No matter what political party you belong to, one party we can all agree on is a cocktail party! In honor of the upcoming election, Junior League member Meghan Poole shares with us some tips and tricks from a political campaign reception she and her husband recently hosted at their home. Meghan used the Cocktail Meet & Greet Menu on page 56 of River Road Recipes IV: Warm Welcomes and had rave reviews from her guests. Whatever get-together you may be having, political or otherwise, these recipes are sure to get bipartisan support!
Cocktail Meet & Greet Menu
My husband, Lamar, and I hosted a small reception for a friend who is running for a City Council seat. We had a similar reception last year for a state representative and used this menu then. The food was such a hit, that we prepared the recipes for a second time. Because our party was at six o’clock in the evening, dinner time, and guests made a contribution to attend, we supplemented the food with gumbo and rice from Pot & Paddle, and some sliced ham and rolls.
I prepared the turkey meat for the Toasted Canapés about a week in advance by boiling turkey legs and boneless/skinless breast in water seasoned with salt, pepper, onion, carrot, green bell pepper, celery, bay leaf and a few shakes of tobacco. I froze the broth and chopped meat in one cup portions to use in other recipes later.
I made the Blue Cheese Truffles, Pralines and Bourbon Pecan Tartlets in advance, and stored them in the freezer until the day of the party.
The party was on a Monday evening, so we spent Sunday afternoon preparing most of the food. I did the grocery shopping the day before on Saturday. There was nothing that had to be cooked the day of the party, which was a lifesaver. We both work full time, so cooking the day of was not an option.
I chopped two bunches of green onions before I started preparing the food, and that was enough for everything.
For the most part, these recipes are easy to follow and prepare. The most difficult recipes to cook were the Toasted Canapés and the pralines because they require constant attention at the stove. Leaving them for just a small amount of time can cause them to burn.
Crowd favorites were the Crawfish Supreme, Crabmeat Green Goddess and Citrus-Glazed Sausage. The Southern Antipasto recipe doesn’t make a lot, but it’s the least popular dish on the menu. The Blue Cheese Truffles are great because they are small, rich and flavorful. They are easy for guests to pop in their mouths and pair perfectly with a glass of wine.
The Southern Antipasto was the easiest item on the menu to make. I cut the green beans into two pieces each before blanching. I sliced one type of olives lengthwise and the other crosswise. My garlic press also has a slicer on it, so it was easy to get the garlic to a consistent size. Three tablespoons of thyme takes a while to get, so I used an herb stripper to make the process go faster. I prepared the marinade the day before the party in a plastic container with a lid. I combined the rest of the ingredients in the quart-sized bag as indicated in the recipe. I poured the marinade in the bag about 2 hours before the party, then into a serving bowl when I was ready to serve it without draining the marinade.
My son loves olives, and he requested to take the leftovers to school in his lunchbox.
- 1 (12-ounce) jar pickled okra, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup fresh green beans, blanched and drained
- 1/4 cup pitted kalamata olive halves
- 1/4 cup pitted green olive halves
- 1/4 cup pimento-stuffed olives
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teasoon crushed dried red pepper
- Combine the okra, green beans, and olives in a 1-quart resealable plastic bag.
- Whisk the lemon juice, olive oil, thyme, garlic, salt, and red pepper in a bowl.
- Pour the lemon juice mixture over the okra mixture and seal tightly. Turn to coat.
- Marinate in the refrigerator for up to 1 hour, turning every 15 minutes. Drain before serving.
Blue Cheese Truffles
I made the cheese balls about a week before the party and stored them in a plastic container in the freezer with each layer separated with a piece of waxed paper. The morning of the party, I placed them in the refrigerator and they were perfect that evening. The recipe call for 3 cups of pecans, but 2 to 2.5 is enough. I have a lot of leftover pecans. I put the blue cheese and cream cheese in my stand mixer and let it do the work. I used the small end of my melon baller to make them, but will use the larger end next time. They were a bit too small for my liking. I sliced green apples about four hours before the party and put them in a quart-sized bag in the refrigerator with about 2-3 teaspoons of lemon juice to prevent browning.
- 3 cups pecan halves or pieces, finely chopped
- 8 ounces blue cheese, softened
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- Spread the pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toast at 300° for 15 minutes or until light brown, stirring occasionally. Let stand until cool and finely chop.
- Combine the blue cheese and cream cheese in a mixing bowl and beat until blended.
- Shape the cheese mixture into balls using a small melon baller and coat with the pecans.
- Arrange the balls on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Chill, covered, until serving time.
- Serve with sliced apples and/or grapes.
Makes 3 1/2 dozen truffles
I couldn’t find pumpernickel rye bread at the grocery store, so I used dark rye bread. The recipe calls for 24 slices of bread, so I bought two loaves. I sliced the crusts off of the loaves and cut each piece into two triangles using an electric knife. One loaf of bread would have been sufficient because there wasn’t enough filling to go on each toast triangle. I cut the bread the afternoon of the party and stored it in gallon-sized bags until I was ready to make the toast triangles. I prepared the turkey mixture the day before the party and heated it in the microwave when I was ready to top the toast. The recipe was spicier and more flavorful than I’d expected, and I was pleasantly surprised with how it turned out. I served the canapés in a chaffing dish to keep them warm.
- 24 slices pupernickel party rye bread, cut into triangles
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
- 1 cup chopped cooked turkey
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh mushrooms
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper
- 1/2 cup (2 ounces) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 6 slices bacon, crisp-cooked and crumbled
- Arrange the bread slices in a single layer on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake at 500° for 3 to 4 minutes until crisp.
- Heat butter in a saucepan over low heat. Stir in the flour.
- Cook until smooth and bubbly, stirring constantly.
- Add the milk gradually, stirring constantly.
