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Killer appetizer needed

It's our turn to host the dinner party this weekend for a bunch of serious foodies. We are trying to keep the menu simple so that we can enjoy the night. Our main course is going to be a beef tenderloin and the starter is Gambas al Ajillo (Sizzling garlic shrimp) to be served with Manzanilla sherry which we've read is a perfect match. Another couple is also bringing a starter but I wanted to have something on the table when people arrive. Something dead easy and new and interesting. Any ideas???

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  1. Your menu sounds great...sorry if these suggestions are not new, but how about a nice guacamole? It's not earth-shattering, but tends to get gobbled up. Or something you could make ahead like Spanish tortilla, empanadas, dates stuffed with manchego, or something like that?

    1. This is make-ahead and fairly interesting. Carefully remove the larger, whole leaves from two endives. Clean and set aside, keeping them whole. Finely cube a sour apple, peeled, cucumber and parmesan (2:2:1 ratio, about). Chop the remaining endive and add. Add in chopped toasted pecans. Make a dressing of mayo, lemon juice, crushed garlic, salt and pepper and toss with the salad. Let it marinate for at least an hour. Right before people arrive, fill each endive leaf with a spoonful of the salad.

      I think it'll go well with the meal, which is pretty Spanish.

      1. Spanish potato croquettes with saffron aioli always go quickly:http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo.... Mini empanadas are also a tried-and-true favorite. If you want something a little different, try a puree of roasted eggplant with labneh, za'atar and lavender honey with warm pita chips.

        1 Reply
        1. re: JungMann

          Exactly what I was thinking! Patatas brava or tortilla espanola. Or a charcuteria y queso plate. Chorizo, Serrano ham, maybe aged manchego.


        2. A real killer and one serious foodies will adore is rillettes: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/glossary/r.... If you start today or tomorrow you have plenty of time to make them. They may seem complicated but it is really just a little work today, a little more the next day and let them sit. They can be out on the table with no work involved the day of the party. I didn't include a recipe because I didn't know if you would want traditional pork rillettes, duck or something else. However, recipes abound on the web and are a google away. Personally, I like Anthony Bourdain's version in his Les Halles Cookbook. Have a fun evening.

          1 Reply
          1. re: inuksuk

            The salmon rillettes in Keller's Bouchon book is simple and delicious. It could be made tomorrow.

            A favorite from Penelope Casas are her breaded and deep fried snails with Aioli for dipping. It is in the Tapas book. They don't last long.

          2. baked kale chips -
            wash the kale well and cut into pieces but try to keep the leaves in larger pieces taking out the large stem and vein that runs up the middle as best you can. lightly grease a large cookie sheet with oil and spread the throughly dry leaves in one layer on the sheet and add a little salt - bake at a high temp like 400 - 450 and stir frequently and keep a watchful eye - it will brown and totally dry out and get crisp - usually takes about 20-30 minutes.

            1. millyg-dead easy is an assortment of olives, good bread, cheeses, fresh grapes, sliced apples, roasted peppers, spiced nuts, etc. some olive oil, small plates-dig in!

              1. Here's a really wonderful recipe from Eberhard Müller, who headed up the kitchen at NYC's Lutèce after founding chef Andre Soltner retired. It's great for do-ahead and response to it has always been good whenever I've made it to serve with cocktails at dinner parties.

                Rillette of Fresh and Smoked Salmon
                Eberhard Müller, Lutèce

                6 oz. fresh salmon
                4 oz. smoked salmon, chopped fine
                3 oz. mayonnaise (homemade, if possible)
                2 cups white wine
                1 tbsp. minced shallots
                1 tsp. minced chives
                juice of ½ lemon
                grated peel of ¼ lemon

                1. Place the shallots and white wine in a casserole and bring to a boil.
                2. Add the fresh salmon and cook until just barely done. Remove the fish and let cool. SAVE THE COOKING LIQUID.
                3. Flake the salmon with a fork into small pieces.
                4. Mix the smoked salmon with mayonnaise and blend with the fresh salmon. Add chives and grated lemon peel. Adjust the consistency with some of the reduced cooking liquid.
                5. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Refrigerate.
                6. Serve with toasted country bread.

                1. I don't know what's new and interesting to you, but maybe one of these would work:

                  1. prosciutto-wrapped fresh figs, stuffed with mascarpone or chevre and a pecan, broiled until crisp, then drizzled with a reduction of balsamic vinegar if you wish

                  2. simple melon slices or melon balls with prosciutto

                  3. ceviche

                  4. gazpacho

                  5. cold cucumber/yogurt/dill soup

                  All seasonal and all well matched with the rest of the meal (if not the manzanilla), IMO. It might be nice to have some fruit or vegetable matter given the meat heaviness of the rest of the meal.

                  Whatever you do for the apps, dinner sounds great!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: cimui

                    Figs stuffed with goat cheese:

                    If you can find fresh figs, slice them from the thin tip to the thick, leaving them intact (as in, don't cut all the way through). Use a pastry bag to stuff them with goat cheese. If you can't find fresh figs, used dried, after plumping them simmering red wine. Looks and tastes great, and will complement your (wonderful) choices beautifully.

                  2. Sauteed whole mushrooms in garlic, butter, and sherry ( as long as you're serving sherry).

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: OysterHo

                      thanks everyone for the great suggestions. I am leaning toward the salmon recipe Deenso so kindly provided or the figs...both sound wonderful.

                    2. I discovered this recently and now I make it all the time.

                      Its a recipe for Goat cheese with thyme, peppercorns and olive oil.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: HungryRubia

                        Oh, that does sound really good, and easy which is my first requirement but the more I think about it, I would prefer something that does not require plates or cutlery. I suppose the proscutto and melon would work but I've done that before. I will definitely be trying the goat cheese though at some point.

                      2. Great menu Millygirl! Sounds like everything is particularly heavy and spicy. I think the famous melon and Procuitto would go great with the pairing and is not to heavy and could cool everyone off without being too fruity.

                        Here is an altenate way to present this famous dish.

                        Make melon balls with honeydew and/or cantelope
                        Procuitto wrap the balls and have a fresh basil leaf sticking out of the top.
                        Keep chilled as long as possible as the fruit and procuitto will break down after an hour or so.
                        This will be a refreshing appetizer and will balance well with the heavy dishes.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: CHEFBUCK

                          Good point Buck, it is refreshing and would def. lighten up the menu. For presentation, iIs there a trick to wrapping the proscutto around the melon? Each time I've done it they always end up looking messy. Should I use toothpicks to hold it all together? Like your idea re basil leaf.