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Cocktail Party Fare: Shiitake Mushroom Crostini topped with Parmesan Cheese

Cocktail Party Fare: Shiitake Mushroom Crostini topped with Parmesan Cheese
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The Cocktail Party is a perennial fixture of summer in the Hamptons. Let’s face it, it’s a great way to get all your social commitments covered in one big bash.  It generally lasts a finite number of hours, usually three at most, and gives you a chance to put people together without worrying yourself sick over whether they’ll get along at a dinner table.
  Of course, with something as ubiquitous as the
Alec Waugh

Cocktail Party, there’s bound to be some question over who first invented it.  Alec Waugh, an English writer and the elder brother of the better-known Evelyn Waugh, is often given the credit for inventing the Cocktail Party.  In the 1920s in London, he served Rum Swizzles to an astonished group of friends who thought they’d been invited for tea. Early evening drinks parties in London took off from there. But the actual credit for the invention of the Cocktail Party must go to a Mrs. Julius S. Walsh Jr of St. Louis, Missouri.  In May of 1917, Mrs. Walsh invited 50 guests to her house on a Sunday at high noon for a drinks party with a one-hour duration.   The event was written up in the St.

The home of Mrs. Julius Walsh Jr.
now owned, ironically, by the
Diocese of St. Louis

Paul MN. Pioneer Press. Since St. Paul is over 500 miles from St. Louis, Mrs. Walsh’s party must have been wildly newsworthy perhaps because Mrs. Walsh’s invitees must have come directly from church services to drink at Mrs. Walsh’s.  The newspaper reported “The party scored an instant hit” and noted that within weeks, cocktail parties had become “a St. Louis institution”.  And what about the food?


The key to a great cocktail party is to never run out of ice or liquor and to serve enough food that no matter how much liquor is served, there’s plenty to sop it up.   And I would add it’s a great idea to make something that the attendees have not seen at every single cocktail they’ve attended all year.  Here’s where today’s recipe comes in:  it’s a flavorful addition to any hors d’oeuvres tray that puts together meaty shiitake mushrooms, crisp bits of pancetta, scallions, shallots, dill and grated parmesan cheese atop “Crostini”, rounds or ovals of bread that have been brushed with olive oil and lightly toasted.  The mushroom topping not at all hard to make and can be done so in advance.  
Jane and John of Long Island Mushroom Inc.

I’ve mentioned my fondness for Long Island Mushroom Inc. shiitakes before and also for their growers.  Jane Maguire and John Quigley have quietly been building their mushroom business out here to the point where Jane’s name is appearing on the menu at Almond Restaurant (1 Ocean Road, Bridgehampton Tel: 631-537-5665).  Home cooks can find their mushrooms at local farmer’s markets in Greenport and at the market at the North Fork Tavern and Inn.  I developed this recipe using their shiitakes.  Obviously this is my mushroom of choice but any great shiitake will do.  And here it is:

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