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Holiday Party Advice

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For the second year in a row, my husband and I would like to throw a holiday/Christmas party for roughly 40 people in our home.

Last year, we served home-made mini salmon cakes, home-made pork dumplings, California rolls, store bought mini-quiches, pigs-in-a-blanket, Honey-baked ham and crackers and cheese. I noticed the home-made food was the most popular and I would like to make as many dishes as I can myself but do you have any suggestions?? It would be nice if the dishes don't have to be served warm, are relatively simple but classy and if possible, could be prepared in advance.

I'm also looking for any suggestions for catered food...what's worth getting catered vs. doing it yourself??


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  1. I've made these prosciutto-wrapped asparagus for a cocktail party-pretty and delicious (& not difficult to make!):
    Mini quiches (made yourself) using spinach and cheese, or spanokopita (phyllo, spinach & cheese) triangles.

    1. My husband & I host an annual holiday brunch that has increased from 10 to 50-75 people... I shop Friday & cook all day (and night!) Saturday for Sunday's brunch.

      An easy item to prepare a day in advance is either a beef or pork tenderloin. Slice thinly & serve with nice rolls or home made biscuits & different sauces. Or roast a ham and serve the same way. I prefer to roast my own ham i/o a Honey Baked. Costco sells all the meats at a better price, too.

      If you also will have forks i/o only finger foods, then make quiches in 9" pie plates the day before i/o mini quiches. Serve at room temp so you have oven space for freshly cooked or baked items.

      1. I did an Open House/cocktail event last year and did several open faced, small sandwich type things...everyone was really impressed...not that difficult or creative, but presentation is everything...curried chicken salad on cocktail rounds topped with a dab of cranberry sauce...pumpernickel cocktail bread with capers and red onion in cream cheese topped with smoked salmon. I had a couple of others - something on a tiny brioche (think it was thinly sliced ham and something).... You definitely can't put these together "days" ahead, but you can certainly have things mixed up and can assemble trays a couple of hours before....worked out fine.

        1. One dish coming to mind that was wildly popular was a shrimp salad with mango chutney that I put in wonton cups. I baked the wonton wrappers in cupcake tins a day or two before and put them in a tupperware, then made the shrimp salad the day before, which is actually better so the flavors meld, and then assembled an hour or two before the party.
          Also, can you do a series of dips? Almost all dips are fine made a day or two before. Also, I made curry cheese puff/roll things that froze really well and then thawed that day. I find making things a week or two before and then freezing them really cuts down on stress levels! Sounds fun - good luck with everything!

          1. i had arranged tomato, basil, and fresh mozzarella on a toothpick as a simple appetizer, and it was an absolute hit!

            1. Epicurious has an amazing fig-olive tapenade that I love to serve at parties, and can be made up easily in advance.

              A somewhat unexpected, but tasty, discovery that I made was treating polenta as a "finger food". Make a rich, cheesy polenta with lots of flavor (I use this receipe as a starting place - http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/rec...), pour it into a pan to cool overnight, then cut into bite size squares, spread on a sheet pan and toast until crispy outside, warm inside.

              1. We've talked about this on the board ad infinitum, but prunes stuffed with almonds and parmesan and wrapped with prosciutto really are delicious. I made a couple dozen of these last year for my holiday party, and I thought people would be turned off by the prunes, but they were gone in 5 seconds. Also easy is just slicing up high-quality kielbasa, served with some spicy mustard, which I got from a great Ukrainian/Polish butcher in NY. Also gone in 5 seconds.

                1 Reply
                1. re: AppleSister

                  Another variation is Prunes D'Agen stuffed with a walnut half and wrapped in prosciutto.

                2. For me, caterer vs doing yourself depends on cost and the amt of time you have to prep

                  If a caterer changes 50. for a cake and you can tackle it for 20...or a hot appy goes for 75. and you can accomplish the exact recipe for half.. then it's something to think about :)