Delicious and Surprising Recipes to Pass Around Your Table


By Chris Santos

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The popular judge of Chopped and chef/founder of Beauty & Essex, Stanton Social, and Vandal opens up his kitchen with unforgettable food to share with your friends and family.

Why serve boring food . . . ever?! In Share, Chris Santos serves up the unique communal dining he has made his signature in his renowned Lower East Side restaurants. Here, he offers over 100 extraordinary “big platter” recipes for his creative take on old-school favorites, specifically made for family-style dining, as well as small plates that are fun to serve when entertaining. If you want to feel like you are hosting a real “downtown” party, you won’t go wrong with Santos’ legendary cocktails like Beauty Elixir, Emerald Gimlet, or the Woodsman, all of which go down well with starters like Nori-Spiced Tuna Poke Crisps, Crab Corn Dogs with Old Bay Aioli, or his famous Grilled Cheese Dumplings in Tomato Soup. You can follow up with exciting main courses like Spicy Lamb Souvlaki with Tzatziki or Korean Short Rib Tacos with Classic Kimchi. You’ll have a hard time convincing your guests to leave if you serve them such desserts as Peanut Butter and Jelly “Twinkies” or Black-Bottomed Butterscotch Pots de Crv®me. These addictive dishes will have everyone at the table reaching for seconds. Share is comfort food at its highest level. And, you don’t need a guest list or a party to try these surprisingly tasty recipes any night of the week!




For over 20 years, day in and day out (or, I should say, night in and night out), I have watched people socialize over my signature dishes at my restaurants. I've always created food that is designed to be passed around the table, where forks and knives are often left untouched because much of the meal is comprised of fun finger foods. My vibrant dining rooms are filled with people creating memories over their shared dining experience.

Share: Delicious and Surprising Recipes to Pass Around Your Table extols the idea that communal eating is the best way to enjoy an amazing dinner while catching up with friends, celebrating a special occasion with family, or simply bringing people together for the sake of a party!

At-home entertaining is an even more intimate experience than dining out. The effort and love that go into hosting a dinner party or brunch are most clearly felt through the dishes you serve. For that reason, when it comes time to play host, I want to think you will use this book to impress your guests—and have fun—with some of my favorite recipes.

I am one of four siblings. When I was growing up, both of my parents worked long hours at night and I was often left to fend for myself in the kitchen while my mom delivered babies at the nearby hospital. (That's a true story.) But, when we did manage to have the rare family dinner, not sharing was not an option. Six sets of arms were reaching in every direction, clamoring for my mom's famous Chouriço and Pepper Sloppy Joes (here), among many other dishes.

When I think of my life as an adult, I realize that I've done a lot of laughing with my mouth full, and rarely at a "fancy" restaurant. My best memories have been of meals where the food was exciting and fun to eat, and was enjoyed with beloved company. Years ago, my business partner Rich Wolf and I started forgoing the entrées when we ate out. Instead, we started ordering every appetizer on the menu. The appetizers were always our favorite part of the meal because they were much easier to share and we were able to taste a bunch of different flavors as opposed to the typical three-course format. We were always passing around a copious amount of dishes, yelling things like "You have to try this! It's incredible!" I realized that the flexibility and camaraderie of this shared style of dining was adding to my overall dining (and tasting) experience, and I embraced this communal format as the best way to serve my guests, both in my restaurants and in my home.

Share is about how to entertain your friends and family with creative food in the comfort of your home. When people think about entertaining, they often consider the drinks they are going to serve or the music they are going to play as the pivotal elements. For me, the food always comes first. I like my food to do the entertaining, and that's why I serve dishes that are delicious but that are also innovative enough to start conversations among my guests—about the food and also about just how much they are enjoying every bite.

At the end of the day, life is too short for boring food. It sounds so simplistic, but it's true! People come to my restaurants and to my home because they know that they are going to have a great meal and a good time. I hope Share will help you re-create a perennial party in your own kitchen.

