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Retro cocktail party snacks

Make your holiday food the old fashion way

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If you’re anything like me, December was the only time of the year when your parents came anywhere close to throwing what could be termed a cocktail party. Because it was the suburbs, my mom’s friends mostly sat around the kitchen table nibbling directly from the serving trays and trading neighborhood stories. Because it was Lakewood, my dad’s friends mostly hung in the garage, drank Lucky beer and talked about cars and poon-tang. (I kinda miss the old neighborhood.) But the food was always good, nobody got into a flaming car wreck going home, and as far as I know, no divorce proceedings were ever initiated, so there you go.

What follows is a few suggestions based on mom’s old recipe cards. If what you really want is a vat of chile con queso the size of a baby’s bathtub, a meat and cheese platter from the supermarket deli and six bags of Chips Ahoy, which is also a menu I could get behind, then have that instead.

Pimiento Cheese

Make it a day or two ahead to allow the flavors to mingle and mellow, and serve as a dip with raw vegetables, cocktail breads, tortilla chips and crackers. Or, to go truly retro, use it to fill celery sticks. My mom will be so proud.

Makes 4 cups

1 (4-ounce) jar chopped pimiento, drained

1 cup mayonnaise (regular, low-fat or, if you’re stylin’, homemade)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1/2 teaspoon ground ancho or other chile

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 clove garlic, chopped

8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated

8 ounces Jack cheese with jalapeños, grated

Mix everything but the cheese together with a whisk, then fold in cheese with spatula. Refrigerate at least six hours before serving. Keeps in refrigerator up to 10 days.

Smoked Salmon Canapés

This is the all-time mack-daddy finger food, because it’s delicious, elegant, and looks both expensive and swish when it’s in fact relatively inexpensive and dead easy. You can get perfectly decent smoked salmon from either Scotland or Nova Scotia, vacuum-packed in plastic, for surprisingly little money at the deli counter or fish department at most supermarkets. If you can’t find crème fraîche, a high-quality full-fat sour cream is an entirely adequate substitute.

1/2 pound thin-sliced smoked salmon

8 ounces crème fraîche

1 loaf cocktail rye bread (those little 1.5-inch square loaves of dark rye or pumpernickel from the deli counter)

1) Cut salmon into roughly 1-inch squares.

2) Place slices of cocktail rye bread on a serving platter.

3) Dot each slice with about a quarter-teaspoon of crème fraîche.

4) Top with a bit of smoked salmon.

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