Party food, on the other hand, isn’t revered in the same way. Party food is more of an afterthought, taking a bit of a backseat to the mingling, the drinking, and the entertainment.
I used to approach party-food like a sit-down dinner, which led to a lot of disappointments. It’s really hard and unreasonable to make your guests all grab the finger food at the same time and eat the food when it’s still perfect and piping hot. When that doesn’t happen, stuff turns soggy and/or gross, and that’s disappointing.
Also, it’s a HUGE pain in the butt to spend an entire day cooking a whole bunch of different things only to be completely exhausted and antisocial when the party rolls around.
Therefore, to me, party food needs three main characteristics:
1. It doesn’t need to be hot to be tasty and it won’t deteriorate if it hangs around, out of people’s mouths, since food at parties will sit and sit and sit and people will graze and graze and graze.
2. It can be broken up into steps and made ahead of time. On the day of, I just like doing the composing—putting the pieces together. The bulk of it is already done.
3. This goes without saying, but people shouldn’t need forks, spoons, or knives to eat the food.
I decided to make mini pizzas because, hello, pizza happens to taste pretty good when it’s cold! The only potentially icky bit about that is the congealed semi-translucent cheese that you see with cold pizza, so I decided to eliminate melted cheese and go with a cream cheese spread instead, which can totally hang out at room temperature and not start looking funky because of it.
A mini pizza also needs to pack a wallop because it’s so small and there’s only one or two bites to make an impression. I decided to use a tomato and onion jam as the red sauce and slices of cured meat as fun unexpected things that make people go, “Oh, this isn’t pepperoni and cheese, but it’s familiar enough that I like it!”
Because the composed ingredients on a mini pizza sit around in sub-optimal conditions, it’s not necessary to go with the best of the best or to go 101 miles in your efforts. Party food is mixing convenience with quality, I think. You can use store-bought pizza dough, for instance (I did!). You can freeze par-baked dough until the day of your party. You can store pre-made onion jam and the cheese spread in the fridge until you’re ready. Then on the day of, all you have to do is compose the mini pizzas and toss them in the oven for just a little bit. And it’s not imperative that people eat them right way. They can just hang around, chilling like a bunch of villains. And they will still be super yummy. And it will be super killer that you’re not just serving chips and dip.
- 15 oz (approx) pizza dough
- Flour for dusting
- 3/4 cups tomato and onion jam
- 8 oz cream cheese
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 4 cloves of garlic, finely diced
- 6-8 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves off the stems
- 3 oz cured meat (salumi) (I used capocollo)
- A few sprigs of chives, cut into 1 inch pieces, for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Dust the counter top and top of dough with flour so your dough doesn’t stick. Roll out pizza dough until it’s about 1/8-inch in depth. The dough will spring back on you and refuse to get that thin. Don’t lose heart! Just walk away from the dough and give it 10 minutes of resting time before you go back and tackle it again.
- Take something about the size of a double-shot shot glass (or if you have a cookie cutter about 2-2.5 inches, perfect!) and use it to cut out circles from the dough. The mini pizzas may come out a bit misshapen, but that’s part of their charm. Poke the tops of them with a fork so they don’t puff up too much in the middle. Put them on parchment paper about 1/2-inch apart and pop them in the oven for about 8-12 minutes, depending on your oven. You want to par-bake them so that they’re fully cooked, but still pale.
- While the first batch is in the oven, gather the dough scraps and form a ball. Roll out that ball to 1/8-inch again and repeat the process until you have no more dough and have a lot of par-baked mini pizza bottoms (about 34-40 of them).
- Now, you can freeze your par-baked pizza bottoms in a freezer bag for up to a week, until you’re ready for your party, or you can go onto the next step.
- In a bowl, mix your room-temperature cream cheese with the grated Parmesan, the finely diced garlic, and the thyme leaves until well incorporated. That’s it. EASY!
- To make pizzas, take a defrosted pizza bottom, smear a teaspoon of tomato and onion jam on the surface. Add a teaspoon-sized dollop of the cheese spread and push it around so it lies a little flatter.
- Top each mini pizza with a torn piece of salumi. This recipe doesn’t really require salt because the cream cheese and salumi are pretty salty by themselves.
- Bake the pizzas at 350 degrees for 5 minutes, until the salumi sweats a little and until the cheese oozes a little. The crust should become a little browner.
- If possible, add the springs of chives on top of each pizza and serve right away, while the pizzas are still warm. But the beauty of this recipe is the fact that you can take your time and serve these at room temperature. They will still be super tasty.