By Wolfgang Puck
One of my favorite ways to entertain is with an hors d’oeuvre party. So many other food lovers feel the same way. I would have a hard time finding anyone who doesn’t love a celebration at which delicious bites of food are displayed on one or more buffet tables or passed around, to be enjoyed with wine, beer, cocktails, a homemade punch or even soft drinks. It’s one of the easiest ways to show your friends a good time.
Some of the best-planned hors-d’oeuvre parties are those that feature a variety of different foods. I like to offer an assortment of different main ingredients, including seafood, meats, poultry, vegetables, cheeses, breads and fresh fruit. I look to cook them in different ways, too, offering some bites that are baked, others griddled, maybe a few deep-fried items, plus some uncooked foods such as vegetable crudites to enjoy with a selection of dips.
You don’t even have to cook everything. Cold cuts, cheeses, vegetables, breads or crackers, and even good-quality precooked jumbo shrimp from the seafood counter or smoked salmon from the deli department need only to be displayed artfully on a platter.
Still other items are easy to assemble in advance, requiring only simple, last-minute cooking, in waves, as guests arrive. I’d like to share two such dishes: bite-sized grilled cheese on brioche and bacon-wrapped, Parmesan-stuffed dates.
Grilled cheese sandwiches have enjoyed an amazing comeback in recent years, due in part to the ever-growing popularity of Italian-style panini. These crispy sandwiches are usually cooked in an electric panini maker or on double-sided hinged grill, but you can also make them easily with an electric or stovetop griddle.
I call for an egg-and-butter-rich brioche loaf, which you can find in good-quality bakeries and some supermarkets; but you could substitute challah or another rich loaf, or any good-quality bread you like. Likewise, feel free to use another good melting cheese in place of the fontina or Gruyere. What transforms my recipe into hors-d’oeuvres is simply the way you cut the sandwiches after cooking.
Bacon-wrapped, cheese-stuffed dates have long been a popular party food. But even these dates enjoy a new vogue, thanks to the availability of artisan-quality smoked bacon and imported Parmesan cheese.
The great thing about both these recipes is their make-ahead potential. You can assemble the sandwiches and the dates up to several hours in advance, ready to cook in batches after guests start arriving, so they’ll always be ready to serve at their best with little fuss from you, the host.
Bite-sized grilled cheese on brioche
Makes 16 to 24 mini sandwiches
- 8 thick slices brioche
- 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 cups (375 mL) shredded fontina or Gruyere cheese
Preheat a panini maker or a double-sided indoor grill; or preheat a stovetop or electric griddle over medium heat.
Place the bread slices on a work surface and spread the top of each slice with a small amount of mayonnaise. Turn over half the slices and spread each with a little butter. Top with the cheese. Butter the remaining slices of bread and place over the cheese, mayonnaise side up.
Place as many sandwiches as will fit comfortably side by side in the panini maker or indoor grill, or on the griddle. Close the machine and grill until the cheese has melted and the bread is nicely browned and crispy, 3 to 4 minutes total; or cook on the griddle, pressing down gently with a spatula to compact the sandwiches and turning once until both sides are nicely browned and crispy, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Repeat with any remaining sandwiches.
With a sharp knife, cut each sandwich into quarters; or cut into halves and cut each half crosswise into 3 finger-sized pieces. Transfer to a platter and serve immediately.
Bacon-wrapped, parmesan-stuffed dates
Makes 18 dates
- 18 large dates, preferably Medjool, slit lengthwise and pitted
- 18 pieces good-quality Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano, each about 1 by 1/4 inch (2.5 by 0.6 cm)
- 6 slices nitrite-free bacon, cut crosswise into thirds
Position an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 450 F (230 C).
Insert a piece of Parmesan into each date. Then, wrap each date with a piece of bacon, securing it with a wooden toothpick.
Arrange the dates 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart in a shallow baking pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes. Then, using tongs, turn the dates over. Continue baking until the bacon is crisp, 5 to 6 minutes longer.
With the tongs, transfer the dates to paper towels to drain, carefully patting them dry with more paper towels. Serve immediately.
(c) 2016 WOLFGANG PUCK WORLDWIDE, INC. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.