so the gelatin can rehydrate a bit.

Combine cream and sugar in a pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and salt. Add the gelatin mixture and stir again until combined. Pour into (brain) mold, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight or until mixture is completely set.

To unmold, gently tilt mold so sides of the panna cotta pull away a bit, then place on platter or plate. You can also dip the bottom of the mold into warm water to help in unmolding.

(For non-brain occasions, pour into small custard cups, ramekins, or a large bowl)

For the pomegranate sauce, use a small bottle of Pom Wonderful, add three heaping spoonfuls of sugar so it isn't so tart, mix in about 1/4 cup cornstarch, whisk, then bring it all to a boil in a small saucepan while stirring. The consistency is rather disgusting, but that's the whole point!

This looks especially creepy set out on a really nice platter. Also quite effective on a carving board with a large chef's knife plunged into the center.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 1:34 PM on October 5, 2011

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