Kitchen Shrink: Tips for hosting a bone-chilling Halloween party

KITCHEN SHRINK:

A few years back, my old friends Eleanor and Harry — impersonating the notorious Bonnie and Clyde — hosted an outrageous Halloween shindig. With sheer criminal intent, the pair pulled off an extraordinary culinary caper as Clyde filled the house with realistic and horrifying props, including a gunshot-riddled front door, while Bonnie, a master chef, whipped up an array of fun, whimsical, and downright ghoulish dishes. I offer you the following recollection to inspire your own Halloween gathering…

Dominating the appetizer table was a distressed jack-o-lantern upchucking a trail of chunky and spicy guacamole, surrounded by a pile of red and blue corn chips. A platter of antipasto eyeballs of fresh mozzarella orbs and protruding pimento-stuffed olives glared back at you. Then, for "finger" foods, Bonnie displayed a circular tray of taquitos — crispy, elongated corn tortillas wrapped around a chicken-and-cheese mixture with sliced almonds adorning the tips to resemble pointer fingers, while cocktail wieners wrapped in strips of gauzy phyllo dough preserved these mini mummies. Then, perched at the end of the table, stood a plastic mannequin head indented at the top of the skull, and stuffed with jumbo shrimp drizzled with cocktail sauce. This brainy creation was to die for.

As Instagram posts swelled with record-breaking likes and comments, a constant flow of guests poured through the door — from toga-clad Romans and diva witches to Gomez and Morticia Adams, Napoleon and Josephine, and Lady Gaga.

Moving along to the main course buffet table, we all gawked at the sprawling anatomy centerpiece. The crude decomposed body was topped with a plastic skull replica, followed by a barbecued baby-back ribcage, which ended in a cluster of sausage links for the intestines. Vegetarians were equally amused by the orange and yellow pepper jack-o-lanterns stuffed with quinoa and roasted pepitas, as well as the puff pastry reptile calzone filled with Romano cheese and assorted nightshades, decorated with a mosaic of black and green olive slices for the scaly skin, and a Y-shaped strip of red pepper for the forked tongue.

With Bela Lugosi's classic Count Dracula face flashing on the high-definition screen, my breath got sucked out of me as I glanced down at the zombie meatloaf wrapped in translucent layers of paper-thin prosciutto with bulging eyes of pearl onions.

Vampires, bats and assorted other bloodthirsty creatures of the night skulked into the party late and followed me to the drink table. I ladled a cup of ruby red pomegranate punch into a glass mug, careful not to scoop out any miniature plastic doll fists floating in the bowl. The nocturnals reached for the Bloody Marys and other spooky sips like the Halloween Hpnotist, an electric blue tonic of Hpnotiq liqueur (tropical fruit juices, vodka and cognac), and a squirt of lemon juice, garnished with a neon blue glow stick.

A sweet tooth always has room for dessert, especially for Bonnie's morbid morsels. The human fruit bats went straight for the melon carved skulls, while others first cringed, then laughed as they dug into gummy worms slithering through a giant plastic pail of dirt brownies, a white-, pink- and orange-mottled snake cake, and such trompe l'oeil masterpieces as bloodied Band-aids made from rectangles of Graham crackers for the adhesive part, cream-cheese frosting for the pad, and cherry jam for the blood.

As the lights began to flicker and then dimmed, Clyde handed all the guests a gift box of homemade Halloween goodies, including ladyfingers with crimson polished "nails," shortbread tombstones, and meringue skulls.

Ms. Parker's final Halloween contribution was this glossy, bright red marinara dipping sauce that uncannily resembled clotted blood to accompany breadsticks shaped like femur bones. As the skeleton said to his dinner guest, "Bone appétit!"

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Recipe: Bonnie Parker's Bloody Marinara Dipping Sauce

Ingredients: 3 pounds Roma tomatoes, chopped; 3 ounces tomato paste; 1 small red onion, chopped; 2 garlic cloves, minced; 1/4 cup each of honey and balsamic vinegar; 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil; 1 teaspoon of paprika; 1/2 teaspoon each of dried basil and oregano; salt and cayenne pepper, to taste.

Method: In a heavy saucepan or pot, combine tomatoes and paste, onion, garlic and seasonings. Bring to a slow boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes until the mixture thickens. Stir in honey, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Puree in a blender for desired consistency. Serve warm.

Catharine Kaufman can be reached by e-mail: kitchenshrink@san.rr.com

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