The last Christmas party I attended as guest was about 10 years ago - although I've catered a few since then. But back when I used to be invited to parties instead of hired for parties my specialty was finger foods. Two-bite morsels perfect for piling on a small paper plate and requiring no utensils to imbibe. Ideally, they should be as good at room temperature as warm.
Combining Clementines and Prosciutto is so simple, so obvious, that when I thought of it I almost literally slapped my forehead. In the winter (and now summer thanks to South Africa) we have a brief two month window when that most perfect of citrus fruits is available in little crates - the Clementine. These zesty little morsels are super sweet, almost a natural citrus candy but with juice. Add a bit of salty pork and you have an extraordinarily good little treat for the holidays.
I was nine or 10 when I got the assignment: make sausage balls. I suspect I brought it on myself. My memory from so long ago is fuzzy but I seem to recall lobbying my mother to make them one Christmas (she must have made them the previous year) and, as she was wont to do, her response was, "If you want them, you make them." Those first balls were made with Bisquick, ordinary country sausage, and cheddar cheese. These are a bit more sophisticated.
Gougeres are bite-size savory puff pastries generally made with cheese. Don't let the pastry frighten you, it looks tricky but turns out to be even easier than pie. Best of all, these can be frozen and reheated. The prosciutto is my own addition - and I really like it (think of ham and biscuits with a French accent).
How can something so simple and easy be so good? Nevertheless these wonderful fried chickpeas, that aren’t so much fried as sautéed, are one of my favorite snacks. They take 10 minutes to make and about 30 minutes to eat with a glass or two of wine or a cocktail. These little nuggets are best straight out of the skillet, but they also keep for three days in an air-tight container so I often double the recipe,
Judi, a friend of mine, brought me some spicy cheese crackers/biscuits from her native state of Texas. They were absolutely addictive and because I didn't live in Texas I set out to recreate the crackers myself. The unusual thing about them was their extremely crumbly texture and after some rumination I finally figured out they were essentially savory Scottish shortbread. After a bit of experimentation I came up with this recipe.
This recipe for marinated mushrooms and artichoke hearts has been through a lot of tweaks over the years. I've found it difficult to hit exactly the right balance of flavors because, as much as I love them, artichokes are a difficult flavor to manage. This particular mixture works for me and I'd recommend trying it as written, then, if it's not perfect for you, tweak it yourself. Even if not perfect, it's mighty good - and I like it with a glass of chilled, dry vermouth.
Deviled eggs are a popular component of cookouts and picnics - not to mention being a great snack at any time of year. They can be made a day or two in advance, are perfect for eating with your fingers, and are almost universally loved. The addition of tuna to these eggs may strike you as bizarre, but I first had them as a tapas in Spain and fell in love with them. I recommend using tuna packed in olive oil (it tastes better) and do look for the smoked Spanish paprika.