If it's Halloween, or if someone in your family just likes scary things, making scary appetizers can be a fun challenge. You want something that delights and horrifies your guests at the same time. However, you don't want to horrify your kids enough to make them not eat the food you worked so hard to make. Thinking of scary cartoons as you work can help you keep it on the side of delight.
Find picks shaped like miniature swords in any shop that has a good party supply selection. Buy several bunches of beautiful grapes -- the bigger, the better. A few hours before the party, peel and skewer them. Put three or four on each skewer, place the skewers in a bowl, cover it tightly with plastic wrap and store them in the refrigerator until party time. Serve in a dimly lit room if possible. Your guests will be delighted by the taste of chilled grapes, yet disturbed by the peeled texture when you call them "skewered eyeballs."
Bountiful Brain Cups
Buy bean thread noodles in the Asian aisle of your grocery store and cook according to package directions -- except for one thing. Add a little tomato paste to the broth or water as you cook the noodles. This will turn the noodles a faintly pink color as they cook. Season the noodles with just a little salt, to taste. Don't use other seasonings because you'll be able to see them show up as little flecks in the noodles. Scoop the insides out of some cocktail tomatoes, then stuff the tomatoes with a little chopped fresh parsley topped with the pink noodles. Pile them high, so the noodles bulge up over the top of the tomato.
Make finger sandwiches that actually resemble fingers. Buy food-safe markers from any store that sells cake-decorating supplies. Then buy a light, fluffy loaf of sandwich bread -- whole grain, if possible, but not with lots of seeds. Pick up whatever cold cuts you like on a sandwich, along with leafy lettuce and tomatoes. Cut the crusts off the slices of bread, then assemble sandwiches. Hold the mayo and spread ranch dressing instead for an unexpected zing to your finger sandwiches. Carefully cut each sandwich into four strips that are about finger-width. Use the food-safe markers to make the top piece of bread on each sandwich look like a finger.
Besides being delicious, dark cherry pie filling has the virtue of looking slightly disturbing in the right context -- especially if it's chunky. Buy some ready-made miniature tart shells and bake according to package directions. Spoon dark cherry pie filling into them and serve them as a sweet appetizer at your scary party. You can label them as blood tartlets, but chances are good that your guests will find them just as disturbing without any labeling.
- "The Professional Chef," The Culinary Institute of America; 2006
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