Holiday Hors D'oeuvres

November 29, 2011 9:43:15 AM PST
The holiday season is in full swing and for those hosting a party, planning what to eat and drink can add more stress to what can be an already stressful time of year. Elaina Vazquez, executive chef of luxury catering company Boutique Bites, shares several appetizer recipes that are easy to cook, delicious, and sure to impress guests during upcoming festivities.

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Here are a few of Elaina's top tips to keep in mind while creating hors d'oeuvres for the holidays:

  • Plan ahead! Make ahead whatever you can to avoid the inevitable, seasonal stress. For example, the potato leek soup shooters can be done an entire day before a party or event --- the soup is even better next day!
  • Keep luxurious ingredients on hand to enhance a dish, to take it from ordinary to extraordinary. Elaina recommends truffle salt and fresh nutmeg.
  • Edit your menu. Don't feel like you need to serve ten kinds of light bites; stick to five or under that you do really well.
  • Since most of your holiday guests will be balancing a drink of sorts in nice attire, err on the side of smaller bites --- it will be easier for your guests to enjoy, and they look cuter!
  • If your budget allows, spring for a few servers for your soiree. It adds an elegant twist, and saves you time and stress.
Elaina Vazquez is a Chicago native and acclaimed chef with an affinity for restaurant-quality flavor, as a previous prodigy of renowned restaurants, such as Tru, Avenues at the Peninsula Hotel, and Joel Robuchon at the Mansion, MGM Grand. Now, a leader in edible elegance, Elaina serves as executive chef of Boutique Bites.

A full-service fine catering company, Boutique Bites brings a taste of luxury to Chicago with edible elegance, chic courses, and charming professionalism. With a wealth of premier restaurant experience, owner and executive chef Elaina Vazquez personally supervises each project, from initial flavor concepts to a perfectly, polished product. Offering top-notch tastings, dinner delicacies, and savory specialties, Boutique Bites builds personalized menus for corporate affairs to dinner parties and social events to weddings. For a sophisticated and stylish culinary affair, indulge in Boutique Bites.

Mac and Cheese Bites

Ingredients: 8 oz elbow macaroni
3T butter
3 T flour
2 1/2 cups milk, heated up
1/2 medium white onion
1 t kosher salt
5 oz aged white cheddar, grated
2 oz gruyere cheese, grated
1 oz parmesan cheese, grated
White truffle oil, to taste
2 T butter
1/2 cup brioche bread crumbs
1 T chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the macaroni to al dente (approximately 7 minutes). Strain and place on a lightly oiled sheet pan.
While the macaroni is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Continue to cook over low heat for 4 minutes stirring constantly. Add the milk and onion. Simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the onion.
Turn off the heat and add 3/4 of the aged cheddar and all of the other cheeses. Add truffle oil to your liking. Season with salt and fold in macaroni. Pour into a casserole dish. Top with remaining cheddar. Melt the butter in a sauté pan and toss bread crumbs and parsley to coat. Top the macaroni with bread crumb mixture. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Refrigerate four hours or until mac and cheese is cold all the way through. Use a ring cutter to cut out round circles. Reheat mac and cheese bites in a 350 degree oven until warm. Garnish with fresh minced chives.

Goat-Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms
Yield: About 24

Olive oil, for baking sheet
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 small garlic clove, coarsely chopped
1 log (5 oz) soft goat cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
Coarse salt
2 packages (10 oz each) white button mushrooms, stems removed


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees . Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet.
  2. In a food processor, pulse bread and garlic until fine crumbs form; set 1/2 cup aside. To food processor, add goat cheese, parsley, and red-pepper flakes. Season w salt, and pulse filling until combined.
  3. Spoon filling into each mushroom, and roll filled side in reserved breadcrumbs. Place on prepared baking sheet; bake until mushrooms are tender and lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes.

Potato Leek Soup with Cheddar Crisp & Bacon
Yield: about 8 servings

1/4 pound bacon, diced
2 large leeks, use white and pale green part, split lengthwise, rinsed well and sliced thinly
5 medium sized potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
1/4 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste
4oz sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely shredded
Creme fraiche, for garnish
Tarragon leaves, chopped


  1. In a soup pot, render bacon on low heat until crisp. Remove crispy bacon and reserve for garnish.
  2. Add sliced leeks to bacon fat and cook on low heat until softened with no color. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Add potatoes to pot and stir together with the leeks. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add chicken broth and water to potato mixture, and simmer uncovered until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
  5. Transfer soup to a blender and puree until smooth. You can leave it slightly chunky for texture if you like. Or use a hand blender to puree soup directly in the pot.
  6. Finish soup with heavy cream and adjust seasoning.

For Cheddar Crisps:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees . Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Sprinkle cheddar on the baking sheet in eight 2-inch rounds.
  3. Bake for 15 minutes, until slightly darkened.
  4. Blot the crisps with paper towels and let cool. They will harden as they cool.

To Serve:
Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with reserved bacon, cheddar crisp, a dollop of creme fraiche, chopped tarragon, and cracked black pepper.

Shrimp Tempura Lollipops
Yields one dozen

12 shrimp, peeled and deveined 31-40ct
black sesame seeds, to garnish

Sesame Mayonnaise:
1/2 cup Japanese mayonnaise (Qewpie brand)
1 teaspoon sesame oil

-Whisk together until well combined. may add more sesame oil if necessary.

Tempura Batter:
2 egg yolks
1.5 cups ice water
1 3/4 cup flour, sifted

Place egg yolks in a bowl. Add iced water gradually until well blended (can use a whisk). Add flour all at once and mix until just combined. Don't beat out all of the lumps

Directions for Frying Shrimp:
-Heat a frying pan with half inch of oil, or more if necessary to 350 degrees
-Coat shrimp in tempura batter and place into the hot oil
-fry until golden brown (about 30 seconds).
-remove from oil and drain on paper towels
-skewer with lollipop stick and garnish with sesame mayonnaise and black sesame seeds

Mini Grilled Cheese
Yield one dozen

6 slices of brioche (size of sandwich bread)
1/4 lb cheddar cheese, sliced thinly
2 tablespoons butter, softened

Directions: Assemble 3 grilled cheese sandwiches with butter on the outside of the bread. Heat a skillet and place sandwiches butter side down until golden brown on one side. Flip and cook until golden brown on the second side. Cut off crusts and cut sandwiches into 4 portions. Serve warm.

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