Sometimes, throwing a dinner party can be stultifying, in that inviting over guests in a formal manner can be more stressful than fun. One way to break the tedium is to prepare a classic and immaculate set of appetizers which will put everyone at ease. In what follows, you’ll find a multipart appetizer menu fit for a king and a few queens, too.
Place the reserved shells, 3 cups of water and salt in a pan and bring to a boil at medium-high heat. Lower the heat, cover it up and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain this stock through a sieve, pressing the shells to get all the yummy liquid out. Place the rest of your ingredients in a large pan with your stock over high heat. Boil for 2 minutes and turn off the heat. Stir in your shrimp and cover. Let it rest for about 10 minutes, or until the shrimp appear pink and firm. Drain off the shrimp and plunge in an ice bath. Drain again and serve with the following cocktail sauce.
Take a small bowl and stir together all of the ingredients. Feel free to adjust any amount to your personal taste.
Heat the oil in a large sauté pan and add in the bread and salt. Cook at low heat, regularly tossing, for 10 minutes. Whisk together your vinaigrette ingredients. Take a large bowl and toss the tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, onion, basil and capers. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper. Serve straight away.
Juice your lemon and put the juice in a pot of salted water. Bring the pot to a boil and save the lemon. Trim your artichokes and peel the outer leaves. Remove the top 2/3 of the artichokes as well as their stems. Hollow out their centers, scraping away the fuzzy innards and peeling off the base, leaving only the heart. Rub the lemon halves on the hearts. Slice the hearts into 1/8 inch pieces and blanch in the lemon water for about 5 minutes. Once they finish cooking, place them immediately in an ice bath to shock them. Drain them off and combine with the cream garlic, salt and pepper in a saucepan. Take the pan up to a simmer and allow it to reduce. Peel the Yukon Golds and slice into 1/8 inch pieces too.
Get your oven to 350 F and prepare a 5 inch by 8 inch loaf pan by brushing it with olive oil. Drain off the potatoes and layer about ¼ of them over the loaf pan. Sprinkle about 1/3 of the cheese over the potatoes, and then layer about 1/3 of the artichokes over the cheese. Repeat this pattern of potatoes, cheese and artichokes twice more. Cover it all with the last potato layer and pour over your cream mixture. Put foil over the pan and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the foil, sprinkle over another 3 tablespoons of cheese and put it back in the oven for another 5 or so minutes – take it out when the cheese browns. Let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Then you can cut into it; run your knife along the sides of your loaf pan to loosen it up. Next, you can divide it into 4 servings, taking them out of the pan with your spatula.
Following these recipes and using your own creativity, these appetizers will get your formal dinner party off to the right start.