Even the most experienced of home cooks have produced a colossal kitchen flop or two, “like the time one of us mixed up baking powder and cornstarch,” write Rue Living Inspirers and Food52 founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs. The solution? Make-ahead hors d’oeuvres and starters, which are guaranteed to impress even if the main course has gone awry. Here, seven picks from The Foodies.
Photos by Sarah Shatz and James Ransom
1. Chèvre Devils by gingerroot
“The thyme-spiked chevre and crackly spiced pecans are perfect foils for sticky sweet Medjool dates. We call them ‘thirsty-making’ and therefore ideal for a holiday gathering. Note: We liked ours packed with goat cheese, and advise doubling the filling amounts (if you’re chèvre devils like us).”
2. Fig and Blue Cheese Savouries by TheRunawaySpoon
“These delicate, crumbly little thumbprints are the perfect combination of sweet and savory, as their name suggests – they’re like a great cheese plate all wrapped into one crunchy little morsel.”
3. Creamy Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms by ADRIENE
“These stuffed mushrooms are the kind of coveted hors d’oeuvre that go all too fast at a party – so it’s a good thing this recipe makes enough for a big crowd. The splash of balsamic that cloaks the mushrooms prior to their first go-round in the oven infuses them with a touch of sweetness and acidity that acts as a wonderful counterpoint to the savory sausage-laced cream cheese stuffing.”
4. Roasted Celery Soup by inpatskitchen
“This soup truly elevates humble, plain vegetables that are usually relegated to a garnish plate or side dish to a higher plane of existence. Given proper attention, lo and behold, they shine. By roasting the celery and fennel, and boiling the potatoes in broth, a lovely foundation of flavors is built. And of course, cream to finish is always a great idea.
5. Smoky Fried Chickpeas by Aliwaks
“If you were to put out a bowl of these crunchy, smoky, spicy little nuggets at a cocktail party, it’s likely they’d be gone in under five minutes. This recipe takes an already brilliant idea (fried chickpeas with smoked paprika) and runs with it. You also fry strips of lemon zest, fresh thyme leaves, and later thinly sliced garlic to mix with the chickpeas, paprika, and salt. This leads to an array of crispy little bursts of flavor, each more fragrant than the last.”
6. Butternut Squash and Roasted Garlic Galette by lorinarlock
“Rustic yet full of nuance, this butternut squash free-form tart coaxes sweetness from the winter squash and roasted garlic, complementing them with the right blend of salty, creamy cheese, fragrant thyme, and a delicate buttery crust we’re sure to adapt to many other recipes. There’s no excess here: a touch of semolina gives the crust a sandy crunch, and the modest layer of ricotta and roasted garlic serves as a subtle, creamy bed for the melting squash.”
7. Hard Squash Hummus by Modern Farmer
“This recipe is adapted by Karen Leibowitz from a dish served at the San Francisco restaurant Bar Tartine, where chef Nicolaus Balla tops roasted and puréed butternut squash with sunflower sprouts, curried yogurt, cilantro purée, and pomegranate molasses. The toppings suggested in this version are somewhat simpler – creativity is encouraged. This recipe serves a crowd, but freezes well. We recommend using delicata squash, but butternut can also be used.”
Ready to prep? Our Dinner-Party Checklist: From Cookware to Platters Boutique opens Monday, November 18, at 11AM ET.
By Julia Ivins, Staff Writer
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Before she and Merrill started Food52, Amanda Hesser was a reporter at the New York Times and the food editor at Times Magazine. She wrote the award-winning books Cooking for Mr. Latte and The Cook and the Gardener, and edited the essay collection Eat, Memory. Her last book, a Times bestseller and the winner of a James Beard award, is The Essential New York Times Cookbook. Amanda is a trustee of Awesome Food and an adviser to The Spence Group.
Merrill Stubbs graduated from Brown and Le Cordon Bleu. She went on to work at Cook’s Illustrated and behind the counter at Flour Bakery in Boston’s South End. In addition to her work with Amanda on The Essential New York Times Cookbook, Merrill has written for the Times‘s T Living, Edible Brooklyn, and Body+Soul, and she was the food editor at Herb Quarterly. She lives with her family in Brooklyn.