Cocktail parties are so much more fun than dinner parties… and so much easier to pull off:

  1. You don’t have to set a table; you just have to set up places to sit around the house.
  2. You don’t have to think about making an entire meal (i.e. protein, starch, vege).
  3. Two (French) words: Hors d’oeuvres. Love them!
  4. You can set an end time for the party. (5-8, 5-7, 6-9, etc.)

Puff Pastry Pinwheels or Bites

I’m a huge fan of frozen puff pastry. I once pulled off two different hors d’oeuvres at the eleventh hours using a chunk of Manchego cheese that was drying out in my fridge, some leftover pesto and a defrosted box of puff pastry.

Preheat oven to 425° or 450° (whatever it says on the box, I can’t remember.)

You can either make pinwheels, or sandwich fillings between two sheets of pastry. The filling options are endless. This is where the fun starts. Usually, I think of combinations I really like and work from there. Cheese is always a winner. I’ve used Fontina, Gruyère, Manchego… whatever you have in the fridge. Or, you can roll up or sandwich prosciutto and Fontina, or jamon and Manchego, or even ham and Swiss.

For my Christmas party this year, I’m going to experiment with the flavors of French onion soup and make an onion compote (basically, cooking onions for an eternity until they’re caramelized and sweet and mushy) and then top it with Gruyère cheese. I’ll let you know how that turns out.

Another possibility: spinach and feta. LOVE this combo. Squeeze the water out of defrosted frozen spinach, sprinkle feta crumbs and sandwich between puff pastry. YUM! It’s like mini spanikopitas without having to deal with phyllo dough.

You can also slather the dough with basil pesto, sundried tomato pesto, tapenade, roasted red pepper pesto or if you wanted to go the sweet/savory route, maybe brush some apricot preserves on the pastry and sandwiching some brie. The possibilities are endless.

To make pinwheels, roll out a sheet of the defrosted pastry with a little flour. If filling with only grated cheese, brush the sheet with egg wash so the cheese sticks, then roll up the long side. Stick the roll back in the fridge or freezer for a little bit to firm up.

Using a serrated knife, cut the roll into half-inch pieces and place them on a parchment-lined or silpat-lined baking sheet. Brush with egg wash and bake for about 20 minutes (until they puff up and get brown).

You can also make the rolls way ahead of time, cut the pieces and then freeze them just like that. This way, all you have to do is bake them off when it’s party time!

For the “sandwiches”:

Roll out one sheet of dough, brush with egg wash and top with cheese (instead of the egg wash, try mustard and ham and cheese, or sundried tomato pesto and smoked mozzarella, etc.). Place another sheet of dough on top, press it down slightly and brush the top with egg wash. Crimp the edges so the sheets stick together. Bake 15-20 minutes then cut into squares to serve.

Happy Cooking!

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