Thursday, November 13, 2008


I’ve always wanted to throw a cocktail party, especially around the holidays. Everyone would look chic, my sophisticated apartment would glow with candlelight, beautiful glasses would be filled with ruby-colored cocktails, and the food would be plentiful and gorgeous. In short, at least for one night, my life would resemble a glossy spread in Gourmet magazine.

My husband does not share this fantasy, which is probably okay since it would take an enormous amount of time and money to make our apartment resemble a home worthy of Gourmet. Not even a truckload of candles would do the trick.

However, if I were to throw a cocktail party I would definitely make canapés – delicate finger sandwiches that look impressive and taste delicious. They also don’t take long to prepare, with one caveat: when assembling these lovelies, one must use a light touch. Raggedy edges and sloppily-placed toppings have no place in the canapé realm.

The other beautiful thing about canapés is that you can really employ any savory toppings you choose. I would say that it’s essential to include a spread on the bread to moisten the canapé and anchor additional toppings – although I’m not sure if it really is essential. After the spread, add a topping for flavor and height. A garnish rounds out the elegant presentation. So use your imagination! While this may seem INCREDIBLY downscale, I’m already plotting a peanut butter canapé with a dab of artisanal jelly on top or maybe just a few slivers of grape. I’m still thinking about what the garnish would be…

Courtesy of Francine Segan, here are the recipes for the canapés we made Saturday night at the French cocktails and snacks class I took at ICE. The recipe and photo above come from The Opera Lover’s Cookbook, Francine’s latest book.

French Canapés
From: Opera Lover’s Cookbook, by Francine Segan
Serves 6

For 12 ham canapé:

3 thin slices white bread
2 tablespoons butter, softened
3 thin slices smoked ham
Dijon or honey mustard
3 cornichons, thinly sliced

Butter the 3 slices of bread and top each with a slice of ham. Using a very sharp knife cut off the crusts. Cut the sandwiches in half diagonally to create 2 triangles and then in half again diagonally, creating a total of 4 triangles per slice. Top each triangle with a tiny dollop of mustard and cornichon slice.

For 6 watercress canapé:

6 thin slices black bread
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika plus more for garnish
1 hard boiled egg, minced
Freshly milled pepper

Using a 2 1/2-inch round cookie cutter cut out circles from the center of the black bread. Mix the butter, paprika and egg in a small bowl until very well combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spread the butter-egg mixture onto the 6 circles and gently press watercress leaves in the center of each circle. Garnish with a sprinkle of paprika.

For 12 aioli shrimp canapé:

2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, finely mashed
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
Freshly milled pepper
3 thin slices white bread
6 small shrimp, poached
Zest of 1/2 lemon

To make the aioli, combine the mayonnaise, garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil in a small bowl until well mixed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spread the aioli onto each slice of bread. Using a very sharp knife cut off the crusts from the bread. Cut the sandwiches in half to create 2 rectangles and then in half again, creating a total of 4 squares per slice.

Thinly slice or chop the shrimp. Top each section with shrimp and a sprinkle of lemon zest.

[Jenna’s note: In class we replaced the shrimp with Italian tuna packed in olive oil. It was delicious.]


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