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Canapes - Introduction

DK Publishing's logoDK Publishing 02-07-2014 DKBooks


From the simplest to the grandest party, entertaining means sharing. Since time immemorial, the traditional way to express friendship has been with an open house, a warm welcome, and good food lovingly prepared. We were fortunate enough to grow up in households where home cooked meals were a pleasurable ritual that punctuated our lives. Then, we learned the joy of connecting with family and friends over food. Now, many people don’t seem to have the time or the energy to cook, let alone entertain, at home. The constraints of modern life call for a new approach to entertaining. “Can I make that ahead?” is the question we are most often asked at the cooking classes we teach.

An hors d’oeuvres party is a practical way for both experienced and beginner cooks to entertain at home. A large number of guests can be accommodated without matching dinner service, tables, or even chairs. Piles of dirty pans, plates, and cutlery cluttering up the sink are not a burden, because hors d’oeuvres are easily handheld and simply eaten with only a small paper napkin. There’s no need to worry about spending all day or all night in the kitchen. Hors d’oeuvres are flexible foods that can be prepared well ahead of time.

We set out to create a guide that puts the pleasure back into entertaining. We have included practical tips, techniques, and timing that we hope will inspire you to invite your friends and family to celebrate. We don’t want to turn home cooks into professional caterers. We want to help home cooks be confident cooks, because confident cooks make happy hosts, and happy hosts give great parties.

So, relax. Because everybody loves a party, and home-cooked food always makes an occasion special.

Notes from the cooks

Before you cook read through the recipe carefully. Make sure you have all the equipment and ingredients required.

On measuring

Accurate measurements are essential if you want the same good results each time you make a recipe.

We recommend using cook’s measuring spoons when following a recipe. All spoon measurements in the guide are level unless otherwise stated. To measure dry ingredients with a spoon, scoop the ingredient lightly from the storage container, then level the surface with the edge of a straight-bladed knife.

We use standard level spoon measurements

1 tbsp = 1/2 floz

1 tsp = 1/6 floz

For maximum accuracy when using graduated measuring cups for dry ingredients, spoon the ingredient loosely into the required cup, mounding it up slightly, then level the surface with the edge of a straight-bladed knife. Do not use the cup as a scoop, pack the ingredient into the cup or tap the cup on the work surface. This will give you an inaccurate result.

To measure liquids, choose a transparent glass or plastic measuring jug. Always place the jug on a flat surface and check for accuracy at eye level when pouring in a liquid to measure.

A final and important rule of measuring—never measure ingredients over the mixing bowl!

On oven temperatures

Always preheat your oven for 10–20 minutes before you need to use it. This allows it to reach the required temperature. Keep in mind that the higher the temperature required, the longer it will take to preheat the oven.

Ovens vary from kitchen to kitchen. Most have hot spots, so be prepared to rotate dishes from top to bottom or from front to back during the cooking time. A good oven thermometer is an important piece of kitchen equipment.

If using a convection oven, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for adjusting cooking timings and oven temperatures.

On quantities

However accurate we measure, cooking remains to some extent an unpredictable science. Ingredients vary, so use the yields we give for each recipe as general guidelines. Hors D’oeuvres are bite-size morsels that should be eaten in one mouthful, so be prepared to modify the number of items the recipe yields to fit this criteria. We have done our best to ensure that none of the recipes yield less than the quantity stated, but in some cases a recipe might make a few extra, which will of course allow for both breakage—and tasting!

On tasting

Always taste food as you cook and before you serve. Don’t be afraid to add or change flavors to suit your palate—what’s fun about cooking is experimenting, improvising, creating. Ingredients differ from day to day, season to season, kitchen to kitchen; our tomato may be a little riper than your tomato, and so on. Be prepared to the adjust sweetness, sharpness, spiciness, and, most important of all, salt to your own taste.

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