Party Perfect Bites

Put basic bites in time out and put top-scoring fare on your game-day table instead
Shrimp Cocktail with Cilantro-Lime Cocktail Sauce and Deviled Eggs with Dill and Lemon

Photography Terry Brennan, Food Styling Lara Miklasevics

There will be a lot of pizza, chili, and all the usual suspects served at football playoff game-viewing parties coming up in the next few weeks. But you can up your game with some delicious ideas including a twist on shrimp cocktail and deviled eggs, meatballs braised in beef stock and showered with herbs, and a light and fresh alternative to tacos—Hawaiian chicken in a lettuce leaf wrap.

With the following recipes that appeared in Real Food magazine from culinary instructor and cookbook author Molly Stevens, Twin Cities chef and cookbook author Robin Asbell, and cookbook author Roy Finamore, we’ll help you score points in the party game whether or not you are into the sports game on the TV!

Shrimp Cocktail with Cilantro-Lime Cocktail Sauce

Makes 8 to 10 Servings | Recipe by Molly Stevens

Create a tasty twist on this classic appetizer with lime, ginger and fresh cilantro. For the sweetest, most tender shrimp, cook them yourself using this quick broth and no-boil method.

For the Sauce
¾ cup ketchup
¾ cup chile sauce
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 to 3 tablespoons prepared horseradish, to taste
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon Asian fish sauce
2 to 3 dashes of hot sauce, such as Tabasco, to taste
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

For the Shrimp
¾ cup dry white wine or dry vermouth
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 small carrot, thinly sliced
1 or 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon salt, any kind
¼ teaspoon whole allspice
16 to 20 extra-large shrimp in the shell

  1. Make the sauce: Combine the sauce ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Add more horseradish or hot sauce to taste. Chill before serving.
  2. Cook the shrimp: Combine 2 quarts water, wine, vinegar, carrot, garlic, bay leaf, salt and the allspice in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, partially cover, and then reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes. Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside.
  3. Add the shrimp to the simmering broth, cover the pot and return to a simmer for 1 minute. Immediately turn off heat, and let sit, covered, for 8 minutes. Drain in a strainer, and quickly rinse with cool water before plunging into ice bath to chill. Let chill thoroughly, about 10 minutes.
  4. Drain again, picking out and discarding any vegetables. Peel and arrange the shrimp on a platter. Serve with sauce for dipping or refrigerate until serving (see Cook’s Notes).

Cook’s Notes:

  • If you prefer to buy precooked shrimp the day before the party, get 2½ to 3 pounds (16 to 20) cooked extra-large shrimp, peeled with tails left on, and chill well before serving.
  • Make ahead: The sauce can be made up to 3 days in advance and kept covered in the refrigerator. Cooked shrimp can be kept in the coldest part of your refrigerator for up to 1 day. Store them over a bowl of ice covered with a layer of plastic wrap for extra insurance.
  • You will have some extra cocktail sauce. Nutrition information is calculated using half for total number of servings.

Deviled Eggs with Dill and Lemon

Dress up your standard deviled egg formula by adding fresh lemon juice, a drizzle of honey, softened butter and fresh dill to the yolks along with the mayonnaise (figure ½ teaspoon softened butter per egg and the rest to taste). Refrigerate overnight before serving. It’s a small change from the classic recipe, but the results are remarkable.

Hawaiian Chicken in Lettuce Leaves

Hawaiian Chicken in Lettuce Leaves

Makes 6 servings | Recipe by Robin Asbell

If your friends and family love tacos, they will love this fresh and light tangy sweet Hawaiian chicken in a lettuce leaf wrap. This is perfect for parties, it comes together in a snap, and you can let your guests spoon the tasty filling into individual leaves and add hot sauce to taste.

