Food & Drink

There’s an ‘app’ for that: Throw a Halloween cocktail party

By From page A7 | October 17, 2012

Halloween really kicks off the holiday season for most of us. The classic Halloween party involves a keg, two big bags of chips, some store-bought salsa and a noise complaint. You probably don’t need my help for that. (Although I’m happy to switch to my Co-op employee hat and give you keg-ordering advice!)

At the other end of the spectrum, we have the usual fancy fall supper, gussied up with black and orange sprinkles: pumpkin soup served in a hollowed-out pumpkin, a little roast beast with pomegranate sauce, some sort of persimmon surprise for dessert. Martha Stewart and Jamie Oliver both make lovely jobs of that sort of thing.

For the rest of us in the middle ground, there’s the perpetual problem: What sort of party can you throw when you’re too old for keg-stands and have too many friends for an intimate little dinner party? The Halloween cocktail party, of course!

Cocktail parties were invented as a way to entertain masses of people without breaking the bank, and they still fit the bill nicely. They’re very attractive for Halloween, when even homebodies sometimes party-hop.

Planning is a cinch: Figure two drinks per person to start, then add one drink per person for every hour of your party after the first — that is, most people will have two drinks, and those who stay longer will average a drink every hour. For economy’s sake, it’s nice to make some delicious drink by the pitcher and fill in with beer and wine. Don’t forget to have something nice for people who aren’t drinking alcohol, and be sure to make it look distinctly different from alcoholic drinks. We like Chow.com as a source of cocktail recipes.

When you’re serving appetizers, most people will have eight of whatever it is — that’s eight total, not eight of each. If you’d like hot appetizers, plan items that you can prepare ahead and simply put in the oven when your guests arrive; all of the recipes here work well that way.

As far as serving goes, I usually choose Halloween serving-ware rather than adding food coloring or shaping food into spooky icons — it’s a lot easier, and you don’t run the risk of ruining your food with additives. Dips look nice served in small, hollowed-out pumpkins or peppers. If your party runs for several hours, put dips in bowls that fit inside the pumpkin so you can swap batches halfway through.

— Julie Cross is the marketing and education director at the Davis Food Co-op.

The recipes
Everyone loves a cheese ball, that delightful retro party snack that’s recently made a comeback. You can use almost any cheeses as long as you have a firm one and a soft one. These are so much fun to make that we’re offering a “Cheese Ball Lab” cooking class in December so we can try out even more flavor combinations.

Halloween Cheese Ball
The ingredients:
8 ounces gouda
8 ounces creamy goat cheese
2 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup cream or white wine
1/4 cup finely grated orange cheddar or chopped pecans
salt, pepper and hot peppers to taste
orange bell pepper, if desired

Putting it together:
Remove inedible bits from cheese (plastic, wax, rind, paper, etc.). Pulse gouda, goat cheese and garlic in food processor. Add liquid as needed to create a firm yet smooth, creamy spread. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Scrape out cheese onto parchment paper and chill until it can be shaped into a ball. Roll in cheddar or pecans and refrigerate. Best if removed from the fridge a half-hour before serving.
Deviled Eggs
Another old-school appetizer, and always the first to disappear at a party. Slightly older eggs are easier to peel, so buy eggs a week before the party if you can. I like one extra egg yolk for every 3 or 4 eggs. I usually manage to destroy one out of four eggs while peeling them, so that works out just fine!

The ingredients:
Mustard powder

Putting it together:
Put eggs straight from the fridge in a large saucepan with a lid. Cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over medium heat. As soon as the water boils, put the lid on the pan and remove it from the heat. Let stand for 10 minutes. Run cold water over eggs. Hot boiled eggs are hard to work with; it’s best to refrigerate them for at least 1 hour before peeling.

Peel eggs carefully. Slice egg in half the long way and put the yolks in a bowl. Mash the yolks with a fork and add enough mayonnaise to make a smooth paste. Add salt and mustard powder to taste. Fill the egg white halves with the yolk mixture and sprinkle very lightly with paprika. Can be made 24 hours in advance.

