Here’s to Hors-d’oeuvre

Jun 3, 2022

Summer is almost here and we’re ready to raise a glass with friends – but don’t stop there! Serving cocktails means serving some accompanying hors-d’oeuvre to go with them.

Many of you may think I’ve spelled that wrong by leaving off an ‘s’ after d’oeuvre, but I’m not wrong. There is no plural form in French. Hors-d’oeuvre means “outside the work”, referring to cooking that’s not part of the main meal. However, over time, the English language adopted the expression and subsequently made the word into a noun by adding an ‘s’ to pluralise it when referring to all those tasty little bites and finger foods we serve before dinner, along with a cocktail – hors-d’oeuvres.

This tidbit of information was discovered as I was perusing an old cookbook of mine published in 1988 by David Wood. He was the wonderful owner of David Wood Food Shop on Toronto’s Yonge Street back then. His is a cookbook I reference often when it comes to finding something new or special to dish up. It never disappoints. In it he has a section devoted to hors-d’oeuvre with an opening explanation as to how they should be made and served and why.

I was hunting up ideas for something different to serve for my first foray back into hosting. I want my first cocktail party in over two years to be extra special.

What Makes a Perfect Hors-d’oeuvre?

Most of us already know what hors-d’oeuvre are. But I thought I’d reiterate the basics surrounding the true nature of perfect ones: What should they be like? How are they served? And provide a few examples.

In a nutshell, the ‘rule of thumb’ is as follows:

  • They should be small bites of food that can, ideally, be made ahead of time so you as the host can relax and enjoy your party.
  • They should be visually interesting and attractive.
  • Aim for a variety – a small party may require only four or five different choices.
  • They should be light; not too filling.
  • They should be bite-size/individual servings and easy to eat with one hand. Try using mini skewers, toothpicks, flat, Chinese soup-style spoons, or small shot glasses as serving options.
  • They can include both hot and cold choices.
  • They should complement the dinner to follow if that’s the case.

However, depending on the nature of the cocktail party – number of guests, kind of event, time of day, space constraints and so on, one may want to deviate from those ‘rules’ – a bit. After all, rules are made to be broken!!

Here are two of my most easy ‘go-to’ recipes when it comes to whipping up some hors-d’oeuvres to serve when guests come over for drinks. Both contain ingredients that I keep on hand in my fridge for just such an occasion. Pair them with some fancy spiced olives or endive leaves filled with blue cheese crumbles, diced pear or apple and toasted walnuts sprinkled on top, and voilà.

Hearts of Palm Wrapped in Prosciutto

Makes 16 hors-d’oeuvre

You’ll Need:

  • 8 thin slices of prosciutto
  • 2 large hearts of palm or 8 smaller ones (they’re available in most grocery stores and come in a can)
  • 12 sprigs fresh parsley

For the Filling:

  • ½ lb. cream cheese
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp. tarragon leaves
  • 1 tsp. chopped dill
  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. black pepper

Method:

  1. In a bowl, combine the cream cheese with all the spices & herbs and mix together well.
  2. Cut each slice of prosciutto in half crosswise.
  3. Cut each heart of palm if using large ones into 8 pieces lengthwise. Or cut the smaller ones lengthwise in half to make 16 pieces.
  4. Spread the filling mixture equally onto each slice of prosciutto.
  5. After patting dry, place a piece of heart of palm on each slice and roll/wind the prosciutto around the heart of palm like a baton.
  6. Decorate with a sprig of parsley tucked into one end of each roll.

Figs-in-a-Blanket with Goat Cheese

These scrumptious hors-d’oeuvre are my favourite vegetarian take on the classic pigs-in-a-blanket, which of course I love too.

What’s more decadent than sweet figs stuffed with chevre and wrapped in puff pastry, and then baked I ask? These savoury morsels will be a sure hit with the non-meat eaters in your crowd as well as your guests who aren’t.

Discover how to make these delightful figs-in-a-blanket with goat cheese here. The recipe makes 48 – but it’s a cinch to cut the recipe in half – however I’ve found all 48 have always disappeared in a heartbeat, no matter the size of the party, whenever I serve them!

Party On

At the end of the day, whatever you serve at your cinq-à-sept, cocktail party, or whatever you call your get-together, just keep this thought in mind: the main point of any gathering is for you and your guests to relax, enjoy each other’s company and share some tasty little bites without breaking the bank or your back in order to make them!

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