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Perky Party Bites

Mini-munchies and incredibly shrunken comfort foods are what's coming by on butlers' trays. A top-notch caterer offers recipes for the little marvels.

Mojitos have cachet. And everything Cuban is hot, hot, hot! The drinks, the music, the food.

So says Peter Callahan, caterer to some of New York's elite as well as to Philadelphia trend-setters. That dual identity gives the popular party-planner a unique perspective on the current scene.

New Yorkers, Callahan says, are very competitive about food.

"They always want something new. They want the boundaries pushed. They want their food to be witty," he said at Callahan Catering's Folcroft commissary.

Philadelphia clients, he noted, tend to be less fussy about food, more conservative. That's starting to change, though, thanks in part to the influx of stylish restaurants and more-upbeat nightlife.

Also, the trend to clever interpretations of homey "retro" foods satisfies tastes in both towns.

Small foodstuffs and other creative culinary concepts helped put Callahan on the short list of prominent society caterers soon after he expanded into Manhattan, the Hamptons and beyond.

On the home front, the firm is exclusive provisioner for events at the Academy of Natural Sciences, and serves corporate and private clients.

Among its chic mini hors d'oeuvres:

Bite-size cheeseburgers on baby buns stacked with sliced grape tomatoes and fixin's;

Macaroni-and-cheese canapes with crisped Parmesan crusts;

Tiny toasts and dollops of chipped beef in real cream sauce;

Miniature shepherds' pies.

It's the ultimate backlash against the excesses of the '80s, Callahan says, noting that potpies are a phenomenal success at upscale parties.

He calls it "shabby chic."

Then there are the scaled-down classics such as one-bite beef Wellingtons, dime-size cookies, and miniature croquembouche - tiny cream-puff pyramids studded with silver dragees and crusted in caramelized sugar.

For mini and micro cookies, timing is touchy. They are best baked in batches on smaller sheets. Almost any drop or rolled cookie recipe can be used. For chocolate chip versions, substitute mini-chips. Or leave out the chips, then put one regular chip (like a mini-Hershey Kiss) in the center of each dab of dough before baking.

Such dessert morsels in dollhouse proportions are another specialty.

And consider beets. They're popular, so Callahan got the idea to sandwich blood-red slices in paper-thin potato, giving a stained-glass effect to the crisped chips and galettes.

Each dish, perfected by executive chef Beth Parker, is matched by skilled presentation:

Cigarillo-slender stuffed nori (seaweed) and grape-leaf rolls are offered in silver cigarette boxes.

Plantain slices, curled into cones and set in palettes, become vessels for mousse and slivered vegetable nosegays. In larger measure, newsprinted paper cones hold a shrimp-scallop-pommes frites version of "fish-and-chips."

"Lollipop" shrimp and other "on-a-stick" hors d'oeuvres stand upright in custom lucite trays. Callahan eschews skewers for all but these chic bites. Of course the waiters tote color-matched lucite boxes, hidden beneath napkins, for stashing the used picks.

Even simple bruschetta are elegant on nori sheets and passed on rustic twig trays, or set atop beds of crunchy wasabi-seasoned peas in shallow rattan baskets.

"I don't do stationary food anymore," Callahan said. "Everything is brought to the guests."

Raised in Greenwich, Conn., Callahan worked on Wall Street before moving to Philadelphia in 1985, marrying, and opening a takeout shop (Gourmet Express) in Paoli. Soon, he was catering in-home events for his Main Line customers. Then came a second shop in Strafford, the name change, and an industrial-size space in Folcroft. He began venturing outside the area in 1995, later adding an office and commissary in New York.

Shared custody of his son, Hart, 13, keeps Callahan rooted in Philadelphia - that, and his 1997 marriage to Josephine Sasso at her family's Chester County farmhouse. Callahan and Sasso, a dress designer, divide their time among the farm, a Manhattan townhouse, and summer stints in Nantucket.

These recipes will add flair to parties in the coming weeks.

Pomegranate Mojito

1/2 teaspoon confectioners' sugar
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 tablespoon pomegranate juice or seeds with juice
Mint leaves
2 ounces white rum
Club soda
Mint and sliced lime, to garnish

Stir sugar, lime juice, pomegranate juice in large highball glass. With mortar and pestle, mash mint leaves, pomegranate seeds (if used); add to glass. Add rum, crushed ice, club soda to fill. Garnish with mint, sliced lime. Makes one drink, about 160 calories.

Callahan plans to serve Mint Margaritas at the launch party for this month.

Mint Margarita

Lemon or lime rind
Kosher salt
Sprig of mint
11/2 ounces tequila
1/2 ounce Grand Marnier
1 ounce lemon or lime juice
1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint

Prepare margarita (or wine) glass by rubbing rim with rind of lemon or lime and dipping rim in salt. Add sprig of mint.