Simple Babaghanoush
This dip is dairy-free and delicious. It’s also a great way of introducing eggplant to people. This is most delicious if you grill the eggplant — cut it in half, oil the cut side, pop it onto the grill and close the lid. Cooking time can vary considerably, but you want it very well cooked for this one. Tahini is sesame butter, available in bulk at the Co-op or in jars almost everywhere.

The ingredients:
1 medium eggplant, grilled or baked until soft
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons of tahini
salt and pepper, to taste
cayenne pepper, if desired

Putting it together:
When the eggplant is cool enough, scoop the flesh out of the skin and chop it roughly. Place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix them together thoroughly. Serve with pita bread, corn chips or crackers (it’s very nice with sesame crackers).

Speck’s Spinach Dip
(based on a recipe by Cathy Speck)

Who doesn’t like spinach dip? I like to serve this one with baguette slices, but bagel chips also work nicely.

The ingredients:
1 package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 cup finely chopped fresh, raw spinach
1 cup finely chopped fresh, raw kale
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup cream cheese
1 tablespoon black pepper (or to taste)
1/2 lemon, squeezed
6 tablespoons chopped white onion (or to taste)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced (or to taste)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Putting it together:
Mix all ingredients together. Taste and adjust seasonings. Best if allowed to stand 1 hour before serving. Best if you don’t mention the fresh kale to children.

Fall Canapé
This is a Davis Food Co-op favorite. It works beautifully if you make it ahead right up to the final broiling — in fact, we once made 200 servings, packed them in an ice chest, and finished them on the E Street Plaza during a wine and cheese festival.

The ingredients:
2 pears, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 loaf challah bread, sliced into 18 slices
1 cup cream cheese
1 cup microplaned comte or gruyere
1/2 teaspoon prepared mustard
unsalted butter

Putting it together:
Cook pear and onion in olive oil until tender. Very lightly toast the challah. Mix pear and onions with cheeses and mustard. Spread toasted bread thickly with cheese mixture. Run under broiler until cheese is nicely browned. Serve whole slices, or cut into bites.

Stuffed Mushrooms
Use very good quality sausage for this. Fill up to a day ahead of time.

The ingredients:
24 small white mushrooms
2 good sausages, about 12 ounces total
1 egg
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
Olive oil

Putting it together:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash mushrooms and pop out stems. Finely chop half of the stems (use remaining stems for stock.) Rub mushrooms with olive oil. Mix sausage with chopped stems, bread crumbs and egg. Press filling firmly into mushroom cavities, mounding slightly, and place in baking pan filling side up. Bake 25 minutes, until mushrooms are cooked through and filling is browned. Serve hot.

Bombay Bites
I’m not big on cooking with packaged foods, but this is one of those times when a packet is not only easier, but perfectly delicious. Shape these up to 6 hours ahead of time, refrigerate, and slide a tray into the oven when the party starts. Makes around 24.

The ingredients:
For the dough:
6 tablespoons cold butter
2 1/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard powder
3/4 cup milk

For the filling:
1/2 cup cream cheese
1 packet Tasty Bite Bombay potatoes

Putting it together:
Mix the flour, baking powder, salt and spices, and cut in the butter until it has the texture of fine cornmeal. Add milk and stir. Turn the dough out onto a floured cloth and divide into 24 parts. Flatten each into a circle about ¼-inch thick. Drain excess sauce from potatoes and reserve. Stir potatoes into cream cheese. If mixture is too stiff, add reserved sauce.

Put a teaspoon of the filling on each dough circle. Pinch up edges to make a football shape. Put each bite flat-side down on a non-stick cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Julie Cross

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • Special Publications »

    Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Terms of Service (updated 4/30/2015) and Privacy Policy (updated 4/7/2015).
    Copyright (c) 2016 McNaughton Newspapers, Inc., a family-owned local media company that proudly publishes the Daily Republic, Mountain Democrat, Davis Enterprise, Village Life and other community-driven publications.