Mini Panamanian Beef Empanadas
At Panamonte Inn & Spa, chef Charlie Collins teaches students how to make perfectly flaky empanada dough. For fillings, he uses local ingredients like beef jerk (dried, preseasoned meat) and culantro (a long-leafed herb with a pungent flavor); ground beef and cilantro are fine substitutes. For a flakier empanada, use leaf lard instead of butter.
This recipe is based on the Arabic lamejun, a thin piece of dough topped with minced meat, then baked. Here Grace Parisi flavors ground lamb with cumin, mint and pine nuts.
Mini Burgers & Crispy Onion Rings
These mini burgers are extra juicy because they’re made with a mixture of meats, including ground chuck and short rib. The accompanying onion rings are unbelievably crispy, thanks to the club soda in the batter.
Mini Chocolate-Hazelnut Cheesecakes
Grace Parisi breaks up whole, cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookies in a food processor with hazelnuts and butter to create a supercrunchy crust for these delectable little cheesecakes. The cream filling in the cookies both sweetens the crust and prevents it from becoming too crumbly.
Spicy Popcorn Balls
A smart update for popcorn balls: chipotle-spiked caramel.
Mini Spiced Pumpkins
These spice cakes look like tiny pumpkins when they're covered with orange glaze and topped with a piece of dark licorice, twisted to look like a stem.
Mini Blini Napoleons
Chef Bob Spiegel loves to rethink classic combinations, like this architectural take on blini and caviar. This recipe makes more blini than you'll need, but extras are great with smoked salmon.
Mini Cheesecakes with Wine Gelées
Kate Zuckerman, pastry chef at Manhattan's Chanterelle and author of the new book, The Sweet Life, thinks most cheesecakes are too heavy and sweet. Her recipe uses goat cheese to lighten the texture and tangy crème fraîche to cut the sweetness. Here, she tops mini cheescakes with wine gelées—a new kind of wine-and-cheese-pairing.
Flat Breads with Shrimp and Romesco Sauce
At Mas Rabell, the private restaurant where the Torres family entertains, chef Sergi Millet cooks homey, regional food like romesco sauce, a slightly smoky puree of roasted red peppers, garlic and almonds. The versatile sauce is often served with fish or vegetables, but here Millet spreads it on rounds of soft homemade flat bread and tops it with sautéed shrimp.
Bacon-Bourbon Brownies with Pecans
Kat Kinsman tops her rich brownies with bacon and pecans. To enhance the smoky flavor, she mixes some of the bacon fat into the batter. Cut the brownies extra-small to have a mini treat.
Bagel Chips with Ricotta, Chive Puree and Prosciutto
Using bagel chips as the base for an hors d'oeuvre is a quick way to add flavor and crunch. Grace Parisi tops the chips with fresh ricotta, chive puree and prosciutto. As an alternative, she sometimes uses dried apricot halves in place of the chips.
Elizabeth Falkner loves eating these energy-boosting, cardamom-spiced date bites made with almonds, walnuts and pistachios. "Eat two of these as a snack or with some juice for breakfast, and you're satisfied," she says.
Doughnut Holes with Raspberry Jam
Chef-owner Ginevra Iverson of Restaurant Eloise in Sonoma County, California, serves her light, crisp, sugared doughnut holes with sweet-tart raspberry jam. She won't send any imperfect doughnut holes into the dining room; misshapen ones, she says, become snacks for the kitchen crew: "They get slathered with jam and devoured by whomever gets to them first."
Chorizo Poached in Red Wine
Jim German and his wife, Claire Johnston, make wonderfully simple snacks to accompany his cocktails. A favorite at their restaurant, Jimgermanbar, is this smoky Spanish sausage with garlic, cooked gently in red wine until it's plump and juicy.
Use a fairly bitter dark chocolate to balance out the sweet, creamy peanut butter ganache filling and the tangy raspberry jam.