What is it about classic easy-to-prepare party snacks that makes them such a huge hit? For one, cream cheese. But their success is also built upon the combination of well-selected prepared and raw ingredients. At a time when so many of us are obsessed with putting out the perfect radish (with tops, of course), it's nice to know that Pepperidge Farm is still making really reliable thin sandwich bread. Smeared with a combination of mayonnaise, grated zucchini and pecorino, then baked—not broiled, as your instincts might suggest—that white bread transforms into something truly special, seasoned with nostalgia. And a dash of Worcestershire.
We're not saying we should reject a bespoke slate of stunning canapés or turn our noses up at the crudités on ice. We're just suggesting they be served alongside something a little less precious. There is a time and a place for hand-chopped tartare, for a tiny smoked potato with crème fraîche and caviar. But as a professional eater once told us, "Enough with the gougères; just give me the pigs in a blanket."
Whether you're hosting or attending, whip up one of these classics for your next party. They're fun. They're easy. They travel well. Think of them not as a middle finger to your culinary achievements or the quality of ingredients now available to so many of us. Think of them as a wink that suggests "I know what you really want." Which might just be a good deviled egg.
Photo: Calgary Herald
Pickles and Onions
Soak carrot sticks in salted water overnight in the refrigerator. Drain and divide on a platter with sweet pickles and cocktail onions. Serve chilled.
Slice-n-Bake Cheddar Crackers
Mix 1 cup flour, 1 stick softened salted butter, ½ teaspoon salt and 1 cup shredded sharp yellow cheddar in a medium bowl until combined. Shape into a log, wrap in parchment or plastic wrap and freeze until firm. Slice ¼ inch thick and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle slices with paprika and bake at 350° until golden, 15 to 18 minutes.
Creamed Chipped Beef Dip
Finely chop one 4½-ounce can sliced dried beef (can also process in a food processor). Place in a medium bowl and add 8 ounces softened cream cheese, 2 tablespoons milk, ½ cup each finely chopped onion, chopped green pepper and sour cream, and stir to combine. Transfer to a shallow baking dish and top with ½ cup chopped pecans. Bake at 325° until warmed through and nuts are toasted, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve with a knife for spreading onto crackers or sliced baguette.
Ranch Oyster Crackers
Whisk ½ cup vegetable oil, 1 package Ranch-flavored salad dressing mix, 1 teaspoon dried dill and 1 teaspoon garlic powder in a bowl until combined. Pour one 12-ounce bag of oyster crackers into a paper bag and add the dressing. Shake the life out of it until the crackers are coated. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 350° until the crackers are golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool before serving.
Hard-boil 6 eggs. Cook, peel and pop out the yolks into a medium bowl. Mix the yolks with 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar, ¼ teaspoon each salt, pepper and paprika, and enough mayonnaise to make a "nice texture" (about ½ cup). Spoon the yolk mixture back into whites and dust with more paprika.
Combine 1 pound softened cream cheese with 1 to 3 teaspoons garlic powder and ¼ teaspoon kosher salt in a medium bowl. Add about 3 tablespoons milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, and mix until the dip is slightly thinner but still thick and creamy. Serve with potato chips.
Photo: Calgary Herald
Dried Beef Rolls
Spread 4½ ounces sliced dried beef with a thin layer of softened cream cheese. Roll up each piece of beef and secure through the center with a toothpick.
Toss 2 cups shredded zucchini with 1 teaspoon salt in a colander and set aside to drain, 1 hour. Squeeze as much liquid as possible out of the zucchini then transfer to a medium bowl. Stir in 4 finely chopped scallions, 1 cup mayonnaise, ½ cup grated Pecorino Romano, 1 grated garlic clove, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce and ¼ teaspoon Tabasco. Spread thickly onto thin sandwich bread and bake at 375° until golden and bubbly, 10 to 12 minutes.
Cheddar and Bacon Toasties
Combine 4 slices chopped bacon, 1 chopped onion and 1 pound grated sharp cheddar in a food processor, and pulse to combine. Divide mixture among party-size rye bread. Broil until melted and bubbly, about 3 minutes.
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