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appetizer questions

there's so many great app suggestions on this board that i've taken to use for an upcoming housewarming / bday party. i do have a couple of specific questions, though, if anyone could assist:

i'm making, among many other things, palmiers. i wanted to fill with cheese and brush the outside with melted fig jam but was wondering which cheese would be best. was thinking either fontina or gruyere.

also, i'm going to have mac and cheese bites. was thinking about using the ina garten version with gruyere and white sharp cheddar. has anyone tried? do i need buttered breadcrumbs for the top since they are so small or should i just sprinkle with parm?

and lastly, i'm going to make little chocolate cups that i wanted to fill with a peanut butter mousse. any suggestions / recipes for the filling? my bf LOVES reese's peanut butter cups so i wanted a similar idea but made more appropriate for a party.

there's a mix of people / palates that will be there (i'm expecting roughly 40 people). the rest of the menu will be:

antipasti platter: marcona almonds, meats (salami, serrano ham, black pepper crusted pepperoni), cheeses, marinated artichokes, roasted peppers
roasted olives with rosemary, thyme, lemon and garlic
cheese straws
homemade rosemary / tomato-basil breads
the palmiers
spinach-artichoke dip (always seems to be a hit)
stuffed mushrooms with feta, bacon and spinach
pizettes with butternut squash puree, fried sage and goat cheese
the mac & cheese bites
peanut butter cups
mini-brownie bites

i know i'm all over the place but, again, want to accomodate all tastes. sorry for the lengthy and grammatically-challenged post but have a million things in my mind!
thanks!

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  1. What about going with a lighter cheese for the palmiers since you have so many cheesy dishes going? Maybe spread some mascarpone under the fig jam?

    For mac and cheese bites, would you just make Ina's mac and cheese recipe in small bites? What about, instead of topping w/ bread crumbs or parmesan cheese, make either frico and fill; or fill mini muffin tins w/ white bread, buttered and baked? I think both would be pretty.

    Peanut butter mousse in chocolate cups sound sounds like a nice way to incorporate chocolate and peanut butter as finger foods. Personally, I never find pb mousse to be peanut buttery enough so I'd probably go heavy on the peanut butter. You could also do buckeyes. Sounds like you have a well thought out menu, overall, though! I might add a vegetable crudite or fruit platter just for something light.

    2 Replies
    1. re: chowser

      chowser, you're so right! i rarely even eat my food when i'm entertaining but this is a really crazy, heavy spread. crudites will absolutely be offered. maybe i can swap the spinach artichoke dip for a white bean dip? i think i'm just full in fall mode so wanted lots of warm, comfort food type nibbles...

      1. re: jmullen1251

        leave the spinach dip...it is always a hit at partes

    2. Gruyere would work well for the palmiers but that's a pretty close overlap with cheese straws. Why not pesto palmiers instead? http://www.recipezaar.com/Pesto-Palmi... or http://chocolateandtoast.wordpress.co...

      3 Replies
      1. re: GretchenS

        Hey there! i have made sundried tomato palmiers before and they were really tasty, disappeared quickly. my only qualm, though, is how greasy they were. i didn't even want to put them out to my guests but, in the end, everyone loved them which is obviously the most important thing. do you have any tricks, though, for cutting down the grease factor?

        1. re: jmullen1251

          I don't really. I think puff pastry by its nature is going to leave grease marks on your fingers -- all that butter, after all -- but that is what makes it so delicious. Resting them on paper towels prior to serving may do something. I think the real takeaway from your story is "everyone loved them" -- as you say, that's the most important thing. Why mess with success? Go the sundried tomato palmier route again!

          1. re: jmullen1251

            I would use sun dried tomatoes that are dry, not the oil soaked variety.

        2. Ina Garten's peanut butter frosting tastes JUST like the filling of Reese's pieces. It's actually really fluffy, so might work just fine for filling the cups - it's not thick and gloppy at all.

          3 Replies
          1. re: katecm

            thanks katecm! just looked at the recipe and it looks perfect!

            i was going to make the chocolate cups pretty early in the week and freeze - wonder if i could do the same with the frosting and freeze the assembled cups and just take out of the freezer a few hours before guests arrive?