And because brunch has become such a popular time for people to socialize, I am concluding this book with my brunch recipes, ranging from savory delights like baked eggs (here) and breakfast tacos (here) to sweeter offerings like the over-the-top French toast bread pudding (here).

While I have tweaked many of the recipes for easier home cooking, in some cases I have kept the original, restaurant version intact. These items are marked Santos Signature. You'll also find notes, dubbed Chef Talk, with some of my thoughts on various ingredients and culinary techniques.

These are the dishes that I come back to time and time again when I am hosting a party because I know that they are the ones everyone at the table is going to love. From the simplest of dishes to the most complex, you can be assured that all of the recipes in this book have been road tested as guaranteed crowd pleasers. My hope is that some of these recipes become incorporated into your go-to menu when it comes time to entertain.

My main goal for Share is to, well, share with you a different way of cooking for your friends and family by sharing (there's that word again) my favorite recipes with new twists on old favorites along the way.

Chris Santos

Eating is only partly about sustaining your body. It is also about dining, sustaining and developing relationships among the people at the table and one of the most important ways that people come together.

Over time, the dining experience transformed from a crowded table of family or friends into a ritual of eating alone. Even when people are sitting together, each person kept his or her own plate and did not share. In fact, it is often considered rude to reach across the table and dig into another diner's plate. Not at my table!

Too many meals follow a format, a carved-in-stone approach to eating. I would rather have the experience be full of surprises, a kind of potluck where guests don't have to bring anything and never quite know what is going to be served next. My best meals have been the ones that have been intimate and communal at the same time: intimate because I was with close friends, yet communal because of the elements of sharing and community.

In a perfect world, people would spend more time enjoying weeknight dinners together at home. But, realistically, most of the people I know reserve their "special" cooking for the weekends when they have more time. While there are recipes in this book that you can make on a school night, I prefer to plan my more complex cooking for leisurely meals with friends and family.

Here are some details on how to have the Share experience with your friends and family.


In addition to great food, I have two huge passions: boxing and rock music (especially drumming). Like chefs, boxers and drummers need very specific skills, and there is a big instant-gratification component of the jobs. In all three professions, if you want to be a star, you have to be unique—a lethal uppercut, a cutting staccato riff, a talent for mixing flavors.

When you cook, you want people to walk away from the table saying, "Wow, I couldn't have had a better meal anywhere else." Give your guests food to talk about on their way home. That said, my time is important to me, so when I cook at home, I want it well spent to make a memorable meal, not just food on the table. And I want the same for you.

In the pages that follow, I include some special favorites that are right out of my family's recipe box, including my mom's spicy Chouriço and Pepper Sloppy Joes (here) and my grandmother's melt-in-your-mouth meatballs (here). But for the most part, I like to create dishes that are whimsical and irreverent twists on well-known favorites. I am inspired by the comfort foods of Americana, such as Twinkies, chicken wings, corn dogs, and crab cakes (I've even combined these last two in the same dish here), as much as I am inspired by international street foods like dumplings, tacos, and arepas. Mix all of these inspirations together, and the results include dishes like my spicy mac 'n' cheese (here), a traditional American baked macaroni spiked with a Mexican spin of sausage and chiles.

In selecting the rest of the recipes for this book, I concentrated on the flavorful ingredients that can make home cooking more adventuresome with the goal of expanding your culinary repertoire.


The majority of these recipes are self-contained and don't require side dishes—they are small bites to savor in a mouthful or two. I rarely serve plated dishes as individual servings (unless it is for dramatic effect like the Individual Beef Wellingtons here). Instead, I love to offer up large platters of finger food, generous bowls of heaping pastas and salads, beautiful sliced steaks, and smaller dishes of starches and vegetables to round out the meal.

Do not be scared by long ingredients lists! I have been sure to break each recipe down into its individual components, many of which are no more complicated than stirring the listed ingredients together. There are no recipes where you cook all of the way through from start to finish. Instead, each element can be prepared separately, and beforehand, so it is just a matter of putting together each dish before serving.

