The French word hors d’oeuvres literally translates to “apart from the work” and essentially describes a small dish served before a meal. The time to traditionally serve hors d’oeuvres is during the cocktail hour.
Two or three refined bites, hors d’oeuvres are often served with various aperitifs or wine, and are meant to pique the appetite, not fill you up. From crostini to oysters, here are some of our favorite ways to part from work.
One of the simplest, most versatile types of hors d’oeuvres is crostini, which are toasted or grilled slices of bread with tasty toppings. These bite-sized hors d’oeuvres can be crowned with rich ingredients such as brandade, egg salad, or chicken liver paté, but they can also incorporate such leftovers as smashed beans or sautéed greens, or such larder items as cured fish, pickles, charcuterie, or cheese.
Here are some of our favorite combinations:
Crostini with Charred Cherry Tomatoes and Balsamic Vinegar Broil ripe cherry tomatoes until they begin to burst and drizzle with aged balsamic to add sweetness.
Crostini with Fig-Olive Tapenade and Goat Cheese A salty-sweet tapenade made with dried figs, kalamata olives, and capers is the perfect foil for mild goat cheese.
Crostini with Smashed White Beans and Kale Last night’s pot of beans can be mashed in a mortar, adding extra-virgin olive oil and salt to taste, then spread on toast. Top with well-cooked broccoli rabe or other greens tossed with minced garlic and olive oil.
Egg Salad and Smoked Trout Mash warm boiled eggs with extra virgin olive oil and salt, top with bite-sized piece of smoked trout, and sprinkle with chervil.
Crostini with Salt Cod Brandade and Chard Add a spoonful of brandade to the edges of toast, brown under broiler for a minute, and top with lemony sautéed chard.
Crostini with Peach, Prosciutto & Ricotta Ripe peaches, served fresh or grilled, and creamy ricotta are the perfect complement to salty prosciutto.
Crostini with Marinated Sardines and Salsa Verde Combine parsley, tarragon, capers, and lemon zest to make salsa verde and top with marinated fresh sardines.
Crostini with Tomato, Garlic, and Olive Oil In this riff onpan con tomate crusty bread is rubbed with garlic and virgin olive oil, then soaked with chopped tomatoes and finished with smoked salt.
Letting excellent ingredients combine and shine make entertaining easy. We prefer the focus to be on the company, not the work. Charcuterie, cheeses, and oysters make for marvelous bites during cocktail hour. Ease into the evening!
Charcuterie, paired with fresh or dried fruits, nuts, or condiments such as pickles and mustard, is a simple way to make easy work of the appetizer course in a meal. Here are some of our favorite combinations:
Proscuitto and melon Slice the melon thinly.
Proscuitto and grilled figs Drizzle with aged balsamic vinegar.
Proscuitto and nectarine wedges Garnish with blanched almonds.
Salami and Manchego cheese Add dried figs and toasted walnuts to the plate for a wonderful combination of flavors and textures.
Pork pate with pistachios Serve with pickled caperberries or cornichons and a smear of good mustard.
A cheese plate can easily start a meal as a balanced and satisfying little plate of flavors and textures. Fruit, both fresh and dried, nuts, and the ever-friendly fennel all have a natural affinity to many types of cheeses. Here are a few ideas:
Warm Saint-Marcellin cheese with roasted cherries Served warm, the combination is creamy and sweet.
Fresh baked ricotta with roasted figs Perfect for smearing on bread or topping crostini.
Savory baked ricotta with herbs and lemon Serve with garlic-rubbed grilled bread.
Reblochon cheese with slivers of raw fennel Nice with raw pistachios.
Pimento cheese on crackers or biscuits Delicious with pickled okra.
Perhaps the finest and most celebratory way to start a meal is with oysters. Presented on the half-shell, they come in their own serving vessels, making them natural hors d’oeuvres. We like to serve them with the simplest condiments, a squeeze of lemon, or a traditional mignonette.