Hors d'oeuvres may not rank high on your list of worrisome things, but fixing them at the last minute surely adds partytime stress. That's where these recipes come in handy. They will free you for more important things, like wiping the kitchen floor after an eleventh-hour spill.
These finger foods can be prepared ahead of time, from a month to a day before the party, and simply cooked at the last moment. The shao mai triangles, beef satay and mushrooms stuffed with beef and shrimp are served hot. The hearts of palm and herring antipasto are served cold. Each combines a base of familiar ingredients, such as chicken, beef or mushrooms, with ethnic seasonings and techniques.
The shao mai are a Chinese-inspired version of Greek spanakopita , spinach-filled phyllo triangles. Theshao mai freeze beautifully and can be made a month ahead of time. Freeze the triangles on large foil-lined trays in two layers, with waxed paper separating each layer. To thaw before using, remove foil and waxed paper and thaw in single layers, uncovered. Fresh phyllo dough is available at some Middle Eastern stores such as Thomas' Market on University Boulevard, Vivian's in Rockville or at Bradley Food and Beverage. When preparing shao mai , fresh phyllo dough is usually easier to use than frozen because it is less likely to be dried out. Any extra dough from the recipe can be frozen for future use.
Look for the shiitake or black mushrooms in bulk at the Bethesda Co-op. They are considerably less expensive there than by the package in Oriental grocery stores. The rice wine and sesame oil are available in Oriental stores or specialty food sections of supermarkets. Chinese sesame oil, made from toasted sesame seeds, has a far stronger flavor than non-oriental sesame oil.
The beef satay is a variation of an Indonesian dish. The meat can be marinated and skewered the day before a party, placed on trays, and covered tightly with plastic wrap. Do not freeze. The mustard sauce improves with age, and can be made a week ahead of time. Sniders of Silver Spring carries beef already cut into stroganoff strips in half-pound packages. You can cut it at home, though, from top round or sirloin steak. The chili paste is a powerful mixture of ground chilis, salt and vinegar and can be found, along with the skewers, at Oriental stores. If you have hot bean paste on hand, it can be substituted but the amount in the recipe is doubled.
Look for hearts of palm and the large capers in specialty food sections of supermarkets or at ethnic markets. These may be assembled a day ahead of time and covered tightly with plastic wrap. Do not freeze.
The basic herring antipasto filling comes from a friend who serves it in a bowl surrounded with cucumber rounds and tiny rye rounds. Guests spoon the herring onto these. Here the antipasto is presented in miniature cream puffs for easier passing.
The stuffed mushrooms have a Chinese filling with a spicy kick from the chili oil (made from sesame oil flavored with dried red chili peppers). The oil, bamboo shoots and ginger can be found in specialty food sections or Oriental stores. The ground meat needs to be very lean since it is not pre-cooked and drained. The filling can be prepared a day ahead. The mushrooms can be filled the morning of an evening party. Do not freeze. SHAO MAI TRIANGLES (Makes 4 to 5 dozen) 1 1/2-inch piece fresh ginger 1 carrot, peeled and cut in 1/2-inch pieces 8-ounce can water chestnuts, drained 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley 4 dried Chinese mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes 9 ounces boned chicken, cut into 1-inch pieces 1 tablespoon cornstarch 2 teaspoons rice wine or dry sherry 1 teaspoon sesame oil 2 tablespoons soy sauce 1/2 teaspoon sugar 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 1/2 teaspoon pepper 1/2 egg, beaten 1 package fresh phyllo dough 1/2 cup melted butter
In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, process the ginger until minced. Measure and set aside in a medium-sized bowl. Process the carrot until minced, add water chestnuts and repeat. Do not grind to a paste. Remove. Add to ginger. Add parsley.
Remove stems from mushrooms and squeeze excess liquid from caps. Process caps until minced. Add to parsley mixture. Process chicken until minced. Add to mushrooms. Mix cornstarch, rice wine, sesame oil and soy sauce. Stir to remove lumps. Add salt, sugar, pepper and egg and mix well. Add cornstarch mixture to chicken and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until mixture sticks together.
Remove phyllo from package and align edges. Cut dough into three strips approximately 5 inches wide. Set out three strips. Cover rest with a tea towel to prevent drying.
Brush each strip very lightly with melted butter. Place one teaspoon filling in bottom right corner of strip. Fold strip lengthwise over filling, and fold up in triangle like a flag. Place on a cookie sheet. Fill tray, brush tops with a bit of melted butter, and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.
Bake for 10 minutes, thawed, at 350 degrees, or 15 minutes if frozen, until lightly browned around the edges. Serve hot. BEEF SATAY (Enough for 60 skewers) 3 pounds beef stroganoff strips, or top round sliced one-sixteenth-inch thick Marinade: 3 tablespoons brown sugar 1/2 cup dry sherry 3/4 cup soy sauce 1/4 cup lemon juice 4 cloves garlic, minced 1 bunch scallions, minced 2 teaspoons chili paste, optional 1 to 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds 60 6-inch bamboo skewers Mustard Sauce: 10 tablespoons mayonnaise 6 tablespoons dijon mustard 1/2 to 1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce 5 to 10 dashes hot pepper sauce
Cut each stroganoff strip across in half or thirds, depending on length. If strips are extremely wide, cut in half again. Each half-pound of strips should yield 20 pieces of meat, approximately 3 to 4 inches long and 3/4-inch wide. This will make 10 skewers.