This is the secret to my success in my restaurants, and it can be applied to create a perfect party at home. Our restaurant guests marvel at how we can serve hundreds of people every night with such delicious consistency. The answer is that it is all in the planning. When the various components are prepped ahead of time, not only will you be relaxed before your guests arrive, but you'll be able to get brunch or dinner on the table while enjoying the pleasure of their company.

Most of all, I want you to break loose of the expected course progression. I always begin my parties with cocktails and I always end them with dessert (and perhaps some more cocktails), but everything that happens in between is a parade of dishes dictated by what's ready first. Mix up your planned menu with dishes that are finished and those that need some last-minute finishing touches so you can enjoy the party, too.


Every chef has not-so-secret ingredients (condiments, seasonings, and other foods) that deliver huge bang-for-the-buck flavor.

The pantry is a great place to start upping your game. Get to know the ethnic markets in your area. Latino and Asian markets are terrific places to find interesting ingredients to use in your everyday and special occasion cooking. So often I'll hear a home cook say, "I can't find such-and-such at my market." When I explore the issue, I find out that it is more a case of "I have never looked for such-and-such at my market." Recently, I was at a commonplace suburban market looking for canned chipotles and found arepa flour on the shelves!

Many of these not-so-secret ingredients are loaded with umami, the "fifth flavor" that adds dimension to dishes. Fermented ingredients (such as miso, Korean seasoning pastes, and fish sauce) are famous for ratcheting up flavors in a just a spoonful.

Take a trip to an ethnic market, if you have one in your neighborhood, and load up. Or hop on the internet and buy them online. (If you do the latter, buy a few items at once to save on delivery costs. I am not providing individual sources for shopping because a simple Google search will uncover countless options.)

Most of these ingredients are cheap and keep forever. Only a couple of items in the boxed list of must-haves even need refrigeration.


In my restaurants, customers are often surprised at how my staff can serve hundreds of people so effortlessly (or so it may seem). The answer is: Almost every part of a dish is made ahead and pulled together at the last minute. You should apply this "secret" to how you entertain at home, too.

When I cook at home, I think of the Rolling Stones' "Time Is on My Side": I let time do its job to enhance the food. Marinating and brining bring incredible flavor and extra moisture to meats and poultry; sauces that have been made a few hours (or even days) ahead get a chance to bloom and develop. Use this make-ahead technique to your advantage because quickly made food often comes with a trade-off in the overall flavor.

When you are unfamiliar with a recipe, read it through a few times to be sure you understand the game plan. I am a big proponent of mise en place—"setting in place," or having all your ingredients ready before you start cooking. This used to be entirely unfamiliar to American home cooks, but TV shows like Chopped have changed that. Prep every single item, no matter how mundane, right down to mincing the parsley garnish.

I also provide make-ahead instructions for every component of a recipe, so when you are ready for the final assembly, it is often just a matter of putting the various parts together. Don't let long ingredients lists turn you off. Very often the same ingredients are repeated a few times, and it all melds to give the dish the depth of flavor that will set your cooking apart from the rest of the pack.

Very useful, if not essential, is a stack of small and medium bowls, again just like on TV, to hold your prepped ingredients. (Plastic delicatessen containers are also good and are unbreakable.) If you cover them, do so loosely with plastic wrap so the covering is easy to remove when you are ready for action.

When the food requires hands-on attention (say, folding dumplings and pierogi), ask your friends to jump in. It is another way to get people to share the dining experience. Set out a bowl of the filling, the wrappers, and a couple of brushes (some dumplings are sealed with a brushed-on liquid), and you will have a mountain of dumplings in no time.

Speaking of action, write down a schedule for cooking each dish of the meal. You won't believe how helpful this is when you are cooking a number of recipes for the first time. You might also want to make a prep list, too. It feels very satisfying when you cross a chore off that to-do list.

Perhaps the most important aspect of making a multi-course meal is choosing the right recipes. Combine dishes that need last-minute attention with those that can simply be put out on the table, such as the pickled vegetables (here). Know your strengths—if you like making dessert, spend a little extra time on that part of the meal. If you hate baking, purchase a stunning dessert and feel no shame. The important thing is that you, as the cook, enjoy the party, too.