- Cook until thickened, stirring constantly.
- Add the Cheddar cheese adn cook until blended, stirring constantly.
- Stir in the turkey, mushrooms, salt, and red pepper.
- Spoon some of the turkey mixture onto each toasted bread slice.
- Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese adn bacon.
- Bake at 500° for 2 to 3 minutes or until the cheese melts.
- Garnish with grape tomato slices and fresh chives.
Makes 2 dozen canapés
Crawfish Supreme & Crabmeat Green Goddess
Both of these recipes are served over a layer of cream cheese. I spread the cream cheese over the trays the day before the party, covered them with wax paper and set them in the refrigerator. When it was time to set the table for the party, I just spread the toppings over the cream cheese. They were both cold when served. I used Melba toast for the crawfish instead of preparing my own toast using French bread. I bought lump crabmeat and not jumbo lump crabmeat.
- 1 baguette French bread, thinly sliced
- Olive oil to taste
- 1 pound crawfish tails
- 1 bunch green onions, chopped
- 1 teaspoon white Worcestershire sauce
- 1/.2 cup remoulade sauce
- 1/2 cup reduced calorie Italian salad dressing
- 12 ounces cream cheese
- Arrange the rbead slices in a single layer on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil.
- Toast at 500° until light brown.
- Saute the crawfish tails and green onions in a skillet sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.
- Stir in the Worcestershire sauce.
- Remove from the heat and cool slightly.
- Stir in the remoulade sauce and salad dressing.
- Microwave the cream cheese until slightly softened. Place the cream cheese on a serving platter and top with waxed paper or plastic wrap.
- Roll or pat the cream cheese to cover the platter.
- Discard the waxed paper and spread with the crawfish mixture.
- Serve with the toasted bread slices.
- 16 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
- 1 tablespoon mayonnaise or cream
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped green onions
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- Salt and black pepper to taste
- Red pepper to taste
- Tabasco sauce to taste
- Lemon juice to taste
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/3 cup finely chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 1 pound lump crab meat, drained and shells removed
- Beat the cream cheese and butter in a mixing bowl until blended, scraping the bowl occasionally.
- Stir in 1 tablespoon mayonnaise, green onions, 2 crushed garlic cloves, salt, black pepper, red pepper, Tabasco sauce, and lemon juice to taste.
- Spread the cream cheese mixture 1/2 inch thick on a serving tray. Chill, covered in the refrigerator.
- Combine 1 cup mayonnaise, sour cream, parsley, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and 1 crushed garlic clove in a bowl and mix well. Season with salt, black pepper, red pepper, and Tabasco sauce.
- Fold in the crab meat.
- Spread the crab meat mixture over hte cream cheese mixture just before serving.
- Garnish as desired and serve with assorted party crackers.
Citrus-Glazed Smoked Sausage
Sausage is always a party favorite, especially in South Louisiana! Veron’s Sausage is my family’s favorite, so that’s the brand served at the party. The day before the party, I followed the first two steps of the recipe, where the sausage was microwaved twice. I poured the marinade over the sausage, but didn’t return it to the microwave. Before the party began, I microwaved the sausage to heat it up, then poured everything into a chaffing dish for serving. This is the only recipe I doubled.
- 1 pound smoked sausage, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup chopped green onions
- 6 to 8 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- Combine the sausage and green onions in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave, covered, on High for 2 minutes; stir. Microwave for 1 minute longer.
- Whisk the oil, lemon juice, dry mustard, salt and pepper in a bowl until blended.
- Add the oil mixture to the sausage mixture and mix well.
- Microwave until just heated through.
- Serve with wooden picks. You may prepare in advance and reheat just before serving.
I’ve tried to make this recipe more than once, and the pralines never turn out. I even burnt up a plastic bowl once trying to make these. Because microwaves are each a bit different, it’s difficult to develop a perfect recipe for them, especially for pralines because the temperature makes or breaks their success. My go-to praline recipe is Senator Ellender’s Creole Pralines on page 178 of RRR II, which I prepared for my River Roads obligation my provisional year. My cooking thermometer indicates when the temperature reaches “soft balls,” so I don’t have to throw cold water on the praline mixture to judge if they are ready or not. I prepared the pralines 5 days before the party and stored them in the freezer with each layer separated by a sheet of waxed paper. They thawed perfectly on the counter. There was no need to freeze them that close to the day of the party, but my family and I would have gobbled them up otherwise!
- 1 (16-ounce) package light brown sugar
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
- 2 cups pecan pieces
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- Combine the sugar and heavy crea in a microwave-safe bowl and mix well. Microwave on high for 7 minutes; stir.
- Add the butter. Microwave on High for 7 minutes longer and stir vigorously.
- Stir in the pecans and vanilla.
- Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Let stand until set.
Bourbon Pecan Tartlets
I prepared one and a half times the filling called for in the recipe because I had extra shells. The pastry shells are sold in packs of 15, so I had 45 when the recipe makes 3 dozen. I made these the same day as the blue cheese truffles, so they too went in the freezer with each layer separated by waxed paper. I thawed these on the counter top next to the pralines.
My son and I had fun making these together. He placed the chocolate pieces in each pastry shell, then proceeded to eat several just to make sure that they were okay!
- 36 frozen minature phyllo pastry shells
- 1/2 cup (3 ounces) minature semisweet chocolate chips
- 1 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted
- 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon butter, softened
- 1/3 cup bourbon
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- Arrange the pastry shells in a single layer on a lightly greased 10×15 inch baking sheet.
- Spoon the chocolate chips evenly into the shells.
- Combine the pecans, brown sugar, butter, bourbon and egg in a bowl and mix well.
- Spoon the pecan mixture into the prepared shells.
- Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
- Remove to a wire rack to cool. store in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 1 month.
Makes 3 dozen tartlets