No-Cook Thanksgiving Appetizers

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Let's face it, most of us have one oven and it's being taken up by the turkey on Thanksgiving. If we can get in a pie earlier that morning to bake, it's an accomplishment. But if people are coming over and especially if they're watching the game, you'll need some munchies to snack on. And the last thing you need is to be troubling yourself with Made From Scratch bites as a prelude to the main event.

Store-bought items were invented for days like this. These are some of my go-to store-bought items I use to leave out to the side for people to munch on that won't fill them up too much, will go with their cocktail or beer, and that won't require me to dirty a pan.

1. Cheese Platter
Everyone loves cheese. And a host/hostess loves a platter where the guests can help themselves. It's about what cheeses you choose and how you arrange them that matters most. Invest in cheeses that are designed to stay out at room temperature. Don't get cheeses that are better served cold. With the traditional flavors of Thanksgiving, I like to do just two cheeses out to munch one: one creamy cow and one aged goat. That's it. Some lovely green grapes to the side on the platter and water crackers and you're done without ruining people's appetites for dinner. For creamy cow cheeses, I love a classic French brie. I'm not a huge fan of the American bries, so I will pony up for the imported French one, especially for a special occasion like Thanksgiving. Should set you back between $10-15 for a good wedge that would serve 6 people. For goat, I like an aged goat cheese like a gouda goat. These are different than the soft goat cheese logs which are also very tasty, but I feel the aged goat offers a more solid texture in contrast to the creamier brie. I like simple water crackers on the side and a nice, big dramatic collection of green grapes. Don't forget to include a cheese knife so your guests can help themsleves!

2. Kettle Potato Chips
Seriously. I'm not talking about the Ruffles with Ridges concentrations of salt that go with a lifeless ranch dip. I'm talking about very thinly sliced, perfectly crispy kettle potato chips. Especially if you're planning to serve cocktails before dinner, these are a great no-cook appetizer that will not fill your guests up. I love Kettle Brand chips in salt and pepper.

3. Mixed Nuts
Another classic. The important thing for a nut selection is that they be roasted. Don't buy unroasted nuts because they are tasteless. Buy them already roasted and save yourself the trouble. We're fortunate now to have access to different "nut bars" -- much like the "olive bar", it's an area of your market that might have different kinds of salted and roasted nuts. For Thanksgiving, I'd go with something more seasonal like a mixture of pecans, almonds and pumpkin seeds for a twist.

4. Sweet Potato Chips
I like to make my own for Thanksgiving, but there are wonderful brands out there that you can buy in a bag. It's another seasonal take on a classic party appetizer that will make total sense and be an unexpected surprise.

5. Simple Cold Cuts
I don't like to do a full cold cuts platter before a huge Thanksgiving feast. Everyone inevitably gets filled up on the sliced ham and salamis and cheese and then no one enjoys the turkey! But if you're having people over at least a couple of hours in advance of the turkey getting served, you might want to consider having a very scaled down version. Ina Garten does a great salami-cucumber appetzier that would be perfect. Get a good spicy salami and an English cucumber, slice them both 1/4 inch thick, and lay them out in two straight lines on a platter, alternating between salami and cucumber. Leave a nice stack of napkins next to it and your guests can help themselves!

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