Delicious appetizers on the cheap
December 22, 2012 6:37 PM   Subscribe

I'm on the hunt for cheap but semi-fancy appetizer recipes.

I've read Bittman's article on 101 Appetizers, and searched through the old AskMe threads, but I'm looking for recipes that are inexpensive to make but delicious and seem fancy. This is for our Christmas dinner - we are serving ham, two salads, green beans, scalloped potatoes, and rolls. The other appetizers are shrimp cocktail and a veggie plate. Dessert is a giant cookie platter. There will be 13 people eating, and one is a vegan.

We would like to keep this last appetizer inexpensive and delicious, but we have no ideas. Help!
posted by k8lin to Food & Drink (25 answers total) 52 users marked this as a favorite

How cheap is cheap? Baked brie is easy and delicious, and seems like it'd round out your other appetizers well. On the other hand, brie, as a cheese, can vary in price and may be slightly more than you want to spend.
posted by meese at 6:57 PM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Bruschetta. Can be very cheap and comes in all kinds of varieties, including apple/brie and stirfried mushrooms.

Pita and hummus. Can make it fancier by sprinkling olive oil on the hummus and paprika. Can even add feta to a portion for the non-vegans.

Strawberries with sour cream and brown sugar.

Some sort of flatbread could also be good.
posted by eleanna at 7:01 PM on December 22, 2012

Mini bliny!
posted by travelwithcats at 7:07 PM on December 22, 2012

My go-tos:

Michel Richard's "Faux" Gras. Unbelievably creamy, smooth, and rich. Nobody will be able to tell that its not foie gras. Always a hit.

Zuni "New Year's Eve" Bacon, Pickled Onion and Arugula Gougere sandwiches. A perfect little bite. All the flavors balance and contrast perfectly. Apparently the most popular app at Zuni in the past decade.

Can't go wrong with deviled eggs.
posted by AceRock at 7:07 PM on December 22, 2012 [7 favorites]

Delicious, totally seems fancy, and vegan, assuming you serve the cheese on the side: Roasted grapes.

2 lbs grapes
1/4 c water or white wine
2 Tbsp sugar
Either a bit of finely chopped rosemary or a chunk of vanilla bean (an inch of the bean is fine).
Blue cheese
Baguette or crackers

Remove grapes from stems and put into an oven-proof pan (or a foil pan you can do on the grill). Mix wine, sugar, and rosemary or vanilla. Pour the liquid over the grapes and roast at about 400 for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Take them out of the oven. Either crumble the blue cheese over them or simply smear blue cheese onto the crackers, then top with a few grapes.

I realize this sounds bizarre, but it's amazing. Everyone is always slow to try it, but when they do, it's a race to finish it.
posted by MeghanC at 7:21 PM on December 22, 2012 [17 favorites]

Sorry didn't see the part about the vegan guest. Scouring my brain for vegan recipes and nothing comes to mind, but I'll pop back in here if one does.
posted by AceRock at 7:54 PM on December 22, 2012

It's fine if it's not vegan - the crudités and salads and vegan cookies are plenty, she says.

Cheap is, oh, $6 to $8 at most? We tried baked Brie a few years back and no one liked it much (I know, what?)
posted by k8lin at 8:14 PM on December 22, 2012

Stuffed mushrooms? Spoon some pesto (or tomato, even) into some mushrooms, bake, and serve. If you're feeling fancy, you can add in more stuff like olives, cheese, etc. It's a really easy dish to customize.
posted by krakus at 8:16 PM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I get figs, cut them in half then fill them with a mixture of cream cheese and some spices (chives, garlic & herbs, hot pepper flakes, etc) and a bit of honey. Delish. Not vegan.

Cream cheese with some chutney spread over top.

(You could substitute a tofu cream cheese perhaps?)

I like green pea dip. My whole family goes crazy for it. Our version is not vegan. But there's a vegan version here, made with tofu. (We like to add a bit of goat cheese and some hot sauce, but we do that on an individual basis.)
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 8:23 PM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

To make a vegan feel at home, you can work up gỏi cuốn on the cheap once you get the hang of the rice paper. You make some rice vermicelli, get the thinnest Vietnamese-style rice sheets you can get, dampen the rice sheets one at a time to soften them, and then roll up a little bit of vermicelli burrito-style with pretty much whatever else you want to put in. I pretty much always go with lettuce, shredded carrots, and mint leaves, and I often include cucumber spears, scallions, or chives as well. A basic nonvegetarian recipe — pretty much all recipes are more or less the same and improvisable as you like by choosing to include or exclude elements — can be found here.
posted by jackbishop at 8:26 PM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

This black-eyed pea crostini recipe is pretty damn amazing (and cheap too!).
posted by neroli at 9:04 PM on December 22, 2012

Garlic butter roasted mushrooms, serve with sliced baguette. Skip the capers if your budget is really strict. Yummy and elegant.

