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cold, autumnal appetizer

I'm looking for an appetizer -- maybe even more of an amuse bouche -- to kick off an elegant autumn dinner party. It's for a lot of people who head south for the winter, so I'd like to give them a taste of some cold weather food before they go. The main course is Pork Diane.

The catch is I only have so many burners and so much oven space, so the appetizer has to be served cold. Can you chowhounds think of something that would work? It can have an infinite amount of prep time, just as long as it goes out cold. Ideally it would have a nice presentation and be cocktail-hour friendly (ie, finger food), but I am open to all suggestions.

I've been kicking around the idea of a ham, apple and blue cheese skewer (sort of an autumnal twist on the classic melon and proscuitto) but I'm worried that will be too much like the main course.

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  1. Smoked trout on a very thin piece of crostini with a sprig of arugula, sliced granny smiths & horseradish sour cream...

    2 Replies
    1. re: dbug31

      This sounds wonderful. I usually don't like this sort of overly precious app., but the combo of ingredients sounds amazing.

      1. re: oakjoan

        They are wonderful! You can either roughly flake the fish or make a quick mousse.

    2. May be a pumpkin bisque (served cold) served in shot glasses. You can top the soup with a dollop of creme fraiche and toasted pumpkin seeds.

      Anyone that I can think of is some sort of pear appetizer (since pears are super sweet in autumn). May be thin slices of pear with gorganzola cheese with drizze of truffle honey.

      1 Reply
      1. re: kobetobiko

        Maybe some roasted pumpkin or squash in phyllo cups? Both could be prepared in advance and served at room temperature.

      2. On the same lines as what you're thinking, you could do prosciutto wrapped persimmons.

        1 Reply
        1. re: chowser

          two bruchetta ideas: you could do a white bean puree with kale or a butternut squash puree top with kale. you could go either savory or sweet with the butternut squash.

        2. A really nice combination is small slices of a really good nut-raisin-wheat bread, with a slice of Machego cheese and a dab of fig jam. Very simple and very elegant.

          1. I've been subliminally influenced by your name...what about slices of fingerling potatoes with creme fraiche and caviar? I know it's a little typical, but if you get great local fingerlings it's definitely seasonal, and certainly elegant. I wonder if you could do a couple of different toppers...one with caviar, one with blue cheese, one with a smoked fish? sounds like a lovely party!

            1. For my (Canadian) thanksgiving dinner, I made turkey (asian-style) dumplings, served with a soy-cranberry dipping sauce. While you can serve them hot, I served them cold. They went over EXTREMELY well and were a nice change.

              I've also served phyllo-wrapped parsnip twigs and that was a big hit too.

              13 Replies
              1. re: mrbunsrocks

                That sounds interesting -- can you give me the recipe for the dumplings?

                1. re: mrbunsrocks

                  Also can you give us the recipe for the parsnip twigs? That sounds like a great combo of crispy, soft, sweet, savory. Would love to try.

                  1. re: kary

                    Sorry for the delay!

                    Here is the recipe for the turkey cranberry dumplings:

                    Turkey Dumplings with Cranberry Soy Dip

                    1 tbsp (15 mL) vegetable oil
                    1/4 lb (125 g) lean ground turkey
                    1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) minced ginger
                    1 1/2 tsp (7 mL) sodium-reduced soy sauce
                    1/4 tsp (1 mL) each salt and pepper
                    3/4 cup (175 mL) shredded Savoy or Napa cabbage
                    1/2 cup (125 mL) shredded carrot
                    1/4 cup (50 mL) green onions
                    32 round dumpling or square wonton wrappers
                    Cornstarch for dusting
                    1 cup (250 mL) Cranberry Sauce
                    2 tbsp (30 mL) sodium-reduced soy sauce
                    1/2 tsp (2 mL)minced ginger
                    2 tbsp (30 mL) thinly sliced green onion

                    Heat 1 tsp (5 mL) vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet set over medium-high heat. Crumble in turkey and brown well. Add the carrot, cabbage, green onions, ginger, soy sauce, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring for 3 to 4 minutes or until the cabbage is wilted. Remove from heat; cool to room temperature. Moisten two edges of each wonton wrapper with a little water. Place a rounded spoonful of the filling in the centre of each; fold to enclose, pressing to seal. Place on a baking sheet dusted with cornstarch to keep wontons from sticking. Cover with a damp towel.

                    Heat 1 tsp (5 mL) vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet set over medium heat. Add a single layer of the wontons. Cook, without turning, for 2 minutes or until just golden on the bottom. Add 1/2 cup (125 mL) of water to the skillet. Cover and steam for 6 minutes or until all the water is evaporated and dumplings are tender throughout. Repeat with remaining dumplings, adding more oil to the pan as needed.

                    Sauce: Meanwhile, whisk the cranberry sauce with the soy sauce in a small saucepan; set over medium heat. Cook, stirring often until the sauce comes to a boil and is smooth and glossy. Cool slightly; stir in the ginger and green onions.

                    Makes 32 wontons.

                    And the parsnip twigs:
                    Parsnip Twigs
                    4 medium parsnips (about 8 oz)
                    1 T unsalted butter
                    pinch of sea salt
                    1 t chopped fresh thyme (or 1/4 t dried)
                    1/2 c. finely grated parmesan
                    1/8-1/4 t cayenne
                    2 T finely chopped fresh parsley
                    4 sheets phyllo pastry
                    1/4 c unsalted butter, melted
                    pinches of coarse salt

                    1. Peel parsnips, cut in half crosswise. Then cut lengthwise into batons about 1/4-1/2 inch thick. Heat butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Sauté parsnips for 15-18 minutes, stirring frequently, or until golden brown. Remove from heat and leave in pan. Sprinkle with sea salt and thyme, cool completely.

