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Holiday Cocktail Party

Hey everone,

We are having a gathering to kick of the holiday season Dec. 1 (this Sat). It seems like we will be about 25 ppl. and we would like to provide food that is substanial enough to replace dinner. I would love advice on everything from menue ideas to recipes to setting up etc. We just made this descion 5 min. ago (can you tell im excited!) so i have not been able to think to much yet. I will post again once I give some more thought on what my ideas are this far. I know for sure that everyone always loves pigs in a blanket (and they are hartey) and I also want to have an eggnogg cocktail. Im also thinking a baked brie with dried cranberries and brown suger. Oh maybe a roast of some sort sliced on a platter with bread and fixins. Okay this is a train of thought here.... Thanks for all your help!


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  1. A sliced ham with small rolls or mini biscuits along with different mustards is fun. Lots of people suggest it on here, and I always find myself nodding in agreement.

    I've done cocktail parties before, and they're usually pretty casual, but I make a kind of hobby out of searching for cocktail party recipes. Dips are fun. I usually like doing one that goes with something bready and one that goes better with veggies or fruit. There are lots of good recipes out there for hot olives, which are really nice. Also, the holidays require spiced nuts. The sweet spicy combinations are my favorite. They'd also be real easy to fire off one night this week and then keep until party time.

    And don't forget cookies!

    1. Melon Wrapped in Prosciutto
      Crostini topped with cubes of roasted butternut squash, sage, and jarlsberg
      Caramelized figs w/ blue cheese
      Endive leaves stuffed with herbed cheese and pimento
      Grilled cheese "petit-fours" w/ various bread and cheese combos
      Rice krispy cakes (I'm on a kick lately, especially the ones from TJ'S!!!)

      2 Replies
      1. re: Emme

        Thank you so much for all your great suggestions!! I have never done a ham before.... What is the cut that I would buy called? I like that idea alot! I also love the grilled cheese idea!

        1. re: gastronomy

          If you are able to get a ham, I notice in your bio that you're an Ina fan, and I use her mango chutney glaze all the time. It's not only delicious, but easy (blend garlic, mango chutney, Dijon, brown sugar, orange zest and orange juice). It's on page 119 of "The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook".

      2. Second the ham and mini biscuits. Festive, easy, and yummy.
        If you want to do a step up from pigs in blanket, do chicks in a blanket--chicken sausages in squares of puff pastry.
        TJ's little mushroom-cheese pastry apps are good.
        Spiced nuts or marcona almonds--scatter a few bowls around the room.
        Cookies or brownies or those little two-bite mini pecan tarts from WF. Put sweets out later, not at the beginning.
        Have plenty of sparkling water on hand in addition to drinks. Try to set up the drinks on the other side of the room away from the food, if you can, so people move around the room. Make sure you have wastebaskets near the food table and the drinks table to keep people out of the kitchen.

        1. If you want to serve something ooh la la, that looks really gourmet and fancy, and isn't hard to make, try a stuffed turkey breast roll (maybe 2 for the amount of people you are having). You can ask your butcher to bone and flatten the breast for you if you don't want to tackle it. There are quite a few suggestions for the stuffing, you can use a bread dressing and serve it hot with cranberry sauce, you can use a spinach pesto dressing and serve it room temperature with a mustard-mayo-red pepper sauce. The only difficult part is tying up the turkey breast, much easier if you have a 2nd person available to assist you.

          For Thanksgiving, I made gravlax, which is prepared with a side of salmon (you can do two). The Barefoot Contessa, Jacques Pepin and Julia Child all have easy recipes. The biggest detail here is timing, as it needs to sit in the fridge for a few days and marinate in seasoning. This is a very elegant dish served with marinated cucumber slices or capers.

          There are also hot hot d'oevres like pastry wrapped olives or homemade cheese straws, but you need to use the oven. Let me know if you need recipes.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Diane in Bexley

            I will be using the oven so please bring on the recipes! I have made Ina Gartens Cheese straws and am always pleased.... I have problems finding sides of salmon or turkey breast where I live.... Its to bad because the gravalax sounds so fantastic!
            Anyone have a good eggnog cocktail?

