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Party wonton cups a great addition to your holiday party menus

BY JUDITH DUNBAR HINES

Caterers and renowned party givers have a long list of go-to recipes for every occasion. So it’s no wonder friends depend on those people for inspiration when they are ready to host an event.

My neighbor, a great cook and frequent hostess, checked in with me in a minor panic — guests were coming for cocktails and, while she had made a plan for what to serve, she suddenly decided she needed one more item and was out of ideas. Could I help?

In only a minute, I responded with one of my favorite party favorites. Simple, easy, and delicious, these Party Cups (see recipe below) have always garnered rave reviews. Best of all, they can be varied to fit into any menu.

I most often make them with a Latin twist, using chicken as the protein and flavoring them with locally made chipotle salsa and Wisconsin cheddar. Other days, when Italian flavors are your choice, it is easy to substitute Italian sausage, either hot or mild, and use mozzarella cheese and basil in supporting roles.

Ready-made wonton skins are available in the refrigerator case, usually in the produce aisle at the grocery or easily found in an Asian store. They bake up crispy and will hold up to 2 days, ready to be filled and heated. The recipe is very easy to double if your crowd is large.

A supply of recipes like this will always make you the host who is ready to party at the drop of a Santa hat, or for any occasion, holiday or every day.

Sure enough, my neighbor reported that these were the evening’s favorite and she’ll be making them many times in the future. I’ll bet you will have the same success!

PARTY WONTON CUPS

Makes 36

36 wonton wrappers ( one package )

1-1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 cup chopped cooked chicken

1 cup chopped bottled roasted red peppers

1 cup bottled chipotle salsa

½ cup chopped green onion

Cilantro and sour cream for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 36 mini muffin cups with cooking spray. Fit 1 wonton wrapper into each of 36 mini muffins cups. Press the wrappers into the sides of the cups and bake at 350 degrees for 7 minutes until lightly browned. Leave wrappers in the muffin tins.

Meanwhile, combine cheese, chicken, peppers, salsa and green onion. Spoon about 1 tablespoon into each cup and bake again at 350 degrees for 6 minutes. Remove and garnish with a ½ teaspoon sour cream and a leaf of cilantro in each cup before serving while still warm.

To make ahead: bake wrappers and leave in muffin tin. Combine filling ingredients and chill until ready to use. Fill and bake as above, but if filling is cold, bake for 8 – 10 minutes.

Italian version: substitute shredded mozzarella for cheddar, cooked crumbled Italian sausage for chicken, pasta sauce for salsa and garnish with basil leaf.

LOCAL ATTRACTION features the best of regional produce and products and hopes home cooks will do the same. Judith Dunbar Hines is a cooking teacher, tour guide, writer and culinary consultant in Chicago.