            1. re: jmullen1251

              Gosh, I'm not sure. I know that usually dairy-based foods don't freezer super-well, but this is heavy on the peanut butter. I would seek the input of others - maybe as a separate post?

              1. re: katecm

                I make peanut butter and chocolate truffels, those could be done ahead and refrigerated. They are pretty easy to do.

          2. all of your selections have cheese, which will make very heavy going. and except for the antipasti and olives, almost everything is starchy. if you're doing palmiers, i'd skip the cheese straws.

            i love italian cured meats, but they are very fatty and very salty. why not offer some lighter fare too? like either shrimp or chicken on skewers? you could coat the pieces in coconut, sesame seeds, crushed wasabi peas, or finely ground nuts. or you could present baby shrimp in snap pea pods or on cuke rounds with a flavored aioli. or endive leaves filled with chicken salad that has almonds and sliced grapes.

            baby meatballs can be on picks or in a warmer.

            braised short ribs, finished with a red wine reduction, also easily portion out to bite-size servings.

            i'd also suggest adding a non-chocolate dessert. lemon squares or lemon poppy cookies. a cookie plate, or mini cannoli.

            2 Replies
            1. re: hotoynoodle

              I have the same thought as you hotoynoodle, I would (if it were my party) mix in some lighter meats as you say. And too love the op's menu, but I'd be searching for water or a light drink all evening as the salt tends to do that to me.

              A turkey curry cup, or as you suggest, chicken on skewers. I am battling the flu so my brain is not functioning at normal capacity, but there does seem to be a great deal of salt, cheese and bread (which is all good!). A little ground chicken pressed into a cup with plum sauce, or shrimp with coconut and mango dip? Cucumbers are perfect palate cleansers, and endives make perfect scoops for a spicy meat mix. Crispy lettuce wraps, are wonderful, and I do love the stuffed mushrooms and spinach dip!

              1. re: hotoynoodle

                Agree, a very heavy menu. Why not add a nice veggie platter with some hummus or Middle Eastern dips?

              2. What time should I be there? That sounds like a very nice party. I do a Christmas eve party every year. I make a large pot of soup either Bean and pasta or tortellini. it is always a hit and so easy; feeds alot of people for a little money. Then I do alot of antipasta as well.

                4 Replies
                1. re: JEN10

                  That's a great point -- having a big pot of soup on the stove makes the house smell great and is always a huge hit. And many soups actually taste better the second or third day after being made.

                  1. re: GretchenS

                    I always make a pot of roasted garlic soup at Xmas time & serve it in mugs...no spoons needed as it is a puree.

                    1. re: sparkareno

                      i really like that i do. i make gazpacho shots fairly often in the summer when people are over for that reason. i def want to eliminate the need for flatware as much as possible

                      and i agree with everyone, as i said, i rarely even eat the food that i make for these soirees but i too would be on salt overload if i indulged! a crudite platter will be added, i'm eliminating the cheese straws - i also forgot to mention but i usually put some fruit out as well - probably figs and dried apricots

                      1. re: sparkareno

                        Care to share your recipe for that roasted garlic soup. Sounds good

                  2. Assuming this is a pretty casual gathering, I'm concurring with those suggesting soup. For large parties I always have a big pot of black bean soup on the stove and a tray nearby holding stacked bowls and spoons, and bowls of garnishes for the soup: Chopped onion or green onion, sour cream (or creme fraiche), chopped cilantro, chopped red pepper. This always disappears.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: nomadchowwoman

                      Yum, love black bean soup!!

                      OP can even "seasonalize" it by adding a can of pumpkin - it's delicious!! I've also made a spicy Asian black bean soup with cilantro & lime garnishes, can't quite recall all the ingredients to that one, would have to look it up.

                    2. your menu sounds delicious. i'd round out the cheese and breads with perhaps one or more o the following:

                      Chicken satay
                      Cocktail or pepper shrimp
                      Tuna niblets

                      or any other non-cheese or bread item you can put on a toothpick = protein or veg

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Feed Me

                        Or you could do mini Swordfish skewer. Put one chunk of grilled swordfish in between two cherry tomatoes.