            1. re: gastronomy

              OKay so I have had a chance to think a little and for sure I would like to prepare the following:
              Different kinds of spiced nuts
              Baked brie in puff pastry with cranberries
              pigs in a blanket
              olives (would love recipes on hot olives)
              different stuffed pastrys (still thinking of stuffing combos)
              artichoke dip
              mini focaccia with different toppings
              if i make my pepper jelly I will put with cream cheese
              i love the ham idea but dont know what to buy
              Assorted homemade cookies, brownies etc.

              Shrimp cocktail
              chicken something

              What do you all think?

              1. re: gastronomy

                For the ham you would want to get a good spiral sliced ham. It makes it easy to pull off small pieces with a fork.

                You could marinate chunks of chicken breast in a teriyaki sauce, pan fry and serve with toothpicks. And I saw, as I was perusing my Deep fried turkey cookbook, a recipe for bacon wrapped garlic stuffed olives, that you deep fry. Sounds good to me!

          2. This is one of my favorite appetizers EVER. I make a chutney with sun dried tomatoes, caramelized onions, golden raisins, roasted red pepper, and optionally, currants. Serve this chutney with cambozola cheese, roasted garlic and toasted crostini. It's a wicked combination of flavors.

            1. Also, some sort of deviled eggs. They're pretty substantial. Maybe with smoked salmon and capers?

              1. I just got the December issue of Gourmet and they have some very interesting appetizer items in there.

                2 Replies
                1. re: WildSwede

                  Those olived sound reslly yummy! I dont know if I can fnd a spiral ham here... I will have to check into that. That chutney sounds delish- just cook everything down until chutney like? Thanks!

                  1. re: gastronomy

                    Yea, cook it down with water and olive oil until it's nice and melded. It's great with many other things too. Freeze small portions in ziplocs...

                2. We had a great open house for 90 last year - here were the things that were hits:
                  gravlax (I used the Samuelson recipe from Aquavit)
                  Country Ham (buy it spiral cut so you don't have to deal with carving) with mustards, mascapone and red pepper jelly mix, and biscuits (I tried many biscuit recipe's and ended up using Bisquit mix with buttermilk -I also added chives)
                  Slow roasted cumin shrimp with a yogurt dipping sauce (also really good with chopped chipolte pepper and mayo). I make a simple pastry and wrap around an olive and bake. Also spinach brownies were a hit as well. I'd be happy to post specific recipes if you are interested.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: pobo

                    ummm yes please!!!! I would love the country ham recipe, shrimp and olive please!

                  2. I read somewhere years ago that when you give a cocktail party you should also have lurking in the kitchen a big pot of something hearty and hot like soup or stew because some people will hang around forever and after a while everybody is going to want to eat something that doesn't come on a toothpick. I guess the trick would be keeping this a secret until the apres-party hour comes around.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Querencia

                      I once went to a cocktail party where the host made a fabulous pumpkin soup, If I remember correctly, she put it in a coffee urn and had mugs for people to serve themselves. There were no spoons--we drank the soup from the mugs, and it worked great.

                      1. re: brandygirl

                        That sounds great but I dont have enough mugs.... Do you think paper cups would work? Here are my 2 ideas..... a big pot of chili surrounded by all the fixin's or pumpkin soup- i would need a recipe though.... Cool idea!!!

                        1. re: gastronomy

                          Also do you think I can defrost and stuff puff pastry with fillings (im thinking a feta/onion combo) then freeze and bake the day of? Or should I bake first then freeze?

                    2. Here are two big favorites of mine, both of which always go over very well. Both are relatively easy (and you can prep them hours before). The 'wontons' are very hearty and filling. The olives taste terrific and people love them.

