Party season is here

Published 12:42 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By By Lisa Tindell
The holiday season is officially here and with the season comes parties, parties and more parties.
If you are invited to a party where taking a dish is expected, you may be looking for something new to wow the guests. If you’re hosting a party of your own, you’ll certainly be looking for something to make the event a memorable one.
In looking for dishes to serve myself, I’ve found a few recipes that harken back to the olden days that reminded me of the old saying “everything old is new again.”
If you’re looking for a fancy, yet simple and budget-friendly dish to serve, I’ve found some things that may be perfect.
Cheese puffs can be prepared ahead of time and filled with a wide variety of ingredients that will create a beautiful platter of appetizers. They take just a little effort to make, but are certainly budget-friendly and versatile.
Cheese Puffs
1 cup flour
1/2 cup butter
1/4 tsp. salt
4 eggs
1/2 Cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
2 tsp. dry mustard
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. basil or oregano
2 tbsp. poppy seeds (opt.)
In a 2-quart pan, combine 1 cup water, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 cup butter. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to melt butter. Add flour, all at once; remove pan from heat and beat vigorously with a wire whisk until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, beating each until mixture is smooth and glossy. Beat Cheddar cheese, Parmesan cheese, dry mustard, cayenne, and basil, oregano leaves, or thyme leaves. Add poppy seeds (if desired) to the batter. Drop by spoonfuls (making balls about 1 1/2 inches in diameter) onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until puffed and brown. Turn off oven. Prick each puff in 5 places and leave in closed oven for 10 minutes to dry. Serve warm, or cool completely, then freeze. If made ahead, crisp puffs (no need to thaw) uncovered in a 350 degree oven for 5 to 7 minutes or until warmed. Makes about 36 puffs.
Filling the puffs can be as much fun as eating them. The puffs can be filled with a variety of ingredients from a simple chopped meat filling to vegetables or salads.
The following recipe is a very simple recipe that can be made a day ahead and spooned into the puffs just before serving. To fill puffs with any filling, slice the top third off the puff and discard the doughy centers. You can use the discarded dough as breadcrumbs in other recipes. Fill the puffs and replace with top.
Vegetable Filling
2/3 cup cottage cheese
3 tbsp. each minced celery and carrot
2 tbsp. minced scallion (green onion)
2 tsp. Dijon-style mustard
1 tsp. prepared horseradish
1/8 teaspoon paprika
Dash salt
Mix ingredients until well blended. Spoon into prepared puffs just before serving.
Another savory filling for the puffs uses canned deviled ham. This simple filling needs to be made ahead of time to allow for chilling. Serve the filled puffs at room temperature.
Ham Puff Filling
1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese softened
1/3 cup commercial sour cream
2 (41/2-ounce) cans deviled ham
3 tbsp. prepared horseradish
3/4 tsp. white pepper
3/4 tsp. onion powder
Beat cream cheese with mixer until creamed and smooth. Add remaining ingredients until well blended. Cover and chill for one hour before filling puffs.
You can also create a puff that’s suitable for sweet fillings if you prefer.
Cream Puffs
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup water
1 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
4 eggs
In a medium saucepan, combine shortening and water and bring to a boil. Sift together 1 cup flour and a pinch of salt and pour all at once into boiling mixture. Stir vigorously until mixture forms a ball. Remove from heat and add eggs one at a time stirring vigorously after each addition. Drop by spoonfuls onto baking sheet, or pipe into desired shape. Bake 10 minutes in the preheated oven, then reduce heat to 400 degrees and bake 25 minutes more, or until golden. Cool completely, split, fill and replace tops.
You can fill these puffs with any sweet filling. Vanilla, chocolate or other pudding is a good start on ideas for fillings. Any pie filling would be good, too.
I’ll be sharing more party fare recipes next week.
Until next week, happy cooking.
Lisa Tindell is staff reporter for the Atmore Advance. She can be reached at 251-867-4876.

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