Let's Party!

Come on in, the Party Imp is your source for all the fun things that go on around food. From casual outdoor gatherings to great international fare for friends; from Dim Sum to Fondue and everything in between.

There's more - prep and cooking tips along with ideas for throwing terrific parties that your friends will be talking about long afterward! The Imp believes in entertaining in style - any style!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Smoke up the Charcoaler with Wood Chips

Craving the taste of smoked foods but don’t have the room? Or maybe you just don’t want to swing for a huge smoker that will be used only during summer holidays. Here’s an easy way to turn your briquette burner or propane unit into a fine substitute.

Wood chips or chunks are easy to find packaged in smaller bags. They include varieties such as mesquite (strong), hickory (almost as strong), alder (mild) and pecan (moderate). A couple of handfuls or more soaked overnight is just the right amount for offset cooking outdoors. Drain the chips, place them on a sheet of foil and then top with a second foil sheet. Tightly close the edges and create pricks across the top with the tines of a fork.

After the coals are hot, just lay the packet on top, wait for it to start smoking and add the food. Close the lid and let the smoke do its magic! Setting the coals off to one side can also help slow the cooking time to get best results.

On double-burner propane grills, just place the foil packet on one hot burner and set food to the side. Keep the lid closed as much as possible to retain heat, smoke and flavor.

Always check foods with a thermometer to be sure they’ve reached the proper temperatures.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Ready to order some takeout? Want it nice and soggy when you get home? Then be sure it comes in a Styrofoam container. It doesn't take long for crispy French fries to go limp or your favorite Chinese dish with wontons to turn to mush. You might want to think twice about buying those handy containers in bulk for lunches or for taking foods, especially fried goodies, to a family gathering. Plastic bags can do the same; they'll contain the steam nicely so your sticks of crisp asparagus won't be standing much longer.

Choose cardboard or paper bags, which tend to absorb excess moisture when you can.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Head to India for Crispy Papadam

Papadams are a terrific snack to have around. This crispy cracker-like appetizer made from dried lentils, often with spices added, offers a taste of India in each bite. You'll find them at ethnic markets packaged in stacks and there's really no prep other than a quick nuke in the microwave. Pair them with a mint chutney as pictured here or choose from a variety of other condiments, including chopped onions, fresh tomato salsas or other chutney flavors.

You don't have to plan an entire meal with India cuisine; it's just as much fun to include a variety of international flavors at the appetizer table.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Stretch a Main Meal with Bells

Bell peppers are excellent meal stretchers. Whether you want to save money or have unexpected guests arrive in time for dinner, these large hardy-skinned peppers are excellent for creating a pretty dish that will go further.

To save money, stick with green bells. Adding color is nice, but not necessary. They can hold a variety of foods including rice along with canned tomatoes, and hamburger or sausage. You can even use them to make layers of chopped veggies for a meatless treat. Halve them or slice off the tops to fill. For added filler surround them with a base of rice and cook until they're tender and steaming.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Baking Stones are Hot Oven Accessories

Entering the arena of homemade gourmet pizzas? You're in for a treat, but you may need a baking stone to get them just right. They're made of clay and somewhat fragile, but make it so much easier to deal with dough. Just sprinkle a little corn meal around, heat them first in the oven (preferably on the middle rack) and slide the prepared pizza on using a peel. You can also pre-cook the dough a little before adding ingredients.

With a baking stone, the bottom may take a little longer to crisp, so watch it carefully. Let the stone cool before attempting to remove it. Just a little water is all that's needed for cleanup. Scrape off any clumps and it's ready to use! The heat of the oven is a sanitizer.

If you're a do-it-yourselfer, you may be able to find a large enough clay tile at a home improvement store. Avoid glazed tiles as they contain lead.

Stones are impressive to use when you have guests. Think about a batch of mini-pizzas for a round of appetizers. They're great for focaccia and other flat breads, too!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Wok - Your Extra Skillet

The wok is not just for Chinese food! It can easily become your extra skillet when you're cooking for yourself or for a crowd. If you cook frequently and run out of stovetop space, invest in an extra burner and set it up on the countertop. It's also a healthy alternative, since you'll be using less oil and high heat to prepare food.

Which one is best- round or flat-bottomed. The traditional wok has a round bottom, which makes it easier to toss food evenly around the sides. However, the round base doesn't work well on some stovetops; namely, those without coil burners. Some sets come with collars to hold the wok in place. These may distribute heat unevenly, though. A flat bottom sits nicely on solid surfaces and, when used properly, will work fine.

Non-sticks simply won't wear as long and you can't work as vigorously with the ingredients. The best material is still carbon steel (according to the experts - and the Party Imp).

P.S. Just "say no" to electric woks.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Bread Bowls are the Soup Bomb

If you've visited a Panera bakery at lunch, you've probably seen their utterly delicious broccoli cheese soup served up in an edible bowl. You can request bread bowls ahead of time without the tops sliced off.

In addition to broccoli cheese soup, these are wonderful containers for potato soup. One trick is to keep soups just a bit more watery than you might typically prefer. The extra liquid will become thicker as it soaks into the interior.

They freeze well, for months at a time. So stock up and you'll be ready with a gourmet serving bowl for last-minute meals.

To prepare the bowls:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bake bowls for about 12-15 minutes.
Remove and, holding sideways with a cloth, slice off the top (save it for dipping).
Scoop out the insides with a fork.

Fill with your favorite soup (try this cheesy potato version) and enjoy!