If you love to entertain, but your wallet is still sore from Christmas shopping, try a few of surprise bargains.  Just because your stocks tanked doesn’t mean its time for canned cheese.
Oysters Rockefeller

Oysters Rockefeller (pictured above)

Nothing says “classy party” quite like a plate of oysters.  However, not everyone enjoys the slimy, raw mollusks as much as you do.  This classic recipe adds chopped greens, bacon and bread crumbs, then bakes the whole shebang for delicious, elegant bite.  If you shop with a keen eye, you can get 1-2 oysters for a buck, making them a reasonably priced treat after all.

beef wellington hors d'ouvre 

Mini Beef Wellington Hors D’Oeuvres

Serving beef doesn’t have to mean breaking the bank.  Rather than serving this rich entree, try my bite-size version.  I ended up paying less than $1 per piece, but all the guests just remembered getting to eat great beef!

rosemary fudge 

Rosemary Fudge

A lot of chocolate and a little rosemary goes a long way to producing memorable dessert bites.  Rather than splurge for artisanal  bonbons, try this bulk-batch recipe.  Your guests will ooh and aah at the sophistication of what would otherwise be regular fudge.

chocolate ginger tart 

Dark Chocolate Tart with Gingersnap Crust

If you’re not an expert baker (I’m certainly not), but you’re somehow in charge of dessert, try this easy chocolate tart with a kick of ginger.  Thinly sliced candied ginger says “Celebration!” and the richness of this tart means you can serve small slices, stretching your dollar all that much further. 

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beef wellington hors d'ouvre

I love the richness and elegance of beef wellington, particularly for fancy winter dinners.  Beef wellington, if you haven’t had it before, is a medium rare slab of steak, topped with fois gras and mushrooms, then wrapped in puff pastry and baked.  The dish can be an expensive proposition, so I’ve transformed it into economical hors d’oeuvres. 

Makes: about 30 bites
Total kitchen time: 25 minutes (longer if starting with rare tenderloin)

Shopping list:

  • 2 1 lb. fully cooked beef tenderloins (available at Trader Joe’s seasonally)
  • 4 Oz. pâté (chicken or duck will work fine)
  • 2 12” square sheets of puff pastry, thawed but still cold
  • Toothpicks, for serving
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F and set the top rack in the middle of the oven.
  2. If you are starting with an uncooked beef tenderloin, season it to taste and cook until rare.  Allow the tenderloin to come to room temperature before carving, at least 30 minutes.  If using pre-cooked tenderloin, remove from the packaging and wipe all sides dry with paper towels.  Cut the tenderloin into long, 1” square strips.  You should get about 3 good strips per tenderloin; the rest can be saved for excellent next-day sandwiches!
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a non-stick mat.  Lay out one sheet of puff pastry and place the cut tenderloin about 1/2” from the top edge.  Spread a little of the pâté on top of the tenderloin.  Then, carefully fold the puff pastry over the tenderloin, rolling the meat and the dough until you’ve completely encased the tenderloin.  Press the dough down at the seam to seal it.  Using a sharp knife, cut the sealed portion of dough away and place on the baking sheet.  Repeat for a total of three “logs” per sheet of puff pastry.
  4. Bake until the puff pastry is golden brown, about 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let stand 5 minutes before cutting.  Slice each “log” into 1” pieces, skewer with a toothpick, and serve!

We were able to save a little cash by using chicken pâté instead of expensive (and rare) fois gras.  We also left out the mushroom mixture you usually find in beef wellington – for our purposes, the mushrooms would be a little messy since they’d fall out the sides of the cut pieces.  Trust me, your guests won’t miss them.

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