Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Washington's Bounty Hors D'Oeuvres Buffet

I developed this menu for an event where I agreed to cater all the refreshments, but where I was also a guests, but not the hostess. This complicated set of criteria meant that 1) it all had to be ready in advance, so it could be transported to the venue 2) it all had to be finger-food so as to avoid the need to rent or wash flatware 3) it had to be substantial enough that guests coming from 6:30-8:30 would feel they had their evening meal. I didn't want anything that needed last-minute garnishes or dipping sauces or elaborate serving methods. I also wanted to showcase local Washington products (indicated with an asterisk), since the guest of honor was from the East Coast.

Smoked Salmon* and Shrimp "Sushi" Stacks
Portobello Mushroom* Tartletts
Tortellini and Tomato Towers
Squash Salad Skewer with Jonagold Apple* and Beecher's Flagship * Cheese

Cranberry* Turtle Bars

Dilettante* Chocolates

Washington* Wines and Sparkling Water

I was expecting 20-25 people, and planned 60 pieces of each of the above.

Portobello Puffs (Mushroom Tartlets)
3 sheets puff pastry (from 2 17-oz packages)
1 pound portobello mushrooms, finely chopped (or your other favorite mushrooms, I used "baby bellos" from Costco)
1 large shallot, finely diced (minimum 1/2 cup)
3-4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sherry or dry white wine
2 teaspoons dried basil or 2 tablespoons fresh
salt and pepper

Melt butter in large skillet. Add mushrooms, shallot, and basil (if dried) and cook until tender, about 8 minutes. Pour wine into edge of pan, stirring quickly to ensure all of filling is coated before wine evaporates. Stir in basil (if fresh). Remove skillet from heat. Salt and pepper to taste.

Filling can be refrigerated after this step for three days.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut puff pastry into 1 1/2 inch squares. Arrange on baking sheet, or press lightly into mini-muffin cups. Bake 8 minutes. It will not be done. Remove from oven and top each pastry square or cup with 1 teaspoon mushroom mixture. This step can be completed in the morning and then the final baking completed just before serving. When ready to serve, finish baking at 400 degrees an additional 6-7 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Cheese Tortellini and Grape Tomato Towers
These store and travel especially well.
1 1/2 pounds bite-sized tortellini (preferably cheese, in case you have vegetarian guests)
1 pound grape tomatos
1 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil

Cook tortellini according to package directions. Even if you don't usually add oil to your pasta water, it is important to put in about 2 teaspoons for this, so that the pieces don't stick together, or your appetizers will be a mess.

Shake together oil and vinegar in a jar.

Drain cooked tortellinis, and toss with oil/vinegar. Allow to cool enough to handle. Then use regular toothpicks to skewer one grape tomato and one tortellini so that the tomato rests in the hole of the pasta.

Smoked Salmon and Shrimp "Sushi" Stacks
I doubled this recipe for sushi rice and made it twice. Line a jelly roll pan (12" x 18" x 1") with saran wrap and press rice firmly and evenly into pan. Use a sheet of saran and a stiff spatula to tightly pack the rice into the mold. Allow to cool.

Remove rice sheet from pan using saran wrap as handles. Place on a flat surface such as a cutting board. Cut rice in to 1 1/2 inch squares.

Using a tiny spoon (or a pastry bag) dollop about 1/4 teaspoon (or to taste) of wasabi mayonnaise on center of each rice cake square. Top with a flake of smoked salmon or a shrimp.

Using kitchen shears, cut nori into thin strips, about 1" long by 3/16" wide. Garnish each piece of seafood with a strip of nori.

Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Keep covered and refrigerated until ready to serve. Can be made two days in advance. The nori will soften but it will hold it's shape and it's flavor.
Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Keep covered and refrigerated until ready to serve. Can be made two days in advance. The nori will soften but it will hold it's shape and it's flavor.

4 dry cups of rice (such as California short grain, like Niko Niko), prepared for sushi.
1/2 pound hot smoked salmon
1/2 cup salad shrimp
wasabi mayonnaise (mix 1/3 cup mayonnaise with 1 tablespoon wasabi paste or to taste, plus 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger or to taste)
6" strip of nori (dried seaweed)
1 tablespoon toasted white or black (preferable) sesame seeds


I was able to stack my platter with two layers of these, separated by a foil doilie.

Squash Skewers
2 pounds butternut squash cubes
2 large sweet, crisp eating apples (such as fuji) cut in cubes approximately the same size as the squash.
8 ounces firm cheese such as Parmiganio-Reggiano, Smoked Gouda. I used Beechers flagship which is like a white cheddar.

Toss the squash and apples together in just a little bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast at 425 for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Allow to cool.

Cut cheese into slices just thick enough to not break apart. You can make it more decorative by putting a fancy edge on the slices with a pastry wheel or a butter slicer. Depending on the flavor of the cheese, how strong, or salty it is, you may want slightly larger or smaller slices.

Using a toothpick, spear a cube of squash, a slice of cheese, and a cube of apple.

I made cranberry bars because cranberries are a big agricultural product of Washington state, but many bar cookies are both easy to make, sturdy, and make a large number.

With pecans and bourbon, this recipe brought together some of the best of the northwest with some traditionally Southern specialties to honor the southerners at the event.

Cranberry Bars
Makes 48

For Crust
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Blend dry ingredients in food processor. Add butter and pulse until pea-sized lumps form. Line 12 x 18 x 1" pan with foil. Grease sides of foil (not bottom.) Press dough firmly and evenly into pan. Bake at 350 for 15-18 minutes, until lightly golden.

For topping

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh (or frozen) whole cranberries
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons bourbon

1 cup pecans pieces, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped

Soak dried cranberries in bourbon, pressing down and mixing periodically. Meanwhile, melt butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat and stir in sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Boil over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until caramel registers 245°F on thermometer, about 8 minutes. Carefully stir in whole cranberries, then boil until caramel returns to 245°F. Remove from heat and stir dried berries, soaking liquid, and pecans, stirring until well coated. Working quickly, spread caramel topping over base, using a fork to distribute nuts and berries evenly. Cool completely.

Cut bars into 3" squares, then in half to make triangles.

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