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon canola or avocado oil
1 pound ground chicken
1 large jalapeño, seeded and chopped
1 cup finely chopped fresh pineapple
½ cup roasted cashews
2 heads butter lettuce, separated into leaves
Sriracha Sauce, for serving (optional)

  1. Chop the ginger and garlic and reserve.
  2. In a cup, combine the soy sauce, honey and lime juice and reserve.
  3. In a large skillet, heat the canola or avocado oil over medium-high heat. Add the ginger and garlic and sizzle for a few seconds, stirring. Add the chicken and stir, chopping the meat as it cooks. Reduce to medium and stir and turn until the chicken is mostly cooked; it will look white and browned in spots. Add the soy sauce mixture and stir. It will sizzle and be absorbed quickly. Stir in the jalapeño and pineapple and cook just until the pineapple is slightly softened, about 1 minute. Scrape the mixture into a bowl.
  4. Sprinkle the cashews over the chicken and serve with lettuce leaves. Portion about ¼ to ½ cup into each leaf, depending on the size of the leaf. Drizzle with Sriracha, if desired, and eat immediately.
Porcupine Meatballs

Photography Terry Brennan, Food Styling Lara Miklasevics

Porcupine Meatballs

Makes 4 Servings | Recipe by Roy Finamore

These are fun: Meatballs with rice mixed in so the kernels stick out like porcupine spines. If you were to cook it in a tomato sauce, it’s very retro. Here, braised in beef stock and showered with herbs, it’s fresh and bright. And fast. Serve in a bowl over noodles or with multi-grain bread to sop up the sauce. Add some spinach or peas and your tongue will smile.

½ cup long-grain white rice
1½ cups boiling water
1 medium red onion, minced
1 large garlic clove, grated on a rasp or minced
½ cup chopped flatleaf parsley
1 cup chopped cilantro, divided
1 large egg
coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1½ pounds ground beef
3 cups beef stock
¼ cup cornstarch
1/3 cup water
¼ cup chopped dill

  1. Put the rice in a small saucepan. Pour in boiling water and bring back to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 3 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Add the onion, garlic, parsley, ½ cup of the cilantro, the egg, and salt and pepper to taste and mix well. Crumble in the beef and mix with your hands until everything holds together.
  3. Make 20 golf ball-sized meatballs (about ¼ cup each) and put them in a 12-inch skillet. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, turn the heat down to low, and cook until the rice is tender and the meat cooked, about 20 minutes.
  4. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the meatballs to a large serving bowl.
  5. Turn the heat to medium-high and bring the stock back to a boil.
  6. Mix the cornstarch and water together to make a smooth slurry. Stirring, add the slurry to the stock and bring it back to a boil.
  7. Pour sauce over the meatballs, garnish with the remaining ½ cup cilantro and the dill, and serve.

Cook’s Note: For quick and easy peas, put 2 cups frozen petite peas (they’re the sweetest) into a colander and run under hot water 1 to 2 minutes to thaw. Melt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add 1 to 2 chopped scallions and cook 1 minute. Add peas and cook until hot, 1 to 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Bingo!

Nutrition info (per serving)

  • Shrimp Cocktail w. Cocktail Sauce: CALORIES 40 (1 from fat); FAT 0g (sat. 0g); CHOL 33mg; SODIUM 357mg; CARB 6g; FIBER 0g; PROTEIN 5g
  • Hawaiian Chicken in Lettuce Leaves: CALORIES 210 (101 from fat); FAT 12g (sat. 2g); CHOL 43mg; SODIUM 328mg; CARB 16g; FIBER 2g; PROTEIN 13g
  • Porcupine Meatballs: CALORIES 445 (170 from fat); FAT 19g (sat. 7g); CHOL 150mg; SODIUM 171mg; CARB 30g; FIBER 1g; PROTEIN 36g

Hungry for More?

Check out these recipes for more game-day bites:

• Beef and Bacon Meatballs in Bacon-Flavored Barbecue Sauce
Thai Turkey Meatballs
Turkey Meatballs with Sage and Apple
Classic Smooth Hummus with Variations
Cauliflower and Thyme Dip and Black Olive Tapenade

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Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her school-age son, who used to eat beets and Indian food, will one day again think of real food as more than a means to a treat—and later share this with his younger brother.