What's your best appetizer recipe?
November 18, 2011 4:01 PM   Subscribe

Help me win an appetizer cooking contest! Again!

Well, mefites, you came through for me last year, and now I need your help again.

The bar gets raised a little every year at this annual holiday party/appetizer contest.

Here are some things I neglected to mention last year:

1) We live in Seattle, so fresh, excellent seafood is actually quite routine for everyone here. :)

2) Bacon is ALWAYS over-represented at this event.

3) Discrete, individual servings are nice but not necessary. If it tastes good enough, it doesn't matter if you have to lop off or scoop out your own serving.

4) Something that's so common where you live that you'd never consider entering it in a contest might be almost unheard of here. That Southern staple, Pimiento Cheese Spread, for example, always amazes and delights food snobs in the Pacific Northwest.

So, what do you suggest?
posted by Rula Lenska to Food & Drink (23 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
There are some days I just want to have good crusty bread and tapenade as the entree. "This is awesome. I'm going to need about four more entire loaves."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:06 PM on November 18, 2011

Buffalo wing dip?
posted by stefnet at 4:27 PM on November 18, 2011

The "shrimp bites" my mama always used to make might be just up your alley: take one package cheap-o English muffins (minimal nooks and crannies). Lay them out on a cookie sheet. In a bowl, mix up one can of drained + chopped up mini shrimp*, one small jar of Old English Cheese**, half a stick of butter, and some garlic salt. Mash it all together in to a paste. Spread evenly and thickly on to the English Muffins. Pop the cookie sheet in to the freezer for five minutes or so, to harden the muffins enough to cut into fourths. Bake at 350° for ten minutes or so, until the muffin part is browned and the cheese looks melty. You will know they are done when there is an ungodly amount of butter that has melted off the spread on to the cookie sheet. These are super easy to do ahead; just put them back in to the freezer after you cut them into fourths, in big ziplocs. When ready to serve, just pop 'em right in the oven; up the cooking time by five minutes or so. These are such a big hit that I usually don't even have time to put them on a platter before they're gone. Good, too, if you're boozing. Fat + carbs + delish.

If that doesn't sound good, have you seen Bittman's 101 Appetizers in 20 Minutes? I have a dog-eared printout of it on my cookbook shelf, and every.single.thing I have made from it has been awesome.

*I suppose you could use fresh. They just have to be really small so they are indistinguishable from the other ingredients in the spread.
**Can be hard to find in the grocery; look where they would have pimiento. Usually on an endcap near where Velveeta might be.
posted by stellaluna at 4:29 PM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh! Forgot--I think a tablespoon or two of mayonnaise goes in with the butter, cheese, and shrimp on the shrimp bites. Healthy they are not--but they are delicious.
posted by stellaluna at 4:30 PM on November 18, 2011

Okay, inspired by this question I think you should go with shmaltz-related deliciousness. I'm thinking little individually sized shmaltz-fried latkes. Use a big box grater on the potatoes and the key is to let the grated potatoes drain and to squeeeeze out as much water as you can from them so they fry up super crispy. Serve with sour cream, apple sauce (clearly you would be making your own so be sure to get the good cinnamon from Penzeys).
posted by Mizu at 4:33 PM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nothing beats a good seven-layer dip made with black beans, fresh homemade salsa and guacamole, and plenty of lime & cilantro. Serve with salted homemade chips, or you could even try sprinkling them with something like lime salt or Penzey's sandwich sprinkle...
posted by vorfeed at 4:33 PM on November 18, 2011

Oh, yeah, and don't put shredded lettuce on the bottom -- it's flavorless and it gets everywhere as soon as people start to break into the dip. I would put the bean layer on the bottom and then add a layer of chopped green chile toward the top. Frozen is much better than canned.
posted by vorfeed at 4:40 PM on November 18, 2011

Shameless self-link: smoked salmon on pumpernickel with wasabi creme fraiche
posted by ninazer0 at 4:41 PM on November 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you're going to go dip-style, I make this tomato and pesto torta for all social occasions because of the sadness I encounter if I don't. (For very special occasions I cover mine in pine nuts, which are delicious and wickedly expensive.)

I've been considering going uptown and using some goat cheese in the blend, as well, so it's got a better twang to it.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:43 PM on November 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

These Zucchini Cakes are always a major hit whenever I make them.
posted by litnerd at 5:18 PM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

These things are pretty much the coin of the realm in Chicago. Seriously. Nine months after that party you will likely have several children named after you.
posted by timsteil at 5:52 PM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

This recipe has been a big hit for me. (Phyllo cups, cranberries, brie, and a walnut if you don't want to follow the link.) Lots of potential for modification as well: what type of nut homade cranberry sauce, different cheeses....
posted by TedW at 5:55 PM on November 18, 2011

For a Mediterranean flair you might also want to try any of many variations of Baba Ghanoush or tapenade, and for the really adventuresome, make a B'Stella, which although listed as a main course in the recipe I linked I have also seen sliced into thin wedges as a first course in a Moroccan restaurant.
posted by TedW at 6:08 PM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Deep fried Mars bars.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:02 PM on November 18, 2011

One little thing you can do to make any dip-based appetizer just a little more awesome is to use thin, crisp slices of watermelon radish in addition to the crackers or whatever. They are crazy-looking when sliced into discs and people like them, but they hardly taste like anything so you can use them as a vehicle for a number of different kinds of flavors.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 7:20 PM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't even remember where I found this but I can eat a whole bath of this for dinner all by myself.

