Perhaps you were talked into hosting a get-together for the PTA planning meeting, or you volunteered to hostess the mother-daughter holiday lunch for your daughter’s preschool class. Even with your life on full-time status, you still want to pull together a flawless party, with part-time availability. The easiest way to pull off a fun party with good food is to make as many appetizers as you can ahead of time, reheat them right before the party and keep them warm in chafing dishes.
So What Is a Chafing Dish?
Although ancient chafing-dish crockery was found in Pompeii, use something a bit more modern to keep your appetizers warm and at a safe temperature. Most chafing dishes are made of metal and either fit into raised frames or have long legs welded into the base. Food is kept warm either by a gel or solid fuel placed underneath that burns slowly to heat the food.
Meat and Poultry
Warm chipped beef, vegetables and cream cheese make a simple and easy dip you can throw together while you watch the news or run through the week's spelling words with your kids. The day of your party, retrieve the dip from the refrigerator, dump it into a large bread bowl and bake. Kids will enjoy sliced sausages or hot dogs simmered in a brown-sugar glaze, and you’ll be surprised how many moms nab them, too. Store-bought meatballs are tossed with whatever barbecue sauce is on sale that week. Chicken flautas are thawed from the freezer-case and cooked in the oven before dumping them into a long chafing dish and serving with creamy dressing.
Fish and Shellfish
Crab meat dip is stuffed into a resealable bag and then piped through a small hole cut into the corner to top sliced and toasted baguettes. If crab isn't plentiful, or you simply cannot abide crab, shrimp toast is a tasty substitute that will likely disappear quickly. If you're looking for a classic fish appetizer that is also kid-friendly, try warm, smoked salmon dip. Your favorite tuna fish salad transforms into an appetizer when spooned onto wafer-thin slices of potato that you baked until crispy. Or if time is not on your side, find thick-cut potato chips and use them instead.
Classic fondue makes an ideal chafing dish appetizer, particularly when you buy the fondue already made at the grocery store. Ask your children to help you cut baguettes into cubes, which is easily handled with a plastic knife, making it a safe task that also keeps little hands busy. If you're pressed for time, use salad croutons instead of bread cubes. Cubed apples, pears and figs round out the offerings and can be easily speared and dunked into the cheesy goodness. Herb-cheese stuffed mushroom caps are delicious when served hot.