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Elegant hors d'oeuvres for cocktail party?

  • m

I'm on the hunt for some new recipes for our annual holiday cocktail party. It's pretty small (about 20-30 people tops) and I like to have a variety of food offerings.

Anyone have any recommendations for recipes, or ideas for store-purchased items that would fit the bill? I usually have a sushi platter, cheese board, spiced nuts, and several other items (including something meat-related, and dessert, of course).

Ideally, recipes for this occasions are:

- elegant/sophisticated, but not fussy
- most or all components can be made in advance
- bite-sized
- warm is OK, but not in a chafing dish (just passed on platters)
- extremely delicious

I need some new ideas! Thank you!!

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  1. Gougères! (Pronounced "goo-ZHAIR") They're French, so they're automatically fancy. And they look difficult to make, but they're not, once you master the technique (which isn't hard at all). And you can make them in advance, freeze them, and heat them for a few minutes before serving. And they're really, really good.

    Here's a thread with lots of info and recipes:

    My favorite recipe has blue cheese instead of the standard gruyere:

    And I just saw a recipe for Fontina and Proscuitto Gougeres that looks pretty dang tasty:

    Have fun,

    1. Filo pockets, or purses (whatever shape you like) filled with your favorite combos...

      I have done prosuitto w/mozzerella and drizzled balsamic glaze after baking...YUM! People can't get enough. They are so great because they are all do ahead...you can freze them and just keep baking them off and passing them around.

      Another great filling is sauteed wild mushrooms w/ shallots and fresh herbs.

      It's nice to make the differnt flavors obvious by using different shapes so people know what they're in for.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Susanbnyc

        so i Love this idea and have decided to do it and bring it to my parent's house.... my fillings are going to be a goat cheese/fig combo with balsamic drizzle and then a feta/oregano/kalamata olive combo..... I just googled "phyllo triangle recipe" and got quite a few more interesting ideas and combinations to try...

      2. Crab "nachos" with avocado


        I always make these with shrimp instead; they are always a hit. basically crisp wonton "cups" with a spoonful of spicy avocado, with crab (or shrimp) on top.

        1. My favorite recipe is for a make-ahead shrimp dish that may be served cold or at room temp. You can used basil in place of the dill. That, with the red pepper flakes, makes it look even more festive.


          1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
          2 Tbl. olive oil
          1 to 2 tsp. red pepper flakes
          2 tsp. finely minced garlic
          4 tsp. finely minced shallots
          salt & pepper
          1 Tbl. lemon juice
          1 Tbl. finely chopped fresh dill

          Saute the garlic and shallots in the olive oil, adding the pepper flakes. Increase the heat slightly and add the shrimp, cooking for another 5-6 minutes, 'til they're opaque. Season to taste, then scrape it all into a bowl or ziploc bag. Toss with lemon juice and dill, then refrigerate for 3-4 hours (or overnight).

          3 Replies
          1. re: cackalackie

            How do you serve this? Individually, with toothpicks, or some other way?

            1. re: Maya

              I serve it with toothpicks. Just pour it all into a dish (plate) and then let them stick them with a pick.

              The shallots are finely minced, so they don't really fall off.

            2. re: cackalackie

              My version fries in butter, but I use chopped fresh green chili and parsley as the herb. Also very good.

              I have never served this as finger food but I guess you could cocktail stick if you used decent sized prawns - I would worry that the shallot etc would fall on the floor though.

              I guess you could mini tortilla wrap (like a fajita) or use a rice flour wrapper for the wrapping (when serving hot I serve with lemon scented basmati) and a rice version wouldn't add a flavour.

              I've become rather taken with roquefort shortbreads, a bit like a cheese straw pastry but made with loads of roquefort. I do the dough and roll it out between sheets of cling film the night before. Then cut disks, egg yolk them press a walnut half on top and bake the things.

              There's a silly seminar I go to a couple of times a year and the nibbles afterwards are normally pretty good, the one that goes fastest is a 'cube' of chicken breast wrapped in a sliver of prosciutto then cooked, served on a cocktail type stick.

            3. Brie and Fig cups: Purchased pastry cups, filled with a dollop of good brie, topped with a scant half-teaspoon of fig preserves and warmed at 350 for about 5 minutes - until the brie is melted. Always a hit at our parties.

              21 Replies
              1. re: Andiereid

                That sounds really good and easy. I think this might be our Thanksgiving appetizer. I'll bet you can use so many different things, besides the fig preserves, too, and it would be good. Like bite sized brie en croute. Thanks!

