perfecting the "done before they arrive" party- a work in progress

Categories: Appetizers, Cocktail Party, Dinner Party, Sources, Posted on May 6, 2013 by Sandy Bergsten

Just got back from Philadelphia where I was a delegate for Garden Club of America’s centennial annual meeting. Needless to say it was an auspicious affair. Among the keynote speakers were Alice Waters chef, author, activist and owner of Chez Panisse in Berkeley. A champion of the organic food movement, Waters spoke of how gardening had shaped her life and in turn how she has subsequently influenced the way Americans look at food. Other highlights were the private garden tours through Philadelphia’s Main Line. While the gardens were impressive one of the best parts was spending time on the charter buses with likeminded women from around the country.

On one long and winding stint I had the opportunity to sit next to a fascinating club president from Farmington, Connecticut. As we passed the stone houses, steep cliffs and rolling meadows our conversation turned from gardens, to children, to cooking and entertaining. She mentioned that while she liked to throw parties she found the whole affair a bit daunting. When I asked her why she replied that if she doesn’t do everything herself she feels like a slacker.

This is one of the biggest reasons people don’t entertain; they get overwhelmed because they feel they must do everything on their own by scratch. If you look at successful people one of the key common characteristics is their ability to delegate. When entertaining guests you need to feature your strong points and outsource where you come up short.

Try this little exercise- on a piece of paper make two columns. On the left list what you do really well in terms of entertaining. On the right jot down your shortcomings. Maybe you know a lot about wine, are an incredible baker, a consummate flower arranger, or are skilled on the grill. Whatever you list on the left should always be featured when you entertain. What appears on the right you should either pick up prepared from the market or better yet accept those kind offers when your guests ask what they can bring.

Personally I tend to farm out dessert and an hors d’oeuvre. One reason it frees me up to concentrate on the main meal, another is that I’m an abysmal baker. Appetizers are actually one of my strong suits so while someone will most likely bring one I always have a backup stash in my freezer. Because nothing says “welcome” like a warm canapé.

Here’s a super easy showstopper- cheese puff cups with fig preserves.

cheese puff cups

Athens makes amazing mini “cups” that are ready to fill (you’ll find them in the freezer section of your grocery store). An added bonus they come in handy plastic trays. You can fill your cups while they sit comfortably in their tray, then cover the entire works with plastic wrap, slide back in the box, seal with tape and freeze (just remember to remove the filled cheese puff cups from the plastic trays before you pop your canapés in the oven).

cheese puff cups

A cheese puff couldn’t be simpler to make. The components are softened cream cheese, finely chopped onion, slightly beaten egg yolks and a healthy dash of cayenne pepper.

cheese puff cups

Whisk until smooth.

cheese puff cups

Spoon the mixture into Fillo cups.

cheese puff cups

Top each with a ¼ tsp of fig preserves.

cheese puff cups

Cover with plastic wrap, slip back into its box, seal and freeze.

cheese puff cups

To serve place frozen individual cups on a cookie sheet and bake for 8 minutes or until bubbly in a preheated 375 degree oven.

With a greeting like this your guests are guaranteed to forgive any shortcomings.

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