                      BAKED CHEDDAR OLIVES

                      2 cup grated Sharp cheddar
                      1 cup flour
                      1/4 t cayenne
                      4 T softened butter
                      40 small pimento-stuffed olives, drained and patted dry

                      - Preheat Oven to 400
                      - Stir 1st three ingredients together
                      - Work in softened butter to form dough
                      - Drop dollop of dough on wax paper and place olive in middle
                      - Flour hands and roll olive in between your palms to cover olive
                      - Place all olives on a cookie sheet
                      - Bake 15 minutes
                      - Serve warm

                      Note: prepared olives can be kept in the fridge 2-3 hours before serving. Bring them to room temp. before baking.

                      SAUSAGE WON TONS –

                      This is an appetizer I make often. It might sound odd, but these are extremely easy and people go nuts over them. They freeze well, also, so you can make quite a few and store some in the freezer to have on hand.

                      1 lb sweet italian sausage
                      1/2 cup grated monterey jack cheese
                      1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
                      1 4oz. can chopped green chilis
                      1/2 cup unchuncky salsa (I usually use PACE for these, just use a thicker salsa, not one that is watery)
                      Pre made won ton wrappers

                      - Remove the sausage from the casing and brown in a large skillet, breaking up into small pieces.
                      - Drain the fat from the pan and crumble the sausage with a fork even more, if need be
                      - Mix in the rest of the ingredients and simmer for about 5 minutes.
                      - Place one dollop of the mixture in the middle of a won ton wrap. Dab a bit of oil on each of the four corners of the wrap and bring all four corners to the center and press together to enclose the mixture.
                      - Repeat for as many servings as you want (This mixture can make anywhere from 30-50 depending on how full you make them) and place them on cookie sheets lined with foil, without them touching.
                      - Bake at 350 for ten minutes and serve (you can serve them with sour cream for dipping if you like)

                      11 Replies
                      1. re: Tom P

                        These both sound wonderful and I think I might try both- I have a question- Can I make the olives on thursday for Sat? I have to work Sat. so I wanted to get everything done ahead of time- would i bake then cool or put them in the fridge ready to bake? Do the wontons bake the same temp. and time from frozen?

                        1. re: gastronomy

                          You know, I have never made the olives that far in advance. I imagine they would work well frozen, but honestly, I am not sure...anyone? Ideas? (I'd sure give it a try, though – or make them Thursday and you might need to re-roll them just a bit before you bake them.)

                          The wontons might need to cook just a little bit longer if they start frozen (same temp for sure), but not too much. When the insides start to bubble out a little bit, you tend to know they are ready. They are just terrific. One note: the insides are very hot when they first come out! They can sit a minute or two and still be warm when served. Or just warn people they are hot, particularly if you serve them from a tray with napkins.

                        2. re: Tom P

                          I'm so excited! I've made those cheddar olives and they are great! Haven't thought of them for a long time. Thanks for the reminder!

                          1. re: scuzzo

                            Im so excited! :) This is my list so far:
                            Spiced nuts (diff. Verieties)
                            baked brie in puff pastry with cranberries
                            cheddar olives
                            artichoke dip
                            bacon and corn gougeres (epi)
                            either a station with ham, rolls and fixins or pulled pork, rolls and fixins (what do you all think)
                            maybe a hearty chili or pumpkin soup (still need recipes) would be placed with toppings and disposable cups that can hold hot
                            pigs in a blanket
                            sausage bites with dipping sauce
                            pepper jelly over cream cheese
                            feta and green onion little pastries (arabesque)
                            i would still like to find something using chicken
                            cakes, cookies etc.

                            What does everyone think?

                            1. re: gastronomy

                              Looks great, wish I could come! (grin)

                              Is there a recipe for the bacon and corn gourgeres? (Did I miss it above?)

                              Also, here is a slight twist on the cranberry brie dish that I love to make:

                              Warm Brie With Chipotle Cranberry-Currant Marmalade

                              Use canned chipotle peppers to make the pepper puree.

                              1 (13.2-ounce) Brie, about 5-inch diameter
                              3 cups fresh cranberries
                              1/3 cup dried currants
                              3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
                              1/3 cup water
                              1 to 3 teaspoons pureed chipotle peppers
                              1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
                              Tortilla chips, for serving

                              * With sawing motion, use sharp bread knife to remove top rind of Brie. Set aside. (Can be done days ahead and refrigerated, wrapped in plastic. Bring to room temperature before heating.)

