Celebrate with Small Plates

While you are witnessing a number of restaurants serving “small plates” as an option for a meal, you should know that it has been a growing trend for some time in the catering industry. I actually prefer to go out and enjoy a 5-course meal of small plates! I also enjoy them perfectly paired with a beverage—either a glass of wine, champagne, sake, cognac, beer, or spirit—served in a small glass. It seems to me that each perfectly paired beverage with the small plate is designed to POP in your mouth the most delicious taste with each different course. Yum!!

So, this holiday season it will not surprise you to know that it is all about taste, being small, and being comforting. Mini savory or sweet cupcakes or lollipop cakes… Mini meatballs in different sauces… Mini mac and cheese bites… Mini meatloaf bites… Mini savory and sweet tartlets… Mini tasting spoons… Mini soup sippers… Mini sweet and savory pies… the list goes on and on. This means we can taste a little bit everything and not feel guilty!

Pies are the new cupcake craze. Did you know that there are mini pies in almost every culture?

  • The British have Cornish Pasty which is a steak and vegetable mini hand pie
  • Latin Cultures have the Empanada with beef, chicken or chorizo
  • Australia has meat pies, Jamaica has meat pies, Finland has meat pies, Asia has meat pies, Louisiana has meat pies, Nigeria has meat pies, Morocco has meat pies… then there is sambousek, burek, tourtiere, treacle, samosas, and banoffee!
  • New England has chicken pot pie, lobster pie, fish pie, mini whoopee pies, mini apple pies, key lime pies, etc.

We could go on and on!

In this spirit, why not consider a mini pie holiday party? Here are two to get you started:

Beef Empanada

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups flour (plus a little more for kneading)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons lard

Preparation:

1. In a bowl, beat the water, eggs and vinegar together. Set aside.

2. In a separate bowl, mix together the 3 cups of flour and salt.

3. Cut the lard into the flour mix with a pastry blender or two butter knives. Make a well in the center of the flour mix and pour the liquid ingredients from the first bowl into the center.

4. Mix the wet and dry ingredients with a fork until it becomes stiff.

5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead it just until all the flour is incorporated and the dough is smooth.

6. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Use immediately. You can also freeze the dough at this point for future use.

Servings: Makes approximately 10 six-inch empanadas.

Picadillo Filling:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 ½ teaspoon cumin
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium white onion (chopped fine)
  • 1 small green pepper (chopped)
  • 1/2 cup beef stock
  • 3/4 cup tomato sauce
  • 2 small potatoes (peeled and diced)
  • 8 to 10 green olives (pitted)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup of cilantro
  • Olive oil for sautéing

Preparation:

1. In a mixing bowl, combine the ground beef, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper.

2. In a frying pan, heat the olive oil. Sauté the onions, green pepper, and garlic until soft.

3. Add the ground beef mixture, beef stock, and tomato sauce. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes.

4. Add the diced potato. Cover and cook another 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are done.

5. Remove the cover. Add the olives and cook uncovered 15 minutes or until the liquid is fully evaporated, but the meat is still moist.

Method:

Roll dough 5 to 6” circles. Place filling in1/2 and fold over into a half circle. Crimp all the way around with a fork and bake or fry until golden.

Basically, this dough can be used for any filling at all. Try spinach and feta, lamb and Moroccan spices and chickpeas, or pork, jalapeño, cumin, and chili powder.

Suggestion: Pair with a mini mojito!

Mini Quick Whoopie Pie

1 Box Chocolate Cake mix

Follow the directions on the chocolate cake mix and then add 1 cup or more of all-purpose flour to stiffen the dough. Use a mini ice cream scoop and scoop onto parchment covered sheet pans. Bake 350 degrees until done…approximately 15 minutes. Cool completely and scoop a mini scoop of buttercream onto one side and “sandwich” with another side. Easy Peasy!

Suggestion: Pair with a late harvest Zinfandel!

I challenge you to make several different mini pies and a couple of beverages to make your festive and fun!

Some other suggestions: have an interactive party by making it a contest. This is GREAT for corporate team building as well!

Gingerbread House Making Contest

Cookie Decorating Contest

When all else fails and you really want to dazzle the crowd consider what is REALLY HOT… BACON! Make it a…

Bacon BAR!! Bake bacon with all kinds of flavors and just set out on a buffet table and watch them disappear. Peppered bacon, candied bacon, chocolate dipped bacon, and my personal favorite: bacon brittle!

Happy holiday planning!