Real Entertaining

Retro nibbles, with upgrades

By David Hagedorn
Sunday, November 22, 2009

When tryptophan-tastic aromas waft from the kitchen on Thanksgiving, televised parades and football games are not adequate diversions to allay hunger. Children, especially the grown-up variety, need something edible to keep them occupied while holiday feasts are being prepared.

Plenty of people out there would be perfectly content to forgo the main event entirely and make a meal from the shmears, dips, crunchy munchies and bite-size morsels set out during the day. My sister is one of them.

"If there were a way to make Party Mix look like turkey, it would save me a lot of trouble," she says. Nothing counts as a real occasion in our family unless it begins with Party Mix, my version of the cereal-based snack food baked with butter, Worcestershire sauce and seasoned salt. For others with more diverse tastes, I fashioned the accompanying retro assortment: a vegetarian spread; a deviled-egg and crab combo; meatballs made with ground chicken and Indian flavors, and mini turkey franks with water chestnuts in a plum sauce. Both the meatballs and franks can hold for a couple of hours in a chafing dish or crockpot.

The idea for the latter evolved from a suggestion made by Nycci Nellis, a friend and founder of She combines cocktail weenies with brandy and brown sugar in a saucepan and, as she puts it, cooks the hell out of them.

Nellis's family subscribes to the abundance theory of entertaining, offering a groaning board of delights, including charcuterie and cheeses, before the repast. I asked her how anyone could eat all that and still sit down to turkey with the trimmings.

She replied with the utmost sincerity, "Sweetie, you just power through."


Deviled-Eggy Crab Spread

Veggie Buffalo Spread

Indian Meatballs

Plum Sauce Cocktail Franks

Party Mix

Hagedorn is chef and former restaurateur. His Real Entertaining column appears monthly. He can be reached at

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