                1. re: chowser

                  You're most welcome. I swiped the idea from a good friend and use it a lot - I keep the little cups and the ingredients and it's extremely fast and easy and everyone just seems to love them.

                2. re: Andiereid

                  Wow, sounds terrific!

                  I guess you could also use apricot preserves (like the baked brie wheels) or fresh figs or even ?? What other items can top that? Meat, roasted peppers, sun dried tomatoes? Other ideas?

                  I think I am also going to adopt this one.

                  Another take would be similar to my prosciutto crisps... Fill with fresh mozz or burrata (sp?) and top with prosciutto or sun dried tomatoes...

                  Thanks for the idea...

                  1. re: Michele4466

                    Another combo = a squeeze of pesto + a dollop of goat cheese.

                    1. re: cackalackie

                      Pesto...great idea!

                      You could make a whole assortment for people with varying tastes and meat/non meat eaters... cover the gamut!

                  2. re: Andiereid

                    I did this last year with cranberry chutney and stilton. Do you thaw the cups before doing this, or can you put the filling in the frozen cups and bake that way? I remember the stilton got too melted and very runny when I did it (of course, people still scarfed them down).

                    1. re: Maya

                      I probably should have called the cups something different - they're actually croustades - crispy shells. I get them in the cracker section of the grocery. They're very thin and crispy, all ready to go - no freezing or thawing necessary. I like them because it makes the whole bite kind of light - not too heavy or oily. Since they don't need to be thawed, really just a quick pop in the oven to melt the brie is all that's needed - usually 5 - 7 minutes.

                      1. re: Andiereid

                        What is the brand of these croustades? I was only ever able to find little phyllo cups, but these sound far easier. I'm in SF, in case you happen to know a specific place I could find them here!

                        Also, it sounds like you have to fill them right before warming, right? It doesn't sound like I could do that ahead of time.

                        1. re: Maya

                          The brand I use is Siljans, Maya, and I just get them at our local Harris-Teeter. I would think most decent grocery stores would have them.

                          I often fill them several hours before serving and just leave them on a baking sheet at room temperature. Then when the guests arrive, I pop them in the oven. You might make a couple of them and just try sticking them in the fridge or freezer and see how they reheat? I haven't tried making them days in advance or anything, but I would think that a warm up in the oven ought to crisp the shells up OK.

                          1. re: Andiereid

                            I like Siljans, but found if I fill them much in advance they get soggy. I filled them with softened cream cheese and put smoked salmon on top, so it wasn't a recipe you would put in the oven. I would limit making them in advance to something that goes in the oven.

                          1. re: chowser

                            Yeah that's what I used ,and was asking whether they should be pre-baked and then filled and returned to oven, or what.

                            1. re: Maya

                              I fill them still frozen and then bake. But, I haven't done plain cheese before, usually a mixture of things. Maybe it was baking the stilton and not the cups for you? I rarely use stilton or other blue cheeses so I don't know how they bake.

                          2. re: Andiereid

                            So, I have the brie & fig preserves, but have called everywhere looking for the Siljan croustades and can't find them anywhere!! Does anyone have any other ideas??

                        2. re: Andiereid

                          My favorite version is caramelized onions with cambozola or a combination of brie and a mild bleu. Sprinkle with chives or chervil.

                            1. re: Andiereid

                              Even bleu cheese haters manage to love this combo... something about the sweetness of the onions offsetting the bite of the cheese. Yummy!

                              I'm going to try your brie and fig combo with fresh figs and see how that turns out. I might try caramelizing the tops of the figs a bit with the broiler or a torch. Hooray for fire in the kitchen!

                              1. re: TorontoJo

                                I make a version with brie, apricot preserves mixed with rosemary and a bit of red chili for a very slight kick, and a pecan half. they are delicious and people can't get enough of them.

                            2. re: TorontoJo

                              My favorite is a version of a Napa Valley offering, although they used a cracker.
                              Mini phyllo shells with Belgian Goat w/Honey cheese, topped with a smidgen of fig preserves! Can eat cold or heat at 350 degrees for the 5 minutes.

                            3. re: Andiereid

                              I use gorgonzola or bleu cheese in the pastry cups...as you said wonderful!! easy! and a bit different

                              1. re: Andiereid

                                I used the ideas from this thread for hors d'ouevres for the Thanksgiving sides pot-luck dinner I hosted yesterday. I bought frozen phyllo dough shells (Athens brand). I was a little skeptical about them, but they were totally fine and sooo easy.