In shaker, mix tequila, Grand Marnier, lemon or lime juice with ice cubes. Shake well; strain into glass. Stir in chopped mint. Makes one drink, about 145 calories.

Dill-Chive Dip

11/2 cups sour cream
3 tablespoons minced shallots
1/4 cup chopped chives
1/4 cup chopped dill
2 teaspoons salt or to taste

In bowl or blender, mix sour cream, shallots, chives, dill, salt. Serve in shallow, divided serving dishes with carrot sticks or other crudites as desired. Makes two cups dip; serves up to 50 guests.

Nutritional data per teaspoon: Calories, 8; protein, 0.1 gram; carbohydrates, 0.2 gram; fat, 0.8 gram; cholesterol, 2 milligrams; sodium, 46 milligrams.

Roasted Red Pepper Dip

11/2 cups sour cream
1/2 cup roasted red peppers, peeled, pureed
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons salt or to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

In bowl or blender, mix sour cream, pureed peppers, garlic, salt, pepper. Serve in shallow, divided serving dishes with blanched asparagus tips or other crudites as desired. Makes two cups dip, enough to serve up to 50 guests.

Nutritional data per teaspoon: Calories, 8; protein, 0.1 gram; carbohydrates, 0.3 gram; fat, 0.8 gram; cholesterol, 2 milligrams; sodium, 46 milligrams.

Mango Lollipop Shrimp

1/2 cup peeled, chopped mango
1 habañero pepper, halved, seeded
2 teaspoons dark rum
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin seed
1/2 cup canned coconut milk
1/4 cup lime juice
1 tablespoon minced cilantro
4 dozen large shrimp (2 pounds, 21 to 25 count), shelled, deveined

In blender, puree mango with habañero, rum, pepper sauce, garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin. Transfer to heavy pot on high heat; bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer 20 minutes. Remove from heat; let cool. Blend in coconut milk, lime juice, cilantro. Add shrimp, stirring to coat. Let marinate 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Place coated shrimp flat on parchment-lined sheet pan; bake at 350 degrees 4 to 5 minutes or until shrimp begin to curl. Serve shrimp on plastic picks. Makes 48 shrimp pops.

Nutritional data per piece: Calories, 29; protein, 4 grams; carbohydrates, 0.9 gram; fat, 0.9 gram; cholesterol, 29 milligrams; sodium, 29 milligrams.

Mini Beef Wellington Hors D'oeuvres

3 ounces filet of beef, trimmed of all fat
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons minced garlic
11/2 ounces mushroom pate
12 pieces puff pastry (1/4 1/4 sheet) cut in 11/2-inch squares
1 small egg, beaten

Cut beef into 12 cubes about ½-inch square. Season with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic. On each square of puff pastry, place 3/4 teaspoon mushroom pate at center. Put one cube of beef on top of pate. Pull all four corners of pastry around beef and mushrooms, forming round shape. Pinch dough closed. (It is OK to stretch pastry slightly.) These hors d'oeuvres may be prepared ahead to this point and frozen to be baked within a week. If frozen, remove from freezer 20 minutes in advance to thaw. Heat oven to 375 degrees. When ready to proceed, brush dough with beaten egg. Bake at once on lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet at 375 degrees for 10 minutes or until pastry is puffed, golden brown. Let cool a few minutes before serving. Makes 12 pieces.

Note: Pastries also may be baked a few hours ahead, refrigerated and reheated for up to 10 minutes at 350 degrees, just before serving. Makes 12 mini beef Wellingtons.

Nutritional data per piece: Calories, 50; protein, 2.7 grams; carbohydrates, 2.1 grams; fat, 3.4 grams; cholesterol, 16 milligrams; sodium, 208 milligrams.

Chocolate Truffles

1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup Grand Marnier
2 pounds semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 pound unsalted butter, softened
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Over medium-high heat, reduce cream by half. Remove from heat; transfer to double boiler. Stir in liqueur, chocolate. Stir until chocolate melts. Remove from double boiler. Whisk in butter in small amounts. When smooth, pour into shallow bowl; refrigerate until firm, about one hour. Scoop chocolate with teaspoon or melon baller. Roll into 3/4-inch to 1-inch balls. Roll in cocoa powder just to coat. If chocolate becomes too warm to handle, return to refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes. Makes about 80 truffles.

Nutritional data per piece: Calories, 94; protein, 0.6 gram; carbohydrates, 7 grams; fat, 8 grams; cholesterol, 10 milligrams; sodium, 2 milligrams.

Marilynn Marter
The Philadelphia Inquirer

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Somehow, any event with all passed hors d's still sounds pretty excessive to me! Especially if it allows the purveyor to have 3(!) homes.

But the recipes were pretty nifty. Thanks for the post, Isa.

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pomegranite mojito???!!!:eek: :eek:
it looked good, but I can die now. I've seen everything
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