Slice a baguette into 1/2" thick rounds and arrange on a baking sheet
Spread pesto over each slice
Add a thin slice of tomato and avocado to each slice
Sprinkle with gruyere cheese
Broil for a few minutes until the cheese is all melted
posted by rhapsodie at 8:07 PM on November 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

East eets southwest in my never-fail, go-to appetizer which has become a request every year since its debut:

Wonton Wrappers
1 package spicy sausage
1 package shredded cheese (i typically go w a sharp cheddar blend, but any will do)
1 bottle of ranch dressing

In muffin pan (preferably nonstick bc regular needs to be greased which tends to soak into bottom of wonton wrappers), gently press into molds but leave them looking somewhat 'organic or lopsided"

Bake empty wontons in oven at 350 for a few minutes until they begin to firm up (DO NOT overbake at this step or they will burn once you bake w filling!)

In pan, brown sausage until cooked thoroughly and chop until there are no longer any over-sized chunks.

Drain fat.

In separate bowl, combine cheese, sausage, and just enough ranch dressing to bind together.

Spoon mixture evenly into cups and return to oven until cheese is melted and wontons are golden brown.

Serve and enjoy ;)

I have been making these for years so I sometimes use variations of the base recipe by adding different spices or switching up the cheeses. I encourage you to make it your own but recommend you practice a few times as it took a few tries until the wontons were baked to perfection and not too soggy (hence no grease in cups) or not to burnt (double baking can be tricky).

Let me know if you like it or if you come up w a new version - I'm always looking to expand my recipe book too.

Good luck!
posted by GeekSpeak at 8:32 PM on November 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Sweet Potatoes Bruschetta!

Super good, super seasonal, super tasty, super pretty! and...honestly, super easy!

All in all...super!
posted by fyrebelley at 8:59 PM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Someone at a meetup brought blue cheese shortbreads which were awesome. I have no idea which recipe she used, but this one looks pretty simple and direct.
posted by fiercekitten at 10:08 PM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Are your friends familiar with bhel puri or other Indian chaats? I often make it and assemble the individual portions on the papri, as done here. If you have access to Indian/ South Asian shops you can buy the crispy bits and other ingredients. Other than that, the two chutneys (sweet and sour: tamarind-date; hot and fresh: mint-coriander-chile) can be bought or very easily made, and you need boiled chickpeas - home made is better - and optionally, yoghurt. Plus finely diced following: boiled potatoes, tomatoes, onions and chiles. If this appeals, I can post my usual recipes and instructions.

The downside is, assembly can't be done more than an hour or so in advance for individual portions, and even that is pushing it. The upside is, it's a great make-your-own dish, whether had as a canape or, more traditionally, in bowls.
posted by tavegyl at 2:11 AM on November 19, 2011

Oh, and as a UK resident these days, and following on your mini Yorkshire puddings from last year, I can't but suggest potted shrimp. By themselves they can be boring, but for real wowza, serve on a freshly toasted crumpet with a sharp lemony tarragon mayonnaise, microgreens and a poached quail's egg. Shamelessly ripped off from here where I ordered it two days running.
posted by tavegyl at 7:04 AM on November 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

It bums me out bacon is overrepresented, 'cause whenever I make these (warning, self-link to LJ 'cause the recipe's an old family friend's, not from a book as far as I know) for parties people flip out. It's the horseradish and wine that makes it, 'cause the tang counters the fatty smokiness. And who doesn't love crispy toasts and broiled bubbly toppings?

The other thing that always always always wins strangers over is nuts spiced well (Ina Garten's rosemary cashews, ummm), but that probably comes off as too simple. I would also recommend Mefi's own cranberry jalapeno salsa crack. I make it every year since I found out about it, serve it with triscuits and a gentle cheese like provolone, and people go gaga. It's awesome too because it's better made ahead a bit and is simple to transport--once made just stick it in a presentable dip container with a lid in the fridge and when it's time to present bring it out. No last minute assembly or extra cooking steps, easy peasy.
posted by ifjuly at 8:27 AM on November 19, 2011

I was surprised by how much I loved this grape salsa on goat cheese crostini. I think its great that its light, unexpected and vegetarian friendly. As with most salsas, making it a day ahead of time helps to marry the flavors, and makes your life easier. I've always just used jalapenos rather than anaheim since they're more ubiquitous around here, and we've tried it on crackers, ciabatta, baguette - you name it, it's delicious.

In the winter I'm also a sucker for just about anything in puff pastry - i know its not that original but the convenience of frozen puss pastry can't be beat. I recently made mini puff pastry turnovers stuffed with roasted sweet potatoes, thyme, goat cheese and honey. I also made a twist on Ina's tomato and goat cheese tarts by spreading a triangle of puff pastry with herbed goat cheese and caramalized onions, then topping it with one grape tomato, and folding it into a small bundle. cute and tasty. Both of these froze really easily for a week before I took them out to thaw and bake.
posted by moshimosh at 6:10 PM on November 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

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