                                I took them out of the freezer and let them thaw on the counter top for about 10-15 minutes, then put on a cookie sheet. Each shell got a little square of brie (with a bit of the rind) and then got topped with a tiny bit of either cranberry-apple butter or chili-cranberry chutney. In an oven at 350 for about 5 minutes and put right out. Really successful and gave us that right amount of something to nibble on while we had apple-cider cocktails! I was happy to have something that took no prep or thought but still tasty (and pretty).

                              2. I made these cheese crackers from Gourmet mag last month. They are made in rolls in the freezer waiting for the big party.


                                Baked a couple of tasters and they were delicious and light.

                                1. You've gotten lots of great suggestions so far and I'm sure you've already searched, but I thought this thread had some fantastic ideas in it: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/31855...

                                  1. Totally agree with the gourgeres idea. Also, they are easy to make but your guests will think they were hard to make. :)

                                    I made this blue cheese-mushroom-prosciutto crostini (the filling can be made ahead) last year for the holidays that was a huge hit.


                                    This type of bacon-date-parm bite is very popular right now:


                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: christy319

                                      I like the bacon date thing, too, but with goat cheese. I've also done it with almonds. Not nearly as good as the goat cheese.

                                      1. re: chowser

                                        I've had both, and prefer the almonds. (Photo of goat cheese version below).

                                    2. Easy to pick up and easy to make and can be done ahead:
                                      - Medjool dates stuffed with gorgonzola/cream cheese mixture possibly wrapped in a strip of prosciutto and/or with an almond tucked into the cheese.
                                      - Endive leaves (available ready to go at costco) with some sort of seafood mix piped on possibly topped with a little caviar.
                                      - crostini... maybe chicken liver mouse and onion sliced atop, gravlax, tomato confit with garlic
                                      - Stuffed mushrooms
                                      - Mini wonton cups (made in mini muffin tins) stuffed with... well, whatever can be made into an asian feel but fills in the gaps in the appetizer void

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: Wanda Fuca

                                        I've done the endive leaves stuffed with a smoked trout dip make from smoked trout, cream cheese, a little sour cream and salt and cracked black pepper - another one that's gobbled up lickety-split.

                                        1. re: Wanda Fuca

                                          The endive sounds good--I might check out Costco.

                                          I've done those wonton cups and I don't know if it's overbaked but they were really crunchy and hard to eat. Does anyone know if that's just how they are?

                                          1. re: chowser

                                            I've eaten wonton cups at restaurants that have been fine, but when I use them they're always hard and difficult. Not sure what I'm doing wrong, but I haven't had good luck with them. I always wonder if it's because I'm not willing to deep fry?

                                            1. re: chowser

                                              Well, you want them crunchy, but not "break in big pieces and the filling comes tumbling out crunchy". I prebake them the day or so before, stuff them (cooled) into a zip lock and then before serving I put them on a bake sheet in the oven at 375 degrees for about 7 minutes.

                                          2. I just thought of one that hasn't been suggested--curried beef in puff pastry. You can do them bite-size, make them in advanced and bake just before serving.

                                            1. For a recent cocktail party, I whipped some goat cheese with a bit of milk and then piped it into peppadew peppers. They're bright red which kind of livens up a buffet.

                                              1. Mini-baked potatoes with blue cheese. You get some of those tiny little potatoes, smaller than fingerlings, they're basically about an inch and a half around. Toss with olive oil and salt and bake on a cookie sheet till done. You can either slit the top and pipe some softened gorgonzola or blue cheese/cream cheese mixture, or just serve with warm gorgonzola sauce on the side for guests to dip them in. Garnish with chives.

                                                These were so yummy, and gone in about 5 nanoseconds!

                                                1. I think this olive mixture (espec if you have good olives - no canned black olives for this dish) is sophisticated, delicious, and easy to make ahead - serve with baguette slices.

                                                  1 tblsp whole cumin seeds
                                                  2 tsps whole coriander seeds
                                                  1 tsp dried crushed red pepper*
                                                  2 minced garlic cloves
                                                  2 tsps grated orange peel
                                                  1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil (I eyeball this and use less. You want a bit of dipping liquid, but not a soup)
                                                  10 ounces assorted brine-cured green and black olives
                                                  2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
                                                  8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled into mixture

                                                  Pound the olives a bit with a mallet to break some of them open a bit - nothing violent here. Add all the other ingredients and stir to combine. Put in a plastic or glass container in the fridge for up to a couple of days.

                                                  *I use less red pepper - 1/2 tsp. unless I know my guests like spicy stuff.

                                                  1. Shrimp rumaki:
                                                    12 ounces cooked, peeled medium shrimp. Remove tail.
                                                    One slice of water chestnut per shrimp.
                                                    Green and red pepper pieces, cut into diamond shapes.

