It's a two-step process devised by the great culinarian Shirley O. Corriher. You begin by making her Salty-Sea Perfect Tender Shrimp, a great and intensely flavored recipe. Actually, you could just serve those shrimp by themselves, but the extra step of marinating them overnight elevates them from merely superb to mind-blowingly momentous.
Another dish I made for each year's party was Home-Cured Salmon, which is much easier than the shrimp but delivers almost as much flavor and satisfaction. Every year, my friend Susan, a singer of local renown, would park herself in front of it and almost fight anyone who wanted to sample it.
And it's so simple. You just mix together sugar and salt, throw in some chopped dill, spread it on top of some salmon and wait 24 to 36 hours. That's all it takes to make salmon good enough to fight for.
Next came a classic, Potatoes, Sour Cream and Caviar. This is a dish, not surprisingly, consisting of potatoes with sour cream and caviar. But what may actually be a surprise, if you haven't had it, is just how brilliantly the three ingredients go together.
The key is to use small potatoes — you want this to be finger food. Boil them just a few minutes until they're completely cooked, then scoop out a hollow on top and fill it with a dollop of sour cream and just a few eggs of salty caviar. It's heavenly, and caviar makes any occasion feel special.
As a bonus, caviar and champagne were made for one another.
My last savory dish was Mac and Cheese Canapés. It isn't just macaroni and cheese eaten out of a Parmesan-cheese cup, it is what my editor called the best macaroni and cheese she has ever had eaten out of a Parmesan-cheese cup. And she's had a lot of macaroni and cheese.
The mac-and-cheese part is easy: You just reduce heavy cream by half and stir in a mixture of Parmesan, Cotswold and sharp cheddar cheeses. In other words, it is creamy calories with cheesy calories mixed in.
And when you put all of that in a cup made of melted Parmesan cheese, it becomes the epitome of canapés. Just be sure to make the Parmesan cups the day of the party. All of the other dishes can be made, if not assembled, the day before, but don't try that with these cups. Trust me on this.
For sweet dishes, I began with Peanut Butter and Chocolate Marble Brownies. These are guaranteed to be a hit at your party. Who doesn't like peanut butter? Who doesn't like brownies?