Slow-roasted cherry tomatoes, roasted garlic, spread on baguette ... mmm.

Cheese straws
. Puff pastry, grated cheese, some herbs if you feel like. Easy, cheap, festive!
posted by miss_kitty_fantastico at 10:12 PM on December 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

I recommend something with puff pastry. I don't have a specific recipe for this but there are a lot of great things you can do with either jam and cheese, or carmelized onions and cheese, or fruit and cheese, in puff-pastry 'cups' (cut them into squares and use a mini muffin tin) to make a really delicious little appetizer that looks super fancy.

I've made cheese straws a handful of times and that's always been a hit too. Same for roasted cherry tomatoes... yum.
posted by Lady Li at 10:41 PM on December 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Almond-stuffed dates wrapped in bacon. I first had these at a fancy catered party and liked them well enough to try them on my own...mine turned out just as well as the catered ones, so they're in my permanent rotation for party appetizers. You can add goat cheese too, although that would probably take them out of your budget range, and they taste great without it. Cheers!
posted by faineant at 1:45 AM on December 23, 2012

What Lady Li said. Look for recipes for vol-au-vents. They're endlessly customizable and always look fancy.
posted by Eumachia L F at 2:07 AM on December 23, 2012

Very 19070s but yum: water chestnuts wrapped in bacon, skewered with a toothpick and run under the broiler. I treat the marinade (and there are about 900 varieties online) as optional because you don't actually need it and I prefer them without. (Martha Stewart doesn't marinate hers, but she also doesn't cook them long enough.)
posted by DarlingBri at 2:17 AM on December 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Layer cream cheese with dried cranberries, walnuts or pecans. Maybe drizzle some balsamic or dill over it. Put some extra nuts and/or cranberriesas a garnish on a nice dish and ta-da!
Serve with nice crackers
posted by Neekee at 5:19 AM on December 23, 2012

19070s? No, I mean the decade not the ZIP code...
posted by DarlingBri at 5:43 AM on December 23, 2012

If you have a Trader Joe's anywhere near you, they have tons of appetizery type things, including some premade ones that are great (their small party meatballs are excellent).

Something that might work, and even, if you do some without the cheese, would work for the vegan, would be Trader Joe's bruschetta sauce in a jar (or some of the fresh kind in a tub if they have it); it's very tasty and makes it super easy to do bruschetta. Just take a loaf of crusty bread and some shredded mozzarella, which TJ has also. Slice the bread and top with the bruschetta. Sprinkle some mozzarella. Place on a cookie sheet and broil for 1-2 minutes till cheese melts. Or, just top Trader Joe's pita crackers with bruschetta and serve.
posted by gudrun at 7:31 AM on December 23, 2012

Roast wedges of red potatoes tossed with olive oil and seasoning (rosemary?), that usual deal. Wrap wedges in bacon.
posted by ifjuly at 8:39 AM on December 23, 2012

"Michel Richard's "Faux" Gras. Unbelievably creamy, smooth, and rich. Nobody will be able to tell that its not foie gras. Always a hit."
known as pate de cluck where i'm from.
butchered 50 chickens, had 50 livers, made pate. fantastic!
although, the next day, SBD. just a warning.
posted by goutytophus at 6:17 PM on December 23, 2012

I like to buy a goat cheese log and roll it in chopped walnuts (or another nut) and drizzle with honey, then spread on baguette slices. Yum!
posted by sucre at 6:39 PM on December 23, 2012

how experienced are you in the kitchen?

A Spanish tortilla is elegant and fun and CHEAP- just eggs, potatoes, salt, and oil (I think you're supposed to use olive oil, but I've used vegetable oil when olive oil wasn't around, you can also use half olive oil and half vegetable oil, the point being that vegetable oil is cheaper). Cut into small squares for an appetizer.

It takes a little bit of skill (but not nearly as hard as people make it out to be) so it depends on how comfortable you are in the kitchen.
posted by saraindc at 5:19 AM on December 24, 2012

As AceRock said - Deviled Eggs are cheap as shit, and seen as fancy (and somewhat ironic and fashionable, because who thinks of Deviled eggs?).

I just came in here to suggest that Deviled eggs are infinitely customizable, and can be made to suite your audience's level of fanciness.

For instance, for Christmas eve dinner, I made half the Deviled Eggs traditionally. For the other half, I chopped up bacon and caramelized onions, and included that in the mix.

Since the meat of a Deviled Egg is just goop in an egg, you can put whatever you want in there! Get creative!
posted by justalisteningman at 12:37 PM on December 24, 2012

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