"Cocktail Food: 50 Finger Foods with Attitude", Corpening

Pros: Great flavors
Cons: Strong flavors beget strong responses – you won’t like all of the recipes; cutesy names
Rating: 4 out of 5

First posted 8/3/2000

“Cocktail Food: 50 Finger Foods with Attitude” is my third cookbook by the Corpening twins. The other two are “Wraps” and “Smoothies,” and they’re every bit as good. These women have a knack for unusual, very flavorful food with very strange names.

I love hors d’eouvres, cocktail food, and finger food, even though I don’t like cocktail parties. I seem to recall Miss Manners saying something about their being a torture, and I happen to agree with that. So the section on “cocktail party basics” didn’t particularly interest me at first. There are a number of good hints in it, however, for any occasion at which you wish to serve finger food. Make lists. Take time into account. Stock more food than you need; make sure to have a few “easy” items like cheese and crackers or a fruit platter. They even give figures for how many hors d’oeuvres and drinks per person you should plan for over how much time, depending on whether it’s the main event or just appetizers for dinner. Then you’ll find directions for pairing hors d’eouvres with drinks, and a couple of “themes” for possible cocktail parties.

What’s with Those Weird Names?

I know that weird recipe names is probably one way that they make their cookbooks stand out. I mean, how could you forget a cookbook with recipes like “oink!” and “steaked and thai-ed?” They’re certainly memorable. Mind you, when someone asks me what those marvelous little delicacies are over there on the table, you can bet I’ll be saying “oh, that’s skewered thai-style steak with lime, jalapeno, and mint.” Unless, of course, the questioner is either a very good friend or someone I’d like to irritate.

Bold Flavors

“Bold flavors” has become a cliche. It doesn’t really mean anything any more. When I think of bold in relation to cooking I think of bland A-1 steak sauce ads. But when the Corpening twins get together, bold is the most appropriate adjective I can think of.

Bayou Biscuits give you the distinctive flavor of Andouille sausage. Delhi Blues is a combination of blue cheese and walnut shortbread with chutney! The Smoked Salmon Bonbons are exquisite – one of my favorites. We like to use the tahini-ginger dipping sauce that’s meant to go with shrimp and serve it with shrimp chips instead.

You’ll find more recipes like this throughout the book – bold, exquisite symphonies of flavor that bowl you over. The only reason this cookbook doesn’t quite get a five from me is an outgrowth of that boldness. The Corpening sisters like strong flavors, and a few of those flavors are bound to be ones you find unpleasant. No matter how they dress it up, I’ll never do more than shrug over shrimp, and no one will ever convince me to eat a dish with onion as a main ingredient. For you it might be the radishes, or maybe the aforementioned blue cheese. This book is certainly worth a buy, though. Regardless of whether you like cocktail parties.

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