Cocktail parties are the most versatile party to give. You can pack together a group of people – as many as you like, and they don’t need to know each other at all (in fact it’s more fun if they don’t). It ‘s a graceful way to make matches for business or romance without the pressure of guests having to spend an entire meal together. When a party gets buzzy and laughter rolls around the room, it’s magical. Guests have seconds and thirds, stay longer than they planned and exchange email addresses with new acquaintances – that’s a good party.
It seems that people are predisposed not to eat much at cocktail parties these days. Nobody wants to risk a lap around the room with spinach in their teeth; others are dieting and see hors d’oeuvres as empty calories. So the food has to be irresistible – tiny fried green tomatoes with a dollop of lobster salad, or a new flavor combination, like peach slices wrapped with ham and basil. It’s good for the food to be a little salty because it encourages people to drink – hence the popularity of the cocktail peanut. It may be unique to Washington, where people are very concerned about being taken seriously, but I’ve noticed that fewer people drink alcohol at cocktail parties anymore. Offering a specialty drink is a good way to entice a guest into a drink, so long as it’s not too heavy. A good host needs to be a food- and drink- pusher to get things going. (My girls always accuse me of being a food-pusher when they come home. Which is perhaps an accurate accusation.)
Washington is the land of the summer interns, and we sometimes have children of friends who stay with us during their internships. You might think these kids would rather die than go to an adult cocktail party, but they actually love it. When I was a graduate student, my boss and his wife would invite me to parties like this, and attending these parties became an important part of my social education: I saw how people greeted each other, how they made small talk, how they excused themselves to get a drink or meet someone new. There are people who innately possess these social skills; sadly, I am not one of them. But in the end it doesn’t matter, because it’s something anyone can learn through observation and imitation of the ‘naturals” among us.
Here is a recipe for a killer hors d’oeuvre: lobster salad on fried green tomatoes. Your guests will love it – it’s flavorful and fresh. Cocktail food has to be accessible, which means it shouldn’t take more than three bites to polish it off. I wasn’t able to find green cherry tomatoes for this recipe, but they would have been perfect for creating a truly tiny, one bite version of this.
More recipes for hors d’oeuvres coming next week…
Prep Time: One hour
For the lobster salad:
- 1 and ½ cups boiled, shelled lobster meat cut into small chunks (two small lobsters)
- 1/3 cup organic mayonnaise
- 1 Tablespoon plain yogurt
- ½ cup diced celery
- 2 Tablespoons fresh dill
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- zest of one lemon
- juice of ½ lemon
For the fried green tomatoes:
- 6 small green tomatoes
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/3 cup olive oil – use half the oil for each of two batches of tomatoes
- 1/2 cup flour
- salt and pepper to taste
- Mix the ingredients for the lobster salad together and chill in the refrigerator.
- Heat olive oil at medium heat. Slice tomatoes to 1/3-inch rounds.
- Dredge lightly in flour, dip in egg and then in panko breadcrumbs.
- Pan fry until golden brown and place on paper towels to drain.
- Top each green tomato with a spoonful of lobster salad, and garnish with lemon zest.