                              * Place cranberries, currants, brown sugar, water, chipotle puree, cinnamon and dash salt in medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, uncovered, stirring often, until most berries have popped, about 8 minutes. Cool mixture to room temperature. (Can be made up to 1 week ahead and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before using.)

                              * Unwrap Brie; place on baking sheet lined with heavy-duty foil. Spread generous 1/3 cup marmalade over cut surface.

                              * Bake at 300 degrees just until Brie is soft and warm, not oozing, about 8 to12 minutes.

                              * Brie is best served warm, but also is good at room temperature. Use foil to transfer Brie to serving platter, then gently remove foil. Circle Brie with tortilla chips and side bowl of remaining marmalade with small spoon. Use spreader to spread cheese on chip, then put small dollop of marmalade on top.

                              1. re: Tom P

                                The recipe for the gourgeres is from epicrious.com- I got the recipe from another post- the link: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...
                                The compote sounds delish!

                                1. re: gastronomy

                                  I made these last week and they are FANTASTIC. easy, too! yum.

                              2. re: gastronomy

                                Looks like a nice selection. I think it is a good idea to make a dish with another protein though (you suggest chicken). It's important to diversify a bit, as most of your protein dishes are pork based (bacon gougeres, ham or pulled pork, sausage bites, pigs in a blanket) - I think it's wonderful, but not everyone is a pork lover, so it's nice to have another option. We're doing a Christmas Eve event along the same lines (i.e. cocktail style), and I hope to make Chicken Marbella with mini drumsticks/wings. That might be a possibility for you.

                                Good luck and have fun!

                                1. re: gastronomy

                                  Sounds good, but I'm not sure chili would be so good. Just a bit too heavy, IMO.

                                  Look at this thread, and check the very first recipe posted. It sounds like it might be a good thing for the chicken appetizer.


                                  1. re: danhole

                                    yea im nixin the chili- thanks! :) those drumettes sounds really good- also Littlegreenpea what is the chicken marblla recipe you use? Can they sit at room temp.? I was thinking along the lines of pecan crusted strips of chicken with dipping sauce.

                            2. I just remember at a party I had this caviar torte. Searched the web and this recipe sounds like a similar thing. It looked pretty spectacular...


                              1. Here's another rough idea...

                                Grill shrimp, put in the bottom of mini muffin cups, top with a thick cheesy polenta mixture, let set then invert so the shrimp is on top. This is just a rough base. Jazz it up with other flavors.

                                1. The last time I had a NYE's eve party, I served a completely do-ahead buffet, and it was a huge success. I was really happy with how it turned out, especially because I was able to celebrate and spend time with my guests instead of being in the kitchen.

                                  Make ahead meal for New Year's buffet

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: Rubee

                                    Rubee - I have a question about cold or room temp beef tenderloin. I love beef tenderloin and like you get great ones at Costco. I use a lot of butter on the outside when I cook mine. It is excellent out of the oven. But later, when cold, it has a lot of fat on it. How do you get cold beef tenderloin to look so pretty on a platter, the way I often see it at cocktail parties?

                                    1. re: Tom P

                                      I have a question about fried balls of rissoto- Sounds like a perfect finger food but how far in advanced can they be fried? Will they stay warm in an oven and sit on the table well? Do they tatse good at room temp. or is it more the kind of thing you have to eat right away?

                                      1. re: gastronomy

                                        Arancini are actually a great do-ahead appetizer. I fry them up and either keep them warm in the oven, or cook them a day ahead and re-heat them.

                                      2. re: Tom P

                                        I apologize for answering so late! I use the beef tenderloin from Costco too. I actually don't use butter on the outside, just a dry rub or an herb mixture. This is one of my favorite recipes (I serve it with sliced baguettes and a couple sauces instead of warm with the pepper relish).

                                        Herb and garlic-crusted beef tenderloin