In a medium-sized bowl, mix brown sugar with sherry, soy sauce, lemon juice, garlic, scallion and chili paste. Add strips and toss gently to coat. Marinate half an hour to two hours. Remove meat and drain if necessary. If meat is marinated too long, it becomes too watery.
Thread two pieces of meat onto each skewer, keeping meat within two inches of pointed end to facilitate eating. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.
Grill satay or cook under a pre-heated broiler for two minutes. To broil, place a cake rack on a cookie sheet. Place beef on top of rack and broil, turning once after 1 minute.
To make mustard sauce, combine all ingredients, mix and refrigerate. The sauce should be spicy. To serve, place mustard sauce in a small bowl in the center of a round 14-inch tray. Arrange satay around sauce and serve warm. Dip each satay in sauce before eating. HEARTS OF PALM WITH SMOKED SALMON (Makes 3 dozen) 1/2 pound smoked salmon 14-ounce can hearts of palm 72 large Italian capers (about 3 ounces)
Cut salmon strips in half lengthwise and then in half crosswise. This should yield about 36 pieces of salmon, 1/2 inch wide and 3 to 4 inches long. Cut hearts of palm into 1/2-inch-wide pieces to yield about 36 chunks.
Wrap a piece of salmon around a piece of heart of palm. Secure with a toothpick. Put a caper on each end of the toothpick against the salmon.
Line a plate with boston lettuce, or serve on a silver tray with the flat side of the heart of palm facing up. Serve chilled. These may be assembled a day ahead, placed on a tray in a single layer, and covered tightly with plastic wrap. HERRING ANTIPASTO (Enough for 50 puffs) 12-ounce jar herring bits in wine, drained, onions removed 6-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts 1 small red onion, peeled 1/2 green pepper, cleaned and seeded 1/2 red pepper, cleaned and seeded, or 2-ounce jar pimiento, drained 4-ounce can chopped black olives, drained Marinade: 1 cup chili sauce 2 teaspoons oregano Juice of 1/2 lemon 1/2 to 1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce 4 to 6 dashes hot pepper sauce Bouchees: 1 cup water 6 tablespoons butter Pinch salt 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 4 eggs
Cut herring across into 1/4-by- 1/2-inch rectangles. Do not use thin flap of skin at end. Cut each artichoke heart in half, then into quarters and finally into eighths. Cut peppers and onion into 1/4-inch dice.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine marinade ingredients, then add herring and vegetables. Toss gently to coat with marinade. Refrigerate overnight.
For the puffs, heat water to boiling in a medium saucepan. Add butter and melt. Add flour all at once off the heat and stir rapidly to incorporate. When a smooth paste is formed, place on heat, continue to stir for several minutes to evaporate some of the water and cook flour. The dough is ready when a thin skin forms on the bottom of the pot. Remove from heat. Place in a mixing bowl and beat on low speed for 3 to 4 minutes to cool. Add eggs one at a time. After the third egg, check consistency. Beat fourth egg in a small bowl. Add until paste is of piping consistency, but not runny.
Lightly oil a cookie sheet, or line with parchment paper. Using a 1/2-inch plain tip, and a large pastry bag, pipe 1-inch puffs onto the cookie sheet. Smooth peaks with a spoon dipped in cold water. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in a 400-degree oven. Cool on a rack. Remove tops with a sharp knife and discard any moist dough in puff. Freeze in plastic bags until ready to use. Recipe makes about 65 puffs.
To use puffs after freezing, thaw and place on a cookie sheet in a 300-degree oven for 3 to 5 minutes to crisp slightly. Cool. One hour prior to serving, fill puffs with herring antipasto. Serve at room temperature. If refrigerated, puffs will become soggy. MUSHROOMS STUFFED WITH BEEF AND SHRIMP (Makes about 4 dozen) 55 small, clean, firm mushrooms 1/2 pound lean ground beef or pork 6 ounces shrimp, shelled, cleaned and chopped coarsely 1/4 cup bamboo shoots, chopped 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced 2 scallions, minced 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar 3 tablespoons cornstarch 1/4 teaspoon pepper 1 tablespoon soy sauce 1/2 to 1 tablespoon chili oil
Wipe mushrooms with a damp towel and carefully remove stems. Reserve stems for another use.
Place all the other ingredients in a large bowl and mix with a wooden spoon. Stir in one direction until filling holds together. Refrigerate one hour for easier handling.
Fill each mushroom cap, mounding slightly in the center. Place in a 425-degree oven and bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Do not crowd baking sheet or mushrooms will get soggy. Serve hot.