24 September 2010
Usually when you invite friends for a dinner party and if you want to do everything right, the best way to begin a party is to serve appetizers. Hors d'oeuvre (appetizers) are food items served before the main courses of a meal. They must be small, delicious and extraordinar. People love such dishes before dinner.
Melon en surprise (Stuffed Melon Basket)
Ingredients for six: 1 medium green-skinned water melon; 1 tablespoon Maraschino; sifted icing sugar; 3 fluid oz cooking-type port; 24 stoned black or white cherries; 12 halved, small strawberries.
Method: Cut tip from pointed end of melon so that it stands steadily with rounded end uppermost. Make an incision 1/4" right of top centre and cut down to one-third of melon's overall depth. Repeat on left hand side of melon top at centre. Cut away these two boat or crescent shaped sections. Drive tip of small pointed knife into remaining central slice just below green skin and remove all flesh, thus achieving the 'handle'. Remove all pith and pips. Cut sides down into Vees or Vandykes. Then with grapefruit cutter hollow out soft, edible flesh. Dice neatly together with flesh from 'handle' and turn into bowl. Add port, prepared cherries and strawberries, Maraschino and icing sugar to taste. Turn into hollowed out melon and heap up into a pyramid. Chill and serve.
Creme de caviar (Caviare Cream)
Ingredients: 1\4 pint stiffly-whipped whipping or double cream; one 2 oz jar of Danish whole grain caviare substitute; 2 generous teaspoons strained lemon juice; 1 large pinch pepper.
Method: Whip cream until fairly stiff but not stiff enough for 'piping'. Fold in 'caviare' very gently with a fork. Add remaining ingredients equally gently as the acidity of the lemon juice tends to over-thicken mixture if beaten. Heap or pipe into a glass dish. Serve with very hot toast and very cold butter. Alternative Usage: For the given quantity of Caviare Cream allow 18 small de-stalked button mushrooms; 5 fluid oz cooking-type sherry and 5 fluid oz stock (or water). Place fluids in shallow frying pan. When bubbling immerse mushrooms, poach until tender, approximately 4-5 minutes, turning mushrooms over at half time. Drain, chill thoroughly, invert stalk side uppermost and pipe a small rosette of Caviare Cream into the centre of each.
Bread must be cut to a minimum 1\2" thickness, toasted to a good brown on both sides under a fierce pre-heated grill, de-crusted and halved immediately and placed inside toast box standing upright and before slices have time to cool.
However enclosed, toast becomes leathery if laid flat and any cold toast is an abomination.
Garnish and presentation
The Melon Basket. At the moment of service place in the centre of a large, shallow, plain or coloured glass dish. Encircle with a spray of asparagus or other fern. Scatter coloured ice cubes between. In summer stab interstices with small red, pink or white roses and in winter replace given cherries and strawberries with mandarin sections and use complementary coloured small chrysanthemums. Additional garnish, if desired, can include single maraschino cherries impaled on cocktail sticks for driving into the base of each Vee or vandyke around melon's sides.
Caviare Cream. Place filled glass bowl or dish in a larger bowl or dish and fill the space between with ice cubes. The colder the mixture, the better it tastes.
The Toast Box
Materials: 1 plastic, lidded rectangular box, ideally 9" x 5 1/2" x 3 1/4" in depth; approximately 3/8 yard 36" wide material for covering exterior of box; approximately 1 3/8 yards 1/4" braid, galon or other edging to finish exterior of box; approximately 3/8 yard 36" wide thinnest felt; tube of clear adhesive.
Method: Cover exterior of box and lid with chosen material affixing with adhesive. Affix edging top and bottom. Affix felt to interior base, sides and inside of lid. Cut a felt inner 'lid' 1/4" smaller all round than lid. Stick one long side of this to corresponding side of box 1\8" below closed lid line. This box will contain at least one dozen diagonally halved, crustless toast slices cut from a standard sandwich loaf.
The single-handed cook/hostess will need to plan so as to avoid too much last minute work on this course. In advance prepare the Melon Basket, assemble the fruits in a bowl and cover both tightly with foil. Cut bread for toast, wrap tightly in foil. Refrigerate all three. Make up coloured ice cubes in refrigerator trays with water lightly coloured with a few drops of appropriate harmless vegetable colouring. If desired to conserve freezing compartment space, remove frozen cubes from their trays, place in polythene bag and return to freezing compartment leaving trays free for more plain ice for drinks. Stand garnish flowers and ferns in cold water in dark place after trimming each bloom appropriately. Caviare Cream can be pre-prepared except for adding ice cubes and returning to refrigerator one hour before service. For alternative mushroom dish, refrigerate pre-prepared Caviare Cream in icing bag with crown pipe affixed; pre-cook and chill mushrooms, refrigerate, leaving only assembly and piping for maximum 2 hours before service. Make toast at last possible moment.
How to Serve and Eat
Melon Basket: Hand round with tablespoon and fork; provide bowls for eating with small spoon.
Caviare Cream: Hand round with tablespoon; provide small plates; spread butter and cream on with small table knives.
Stuffed Mushrooms: Hand round on flat dish with slice; provide small plates and small forks for eating.
With the Melon Basket serve either a lightly chilled dry white port which complements the fortified wine used in it, or remain perfectly correct and serve nothing. With either the Caviare Cream or the Stuffed Mushrooms serve a dry sherry, or a dry Madeira.