Party Food

Friday, October 22, 2010



For whatever reason, Fall always makes me think of party food.
It’s funny, really, because we never have a party in September, too full of the fun of “back to school”, and often, a trip for my father-in-law’s birthday. And November brings my birthday, and thanksgiving, and, in years past, the annual California Road Trip we and some friends would take (in the Before J era).

So really, it’s October that makes me think of parties, although funnily enough not ones that I host. One friend always hosts a Chili Cook-off (we’ve only won the whole thing once:(), swollen now to more than 200 people, 7 types of chili, and separate competitions for sides, deserts, and specials. I think she should get Anchor Steam Brewery to sponsor the event, but not this year: no cook-off, as baby number 2 is due in 2 weeks. Then there is Heather’s annual pumpkin carving: pumpkins, red wine, oatmeal cookies, tortillas and (homemade) tomatillo salsa, and all kinds of sweet potato snacks, her favorites.

Heather moved to Amsterdam two years ago, though.We’d hoped to visit her this October, but instead we are here, in the rain.

I do love fall party food, too. Where as other times of year I feel compelled to cook something innovative, or Asian, or Italian, in the fall, it seems perfectly acceptable, appropriate, even, to simply have comfort food, super traditional stuff that rarely makes it into the sort of cookbook chefs write, Amazon recommends, or the library displays. So this year, I’ve decided to start a new tradition, our own October party... call it an insurance plan against new babies or moves,if you will: I want to make sure I get my fall party in.

This Sunday, we’re hosting our first annual pumpkin carving party, with 10 of J’s friends, their parents, a bevvy of my favorite fa snacks, old and new.

I am originally from Washington, D.C., and Cheese Straw are a common snack in the South, as are the Spiced Nuts and Sugared Bacon. All of these recipes are pretty easy to make, and a bit addictive.

Cheese Straws
8 oz grated Cheddar cheese
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and cut up
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon cream

Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a food processor, combine all the ingredients through the pepper until the mixture is coarse/breadcrumble-y, then add the cream and blend just until the dough balls.
On a lightly floured surface roll the dough until 1/8-inch thick.
With a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut into 1/4 inch wide strips.
Transfer the strips to a lined cookie sheet
Bake the straws on the middle rack for 12 to 15 minutes, until the ends are just brown.
Cool before serving.

Spiced Pecans
4 tablespoons butter, melted
4 cups pecan halves
1 tablespoon of kosher salt
1 teaspoon cayenne

Preheat the oven to 325°F.
Combine the butter and the pecans in a medium bowl and toss to coat.
Spread the pecans in one layer on a large cookie sheet.
Bake for 25 minutes, shaking the pan 2-3 times to prevent scorching.
Let Pecans cool slightly (10 minutes-ish), then sprinkle with salt and cayenne.
Cool completely before serving.

Sugared Bacon
1 lb bacon (in slices)
1 tsp cayenne
1/3 c firmly packed brown sugar
Nonstick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Slice Bacon slices into thirds, length wise (basically you are making bacon snacks or bites instead of big breakfast slices).
Mix Sugar and pepper together
Line two large cookie sheets, and spray with nonstick spray
Arrange bacon in a single layers on the sheets.
Evenly sprinkle with pepper and sugar.
Bake until bacon is crisp and browned, about 30 minutes. Rotate the sheets half-way through cooking to prevent burning.
Drain on paper towels,and serve immediately (while warm!)

Ice Breaker
I first had this drink at a now long-closed restaurant in San Francisco called The Last Supper Club. Cheesy name, but they had a great bar, and some fantastic down home Italian dishes. It is sorely missed.

These are proportions only; I’ll be making a pitcher for us adults:

1 1/2 ounces ice wine
1 1/2 ounces Ciroc or other grape-based vodka
4 frozen grapes

Fill half of a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the wine and vodka and shake well. Strain into a martini glass, garnish with the frozen grapes and serve.


Also on the menu:
Etsy’s cupcake adaptation of Rose Bakery’s Broccoli Cake (the cake is delicious, and so fun for kids) and Orangette’s Sweet Potato Bundt Cake.

My friend Jason says he’s looking forward to his son’s first opportunity to run with scissors.... I’m just looking forward to the food.

This blog post + these recipes are part of Pretty Mommy’s fall recipe exchange. Last up was whiskitgood with the great post on Morocco (we spent our honeymoon there!) and Moroccan food .... next up (Monday) is Tina at Bull in a China Shop.... looking forward to more recipes!

1 comment:

Rebecca (Reluctant Floridian) said...

When my sister and I were younger and had birthday parties, they were often for brunch. Our friends would come in pajamas and my mom would make breakfast food. Sugared bacon was always on the menu and I totally want to make it right now!