                    2. Stir cheese with cayenne and parsley. Work with 2 phyllo sheets at a time; keep remainder covered with plastic until needed. Brush 1 sheet with butter, sprinkle with half of the cheese mixture. Top with another phyllo sheet, lightly brush with butter. Cut into 12 4-inch square pieces (3 cuts lengthwise and 4 cuts cross-wise should product approximately this size).

                    3. Line baking sheet with parchment paper of coat with nonstick spray. Lay a parsnip baton, or 2 if thin (I had up to three in some), in the centre of the square, allowing about 1/4-1/2 inch uncovered phyllo at each end (if parsnip is too long, nip off a bit of the baton). Roll up, brush with more butter.

                    4. Transfer twigs to prepared baking sheet, seam side down and slightly apart. Repeat with more phyllo. Lightly sprinkle twigs with sea salt (can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to half a day....or freeze on tray, then transfer to an airtight heavy freezer bag once thoroughly frozen...defrost on prepared baking sheet for 30 minutes before baking).

                    5. To serve, preheat oven to 400F. Bake twigs for 8-10 minutes, or until brown and crisp. Serve immediately, scattered with remaining parsley.

                    Makes 24 twigs.

                    For the curry sauce, I just used light sour cream, with a little bit of indian curry paste stirred in.

                  2. re: mrbunsrocks

                    Were the parsnip twigs from the LCBO food mag? I've been dying to try those.

                    1. re: piccola

                      Yep! You SHOULD try them. :) They are really tasty. Different...a new twist on comfort food.

                      1. re: mrbunsrocks

                        Honestly, I've been meaning to cook every recipe from that issue. So far, I've made the savoury pumpkin scones and they're awesome.

                        1. re: piccola

                          would you mind sharing the recipe?

                          1. re: alex8alot

                            Sure. Sorry - I didn't mean to be a recipe-tease...

                            Seeded savoury mini-scones

                            2 cups fresh spinach leaves
                            1 cup AP flour
                            1.5 tsp baking powder
                            0.5 tsp salt
                            2 tbsp cold butter
                            0.75 cups grated sharp cheddar (or sub another strong melty cheese)
                            2 tbsp chopped green onions
                            0.5 cup milk
                            1 egg, beaten
                            0.5 tsp each sesame and poppy seeds (good with onion seeds too)
                            2 tbsp pumpkin seeds

                            1. Blanch spinach until wilted. Drain and cool completely. Squeeze into a dry ball, then chop into tiny bits.
                            2. Move your oven rack to above centre (I forgot); preheat 450 degrees.
                            3. Line a large baking sheet with parchment; oil or spray the parchment.
                            4. Stir flour, salt, and baking powder in a bowl. Cut in the butter until only small (rice-size) pieces remain. Add cheese, onions and spinach, and mix until evenly spread through. Pour in milk and stir until dough just forms.
                            5. Turn out dough on floured surface. Cut in half and pat into two rounds, kneeding lightly (maybe a couple times). Brush each round with egg (there'll be extra) and sprinkle with seeds. Cut each round in 8 wedges; place on sheet, seeds up, about an inch apart.
                            6. Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden.
                            7. Eat!

                            1. re: piccola

                              done! devoured! thank you! couldn't not add garlic.... it's an illness.

                        2. re: mrbunsrocks

                          Thanks for the parsnip twig recipe. I am definitely going to try these.

                          1. re: sweetTooth

                            Liquor Control Board of Ontario. They publish a free quarterly magazine full of drink and food recipes that people have been known to fight over in stores.

                            1. re: piccola

                              I see. Thanks! Found their website. Looks like there's a database of recipes I can search in.

                      2. Take a date, and make and x shaped cut in the top, and fill with a small amount of goat cheese. Take a small piece of bacon, and wrap around each date. Put on a cookie sheet, in a preheated 350 degree oven for 15 minutes, until cheese is soft, and bacon is cooked.......yum!

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: mcel215

                          OOh I'm doing a similar app for a party but with figs, blue cheese, and a pecan. Very tasty!

                          1. re: mcel215

                            If you want to be trully decadant , you could fill a date with foie gras...

                            I had caralimelized figs stuffed with foie gras . You do it in advance and serv them cold , maybe on a lollypop stick !

                            1. re: mcel215

                              Date with Blue cheese also - and they are great! Bake 'em hotter and shorter for crispier bacon. They are fabulous at room temp as well.

                            2. Slices of persimmon wrapped in prosciutto. No cooking. Great flavor. Definitely autumnal. Would that be too much like the main course?

                              1. At a recent party, guests raved over the Pumpkin Hummus from Cooking Light that I served with parsnip chips. (I added 1/2 cup toasted, ground pepitas to the recipe.)

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: DLAOKC

                                  I didn't the CL recipe, but I love pumpkin hummus. I usually top it with either zaatar or pomegranate seeds.

                                2. Thank you for all the wonderful suggestions! We ended up using a smoked salmon canape on pumpernickel triangles, with a dill sauce garnished with a caper. (Sort of a variation of the smoked trout idea.) Cold and easy -- but there are lots here that I want to try, too!