If you’re throwing an engagement party or a bridal shower, the menu will be a big part of the production. But it doesn’t need to be complicated to be remarkable.
Alison Hotchkiss, owner of Alison Events in Rowayton, Conn., and San Francisco and author of “The Destination Wedding Planner: The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Wedding From Afar (Chronicle Books), says the type of food served depends on the time of the party. For an event held around noon or the dinner hour, plan on more hearty fare.
“I always recommend three to five appetizers including chicken, beef, fish and two veggie options,” she said. Alternatively, set up food stations, so guests can help themselves.
“I suggest comfort food. Mac-and-cheese you can never go wrong with, or little beef sliders or spicy Thai chicken skewers or a really amazing spread of all sorts of cheeses and grapes, apricots and nuts,” she said about food stations.
If you don’t want to host an indoor party, consider a cookout, pool party or garden party.
“We love a good barbecue,” said Hotchkiss. “Red-and-white-check linens, picnic tables, rattan chargers with paper plates, striped straws, s’mores and a complimentary wine. Perhaps have a couple of games ready like backgammon, Chinese checkers or card games so people can play while soaking up the sun.”
For a bridal shower or engagement party held in the afternoon, she suggests a lighter menu.
“I think having a cheese board with fruits and nuts and fresh bread and crackers is a great staple,” she said. Add some warm fingers foods such as mini quiches or other appetizers (homemade or store-bought).
Beverages can add a celebratory note.
Champagne or other sparkling wines are crisp and refreshing, and the bubbles add a touch of elegance. A signature cocktail is another way to go. Be sure to have water and nonalcoholic drinks on hand, as well.
For dessert, Hotchkiss said, “Women don’t like to be caught eating large desserts. So, keep it bite-sized.” She recommends petit fours, mini lemon squares, almond cookies, mini cupcakes, mini ice cream cones, caramels or small chocolate candies.
“Also, be sure to have a good spread of berries. Fresh fruit is always a hit.”
Shrimp Fajitas Salad on Crisp Flour Tortilla Chips
From Alison Hotchkiss
4 (8-inch) flour tortillas
1 ripe avocado, pitted and peeled
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon finely chopped cilantro
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped jalapeno, or more to taste
6 ounces extra small (salad shrimp) cooked and peeled shrimp, chopped (about 1 1/4 cups)
3 tablespoons finely chopped peeled ripe mango
2 teaspoons finely chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon finely chopped jalapeno
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons thin sliced green onion tops, for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Use ruler to trim tortillas into 4 large 6-inch squares. Cut 24 2-inch squares from the squared off tortillas; discard trimmings.
Spray baking sheet with nonstick spray. Arrange tortilla squares on pan and spray with nonstick spray. Bake until toasted golden and crisp, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool.
Puree avocado, 1 1/2 teaspoons lime juice, 1 teaspoon cilantro and 1/2 teaspoon jalapeno in a food processor until smooth. Set aside.
Combine shrimp, mango and remaining cilantro, jalapeno and lime juice in small bowl. Spread about 1/2 tablespoon avocado mixture in center of each toasted tortilla square.
Lightly press a tablespoon of the shrimp salad in center of each. Garnish with scallion slices and serve.
Makes 12 servings, 2 pieces per serving.
Grown Up Ham and Cheese Finger Sandwiches
From Food Network Kitchens
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced
8 slices thin white bread, recommended: Pepperidge Farm
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 large or 2 small green apples
4 to 6 ounces aged Gouda
1 tablespoon Dijon or whole grain mustard, apple butter or chutney
1/2 bunch watercress
8 thin slices prosciutto
Freshly cracked black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Bring water, vinegar and brown sugar to a boil. Add the onions and remove from the heat. Cover, and set aside until the onions come to room temperature.
Trim the crusts off the bread and cut the bread into thirds, for 3 rectangles per piece. Lightly brush both sides of the bread pieces with olive oil and lay out on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven until just crisp and lightly brown, about 5 minutes. Cool.
To assemble: Quarter, core, and very thinly slice the apple, (a mandolin is terrific for this). Very thinly slice the cheese into triangles or shards that will fit nicely on the bread.
Place a dab or smear of mustard on the bread. Place a piece of apple, cheese and 1 or 2 sprigs of watercress on each piece of toasted bread. Wrap a small piece of prosciutto around each stack to make a neat package. Top with a little bit of the pickled onions, a drizzle of olive oil and freshly cracked black pepper. Serve at room temperature.
Do ahead tips: Toast the bread ahead, and thinly slice the apple, placing them in lemon water to prevent them from turning brown. If you need to assemble the sandwiches ahead, don’t add the watercress, and cover them with a very light moistened paper towel.
Makes 24 sandwiches.
Prosecco Ginger Cocktail
Adapted from Alison Hotchkiss
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup (6 ounces) crystallized ginger
1/2 cup sugar
2 bottles prosecco, chilled
24 thin diagonal sliced seedless or Persian cucumber
Combine water, ginger and sugar in saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer on low heat, uncovered, 15 minutes. Off heat let steep, covered, 30 minutes. Cool.
Puree in blender until smooth.
Add 1 tablespoon ginger puree to each champagne glass. Add chilled prosecco, and stir well with swizzle stick until blended. Garnish glass with cucumber slice.
Makes 24 servings.
Juice of a Few Flowers
Adapted from “Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics: Fabulous Flavor from Simple Ingredients” by Ina Garten
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (2 oranges)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice (1 grapefruit)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (1 lemon)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (2 limes)
1 cup good vodka, optional
Extra lemon juice
Fresh mint sprigs
Combine the orange juice, grapefruit juice, lemon juice, lime juice, and vodka, if using, in a pitcher. Dip the rim of 6 martini glasses first in a dish with lemon juice and then a dish with sugar. Set aside to dry.
When ready to serve, place ice cubes in a cocktail shaker, add the cocktail mixture to fill the shaker 3/4 full, and shake for about 30 seconds. It’s important to shake for a full 30 seconds to get the drink very cold and dilute it slightly with the ice. Pour into the sugared martini glasses and garnish with a sprig of mint. Continue filling the shaker with ice and cocktail mixture until all the drinks are poured. Serve ice cold.
Makes 4 drinks.
Kathryn Rem can be reached at 788-1520 and email@example.com.