                                                    1/4 cup soy sauce
                                                    1 tsp. fresh minced ginger
                                                    2 tbsp. dry sherry or rice vinegar
                                                    1 tbsp. sugar

                                                    Marinate everything for 1/2 hr in refrigerator. Place slice of water chestnut on toothpick, then shrimp and last, piece of green or red pepper. Serve cold.

                                                    1. Here's another... delicious and easy!

                                                      Steak and Chimichurri Toasts

                                                      1. This is pretty easy and elegant. Cut premade polenta roll into 1/8" slices, lay out on cookie sheet (I put silicon mat under). Brush with olive oil, grill for a couple minutes, flip over, brush second side and finish grilling. Cut a log of goat cheese to fit polenta, either grill or leave as is. Top with shreds of finely sliced sun dried tomatoes. Yum!

                                                        1. My go-to would be criminis stuffed with cream cheese bacon, olives and rosemary

                                                          fry bacon crisp and remove stems from mushrooms. then brush some or the bacon fat onto the mushrooms. Finely dice the stems and saute in the remaining bacon fat and add the finely chopped olives. When the stem mixture gives up its water mix with room temp cream cheese and bake until heated through.

                                                          Variation: mix the cream cheese with about 30% volume of gorgonzola.

                                                          1. We just had a little cocktail party ourselves and some of the hits were:

                                                            Teriyaki Chicken Wonton Crisps
                                                            Basically square wonton wrappers cut into triangles then fried and topped w/ a couple slices of teriyaki chicken. finish w/ a cilantro leaf and shredded carrots & daikon marinated in rice vinegar and sugar.

                                                            Japanese Potato Croquettes
                                                            We assembled these a few days before and froze them on a sheet pan. the day of the party, we simply sprayed w/ olive oil and baked. Mashed potatoes mixed w/ ground beef, onions, carrots and jalepenos dredged in flour, dipped in egg and rolled in panko. Served w/ tempura sauce but tasted great on their own too.

                                                            Shrimp Toast
                                                            Buttermilk toast points spread w/ shrimp paste (shrimp, water chestnuts, green onions, sake, sesame oil, salt, and white pepper pureed till smooth) and baked. These were served cold w/ sweet & sour sauce and chinese hot mustard. Had to make these earlier and served at room temperature, but still great.

                                                            1. Cocktail tamales - tiny versions. First encountered them at a black tie event. Different and delicious.

                                                              Tiger prawns with a sweet curry dipping sauce

                                                              Cherry Blossoms - Perfect sushi rice wrapped in buttery salmon with a mayo sriracha sauce squiggle

                                                              1. All of these have gone over well at parties in the past, and all are very easy....

                                                                Peppery shrimp: www.epicuriuos.com/recipes/food/views...
                                                                Sugared, spiced nuts: www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views...
                                                                Herbed goat cheese toasts: www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views...
                                                                Roast beef and avocado finger sandwiches: www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views...

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: diablo

                                                                  diablo, that sugared nuts recipe is the one i have been seeking! thanks. i've only had it with pecan halves, and they are addictive.

                                                                2. This isn't fancy but easy to do ahead of time and pretty especially for holidays. Roll green olives stuffed w/pimentos in cream cheese, roll is crushed walnuts(the really fine nuts), slice in half lengthwise. The red/green/white works well. Old recipe from a great aunt but works well.

                                                                  1. homemade blini with smoked salmon creme fraiche, chives and if you can, caviar or salmon roe- i always use the martha stewart blini recipe. "lollipop" lamb chops crusted in garlic, olive oil and rosemary- very easy. Hot crab dip- very 60s and very tasty and fun. Those are my standbys.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: cassoulady

                                                                      Last year I hosted my "hooker" friends (knitters) for appetizers. One that went over quite well was as follows: plain white bread, crusts removed and them flattened with a rolling pin. Butter the insides of a miniature muffin tin and then using a scalloped cookie cutter, cut out the bread and place in the tins. Brush the top of the bread with melted butter. bake until very lightly browned. After removing from oven, take crusts from pan and put a small dollop of raspberry jam in back half and a dollop of brie in front. Put back in oven just until brie is nicely melted. I think I got this out of Southern Cooking.

                                                                    2. Here's an easy peasy one: a small cube of mozzarella or goat's cheese, topped with a fresh basil leaf, with a cherry tomato atop it, all skewered together with a pretty cocktail toothpick.

                                                                      Also what about a warm comfort soup that can be downed in shot glasses? Spinach/pea soup and tomato soup are festive colors that would look really good together.