I love throwing parties! Because I like to cook for my friends at home, I am prepared for cooking for a crowd. But nothing is more frustrating than trying to cook for a group when you have a tiny skillet and are short on platters and other serving implements. Plan ahead!


Cocktail napkins: You can never have too many small paper napkins to act as coasters, to serve with starters, and for quickly sopping up little spills (which are actually the hallmark of a great party).

Big napkins: At my meals, there is a lot of eating with fingers, so big cotton napkins (some of the polyester ones just aren't absorbent) are essential items. White works here, as you won't have to worry about clashing colors, and you can usually bleach out stains.

Tablecloths: Here is an instance when I like dark colors to camouflage spills, crumbs, and so forth.

Glasses: The "right wine in the right glass" frame of mind works at formal dinners, but for more causal parties, don't get finicky. Those stemless glasses do double duty for both wine and cocktails and are much harder to knock over… especially when there is the amount of reaching and passing that I like to see. Let's just pretend that plastic glasses don't exist. I don't care if the glasses are cheap, as long as they are made of glass.

Plates: You can't lose with white plates, both for their versatility and to set off the food well. For a meal where food is going to be shared, a tall stack of smaller plates might be more useful than a smaller number of dinner plates, especially if you like to provide fresh dishes after serving something with a lot of sauce.

Serving utensils: Always count and be sure that you have enough spoons, large forks, and short-handled tongs to serve up the food.

Cake stands: Decorative cake stands can be used for more than cakes. Height is important in serving food—lifting a serving platter off the table will give a sense of drama to the proceedings. Put a platter on a cake stand to make a bit more room on the table and allow for easier serving.

Platters and bowls: Long (over 14 inches) and oval platters are very useful, especially when serving individual pieces of food, such as my open-faced arepas (here) or shrimp and "grits" (here). Solid colors work best because they allow the food to be showcased. Avoid platters that have busy patterns that will clash with your cooking, unless you are sure designs match up with the food.


Large baking dishes and gratins: Have a few sizes of these oven-to-table serving pieces. And be sure to have fresh, clean potholders or kitchen towels on hand for passing the hot dishes.

Big skillets: By big, I mean 14 inches across and at least 2 inches deep. With a truly large skillet, you can brown meats properly (if crowded, the meat will steam and not brown). I really like cast iron skillets because they can be used as serving vessels, too (see my baked eggs here). Sometimes, you'll serve right from the skillet, so don't forget to have a trivet (or two) already waiting at the table.

Half-sheet pans: Measuring 18 by 13 inches, these shallow aluminum pans are the workhorse of the kitchen. It's another item that you really can't have too many of. Sure, they're great for baking and roasting, but they are also good to hold your mise en place for a recipe, or to store the individual bases for finger food like my avocado or chicken liver focaccia (here and here). Quarter-sheet pans, which are 13 by 9 inches, are also useful.

Beauty Elixir


Makes 4 cocktails

Gin brings its herbaceous flavor to this pink drink, a favorite at Beauty & Essex, one of my restaurants on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. If you are looking for the perfect drink for a Sunday ladies' brunch, look no further than this fruit-forward drink splashed with a bit of bubbly.


On Sale
Feb 7, 2017
Page Count
288 pages

Chris Santos

About the Author

Chris Santos introduced the world to his unique brand of communal dining in 2005 with his debut restaurant, the Stanton Social. In 2010 he opened Beauty & Essex on the Lower East Side, which was named Open Table’s Hottest Restaurant in America in both 2012 and 2013, and in 2016 he opened the 22,000 square foot, Vandal. He has been a judge on Chopped since its debut and has appeared as a guest chef on NBC’s Today Show,, CBS’s Early Show, and the Rachel Ray Show. Santos has served as a repeat guest chef at the White House and Camp David, and has been a brand ambassador for Jagermeister and Morningstar Farms.

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