Phenomenal Fall Hors D'oeuvres

By Sharon Naylor

August 6, 2010 6 min read

Any party that takes place during the autumn months automatically competes with the traditional fare of Thanksgiving, but you don't need to shy away from the tastes of Turkey Day for your fall party. In fact, many of the top catering establishments offer a wildly popular "Thanksgiving on a spoon" hors d'oeuvre, which consists of a small layering of stuffing, cranberry sauce and turkey gravy, all on a pretty serving spoon. Guests go wild for the single bite of Thanksgiving's best.

Nor do you need to stick with all hot, rich, creamy foods, thinking you need to warm up your guests. The weather in the fall months still can be warm, so it's always a great idea to serve both hot and cold appetizers to give guests a tasty variety of temperatures and tastes.

The key to fabulous fall hors d'oeuvres is to maximize the lush bounty of fruits and vegetables that are in-season, plentiful and at the peak of their flavor right now. And they're also less expensive because they are in-season. Meats, too, offer seasonal tastes depending on your preferences, with venison joining beef and chicken on party planners' shopping lists.

*Meat Bites

Your party menu should offer some meat features, as well as a good variety of non-meat dishes in order to suit your guests' dietary preferences. In fall, a popular appetizer is a mini skewer of beef, chicken or venison cubes, paired with fall veggie cubes of onion, parsnip, sweet potato and zucchini, brushed with a flavorful barbecue or jerk sauce and grilled to perfection. Just four or five cubes of meat and veggies per mini skewer makes each appetizer easily enjoyed by guests.

Meats also can fill those popular phyllo pastry squares, with spicy chili being a top choice for these baked or fried bites.

And because fall brings to mind the football season tailgate party and its delicious, memory-laden menu, mini ribs are also top appetizer choices, along with tiny cups or shot glasses filled with venison, beef or pork chili presented with a small appetizer spoon. Sliders with great cheeses are also crowd pleasers.

*Soup Shots

Fall party caterers say that little cups, or shooters, of creamy veggie-based soups are among the most enjoyed tastes. Stella Inserra, a special events planner, says, "Roasted acorn butternut squash soup is a top choice for fall parties," as are richly hued shots of fall favorite broccoli soup and potato and leek soup.

*Potatoes and Pumpkins

Pumpkins may be Halloween decorations, but they also are bringing their vitamin A goodness to the new class of gourmet hors d'oeuvres. For instance, sushi can be filled with a creamy pumpkin filling, paired with a sushi made with creamy sweet potato. And adding a twist to the mashed potato bar -- where guests top a scoop of creamy mashed potatoes, served in a martini glass, with their choice of toppings, from shredded cheese to bacon bits to mushroom sauce -- is the serving of mashed sweet potatoes or mashed cauliflower at this toppings bar.

Going classic, tiny piped puffs of mashed or sweet potatoes can be baked and served hot and crunchy -- with creamy middles -- to your guests. And pumpkin-filled ravioli in an Alfredo sauce or potato-filled pirogi, served with bamboo toothpicks, also please.

*Veggie Bites

Veggies that are in-season in fall create welcome freshness and healthy fare for your guests. Mushrooms are always quick to disappear from appetizer platters, especially mushrooms stuffed with crab or lobster meat or scoops of cheese spread, sprinkled with a high-quality Parmesan cheese and warmed in the oven. Inserra suggests assorted wild mushrooms -- such as porcini, black trumpets, shiitakes and chanterelles -- in your fall appetizers, paired with a creamy risotto.

Another hot appetizer is a small bowl of noodles mixed with fresh fall veggies -- such as zucchini, onions, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower and mushrooms -- and tossed with a flavorful dressing.

When you offer healthy fare, such as the veggie salad, you can then pass the potato skins and the pigs in blankets, which are hot choices even at the most formal of fall parties!

*Presentation

The dips and sauces make your appetizers delectable, so for any baked or fried puff appetizer or for shrimp cocktail, venison cubes or pigs in blankets, be sure to set out bowls of unique and seasonal sauces -- such as a tomato and cheese fondue sauce, in which spaghetti squash fritters can be dunked, or cranberry sauce-based dip for your meat kebabs. Peppers are in-season, too, so salsas are still in demand.

Beyond sauces, your gourmet cheese platter looks professionally made when you place slices or cubes of unusual cheeses around baked Brie in brioche with a sweet cranberry sauce inside. Add leafy spinach greens, endive spears, persimmons and pomegranates to your platter presentations and your fall hors d'oeuvres collection will look even more amazing.

Find fabulous recipes for your fall appetizers at http://www.FoodNetwork.com or http://www.MixingBowl.com.

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