- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 9, 2004

Dust off your cocktail dress. Polish the black pumps. It’s time to get out of the house. Buy tickets to the opening night of a new movie, a concert or a theater production you’ve longed to see. And then get on the phone to start a chain reaction. Your friends will join you, and everyone will be invited to your place for a pre-show nibble and glass of wine.

My friend Pat Howard is a great caterer in Nashville, and these ham biscuits are one of her specialties. She explained her secret one evening: stamping little biscuits out of thawed frozen biscuits. She gets three small biscuits from every frozen biscuit. No one will ever know you didn’t make these from scratch.

To round out the meal, place marinated olives from the deli in a pretty bowl, arrange steamed shrimp around cocktail sauce. Add chopped tomatoes and basil to frozen garlic bread, let it broil until bubbly, and slice. Then arrange a bright selection of carrots, peppers, celery and asparagus around some hummus.

Five time-shaving appetizers from the deli:

• Wrap prosciutto slices around fresh fig halves or chunks of melon.

• Sprinkle olives with chopped fresh thyme or rosemary and a teaspoon of grated orange zest.

• Spread deli meats with a thin layer of cream cheese, then roll them up around lightly steamed asparagus spears or sweet baby gherkins. Secure with toothpicks.

• Surround a hunk of good blue cheese with red and green grapes and mounds of toasted pecans or walnuts.

• Spear marinated mushrooms and fresh grape tomatoes on toothpicks to make mini kebabs.

Pat’s mini ham biscuits

1 25-ounce bag frozen unbaked biscuits

12 ounces cooked country ham slices or 12 ounces precooked sugar-cured ham

4 to 5 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 tablespoon finely minced onion or pickle relish

1/4 cup all-purpose flour for dusting

Fresh parsley for garnish

Place frozen biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet and set them aside to thaw at room temperature while you prepare the ham.

Tear ham into pieces and place in a food processor. Process until the ham is ground and crumbly, 10 seconds. Transfer ham to a mixing bowl and stir in 4 tablespoons mayonnaise and either the onion or pickle relish.

Add another tablespoon of mayonnaise, if needed, to bind the ham. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator while you cut out and bake the biscuits.

Lightly dust a work surface or cutting board with flour. When the biscuits are still cool to the touch but are soft enough to cut, place them on the lightly floured surface. Use a 1-inch biscuit or round cookie cutter to cut each biscuit into three rounds.

Place biscuit rounds on the baking sheet. Discard scraps of dough. Bake biscuits in preheated 375-degree oven until they are golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. While biscuits bake, remove ham salad from the refrigerator. When the biscuits are cool enough to handle, split them in half with a fork, spoon on a teaspoon of the ham mixture and replace the tops. Place the filled biscuits on a serving tray garnished with parsley and serve at once. Makes about 36 biscuits; serving 12 to 15 persons.

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