Need Your Help with Finger Food Menu
Un-expectantly, I am hosting my book club (ten women) after work on Thursday to talk about Hemingway's The Moveable Feast. Not a book, really, but rather a collection of essays about his life in Paris in the 1920s. I am at a loss of what to offer to nosh on. We do not focus on food but many are coming right after work and hungry. I would like to offer something that I can organize a night or two ahead (have a Thai class the evening before) and that would somewhat represent Paris in the 20s.
If dinner with my French cousins is an indication, I would consider..... roasted nuts, olives, some cured meats, nice bread sliced, pate, cornichons, but since these are Americans that you are feeding, I would also offer some potato-leek soup, the quiche idea is a good one, or perhaps a simple omelette. Though you wouldn't serve cheese without a meal in France, again, you are feeding Americans, so perhaps a nice cheese platter with some fresh fruit and a fig marmalade could round out your offerings. All of this, well except the omelette, could be made in advance.
Oh! or some savory crepes with ham and gruyere. You can make the crepes in advance and then throw them in the oven before your book group folks arrive.
It's been quite a few years since I read "A Movable Feast" but I read it in Paris with a game for anything friend and my major recollections are the excursions we made to really experience the memoir. First was a delightful afternoon on the Rue Mouffetard shopping for cheese, lots of then only in France type cheeses like eppoisses and triple cremes, wines, freshly baked baguettes and salami like sausages along with fruit and roasted chicken. I also recall getting dressed in my then finest Paris bought dress and ordering the "perfect" martini at the Ritz which I thought shockingly expensive on my student college age budget. The last was going to a cheap bistro (I don't remember the name) that served impeccably fresh oysters with my first mignonette sauce.
That's the kind of food I'd serve if I was hosting a reunion with my friend from long ago. Lots of French cheese, cured meats, marinated olives, pickled vegetables, toasty baguettes, maybe some pate and a fruit jam like membrillo. There'd be freshly shucked oysters with mignonette sipped whole from the shell and definitely lots of French wine (the inexpensive variety) and a perfect martini ala Ritz.
You need easy stuff.
Cheese selection (French if available to you)
French mustard (Whole Foods has a good one, fyi)
Wine, plenty of wine (If you have a wine shop, ask for their advice on some reasonable, drinkable French wine)
This can all be presented beautifully and quickly.
Potato fritters with aioli
Pistou soup (bean soup with pesto garnish)
Pan Bagnat sandwiches
Apple tart tatin for dessert
If I were hosting, I might offer one wine but being that it's a Thursday night, I'd offer espresso. You wouldn't want your guests unable to drive after getting hammered.
The pan bagnat sandwiches are a brilliant suggestion, they need to be made ahead, they are oh so good and so French. There was a recent thread on them that reminded me how I love them. Those, Pistou soup and tarte tatin would be just fabulous and you could probably source the tarte tatin if you don't like to bake or don't have time. Soup could be made days ahead.
For a weeknight gathering a light sipping beverage is perfect- mix a reasonably priced champagne with pear and lemon juice, make a non alchoholic one with sparkling water
Baguette sandwiches are perfect- filling, hand-held, and french!
-arugala/sliced brie/apple or pear/thin sliced onion
-baked salmon/ dill/spinach/lemony dijon spread
- sliced hard boiled eggs, dijon aioli, spinach, thin sliced fennel
Just cut the baguettes into 2" size sandwiches, most people will try more than one.
Puff pastry is always wildly popular, bake the entire sheet covered with a mushroom duxelle, then cut into small squares and garnish with chopped chives for color
Although I agree puff pastry is the better choice, the little phyllo cups in the freezer section might work for you on the night of, not made ahead, preventing possible sogginess.
Have the cups at room temp, they'll be fine if left out in the morning. A dollop of goat cheese and a dollop of your thawed onions shouldn't take too long to assemble if you're only making a couple dozen. Pop in oven to warm through.
Just a thought.
Thank you all for the wonderful inspiring suggestions! Here is what I am almost settled on:
A tray with sliced baguette, tapenade, cornichons, roasted peppers and mushroom stuffed eggs (Pepin's recipe)
Warm tart (goat cheese and caramelized onions)
Small simple sweet
This is not meant to be dinner, just a snack to tie people over. Hostess often will open a bottle of wine but it is hardly ever touched. Tea seems to be the drink of choice during the winter.