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Help with a holiday cocktail party!

So the man and I are having about 20 people over next weekend for a holiday gathering and I need some suggestions for the food. We don't want to do dinner since we don't really have room for everyone to sit but need to find some appetizers and desserts that can be munched on with drinks. What are your suggestions and favorite recipes?
Thank you!

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  1. Do you want things that are finger food/canapes or more sort of buffet things?

    Either way, I think grav lax is lovely to have, particularly this time of year, and has the bonus of needing to be made ahead of time. I've posted the recipe I use here somewhere, and am happy to find it if you are interested.

    1. You might consider only one thing that needs to be served hot, right out of the oven--otherwise, you'll be spending a lot of time in the kitchen and not with your friends. Pull that one, initial pan out of the oven, when it's gone, it's gone, and the rest of the nibbles can be warm or room temp.

      1. A Manchego cheese wedge with a shallot cherry confit, served with baguette rounds
        Hummus dip with pita chips and sliced fresh veggies
        Warmed green olives with cumin seeds and orange peel
        spiced nuts like cashews and rosemary walnuts
        warm shrimp cocktail with orange basil dipping sauce
        spicy samosa wontons
        side of poached salmon with accoutrements ( or beef tenderloin or a smoked ham)
        spicy Thai avocado soup shots
        mini Yorkshire puddings with seared flat iron steak & horseradish creme fraiche
        foie gras pate with fig jam on brioche toasts

        Any of these will work together in a buffet / passed h-d situation, depending on how much you want to do ahead, and make at the time of the party. Let me know if you're interested in any of the above & I can provide you with the recipes.

        Good luck!

        6 Replies
        1. re: Phurstluv

          Oooh, I'd love a recipe for the mini Yorkshire puddings! I am assuming the foie gras is...just foie gras?

          1. re: E_M

            Yes, the foie gras I used for that app for a party last summer was a pate that I ordered from Dean & DeLuca. All I had to do was unwrap it. It was delectable.

            The mini yorkshire puddings comes from Chef Govind Armstrong, a local LA chef, and his book is "Small Bites, Big Nights".

            Mini Yorkshire Pudding
            1 ½ cups all purpose flour
            ½ tsp salt
            1 ½ cups whole milk
            3 large eggs, beaten
            4 tbsp canola oil

            Preheat the oven to 400.
            To make the Yorkshire pudding: mix the flour and salt together in a medium bowl, then gradually add the milk, stirring until smooth. Add the eggs, and incorporate thoroughly. Allow the mixture to rest for about 20 minutes in the refrigerator.

            Pour a thin layer of the canola oil in the bottom of a mini 2 inch muffin tin and place in oven until really, really hot. Pour in the pudding mixture about a fourth of the way (it will puff up) in the muffin cups and bake in the hot oven for about 20 minutes, or there’s no uncooked batter and it’s golden brown.

            1. re: Phurstluv

              :: wiping drool off the keyboard ::

              Will I find the seared steak and horseradish creme fraiche there too?

              1. re: E_M

                I can send it to you right now. Here's the whole recipe, it was wonderful!

                Seared Beef Filet on Mini Yorkshire Pudding / Horseradish Cream

                Serves 8

                Mini Yorkshire Pudding
                1 ½ cups all purpose flour
                ½ tsp salt
                1 ½ cups whole milk
                3 large eggs, beaten
                4 tbsp canola oil

                2 tbsp prepared horseradish
                ½ cup heavy cream, whipped to semi-stiff peaks

                Salt and cracked black pepper to taste
                1 tsp canola oil
                10 oz flat iron steak
                ½ bunch chives, chopped

                Preheat the oven to 400.
                To make the Yorkshire pudding: mix the flour and salt together in a medium bowl, then gradually add the milk, stirring until smooth. Add the eggs, and incorporate thoroughly. Allow the mixture to rest for about 20 minutes in the refrigerator.

                Pour a thin layer of the canola oil in the bottom of a mini 2 inch muffin tin and place in oven until really, really hot. Pour in the pudding mixture about a fourth of the way (it will puff up) in the muffin cups and bake in the hot oven for about 20 minutes, or there’s no uncooked batter and it’s golden brown.

                Fold in the horseradish to the cream and season to taste with salt and pepper.

                Heat a sauté pan over high heat. Add the grapeseed oil. Season the beef with salt and pepper and sear the beef to medium rare, or about 3 minutes on both sides. Allow the steak to rest on cutting board for 10 minutes, then slice into bite-size pieces.

                Lay out the Yorkshire pudding, place slices of beef on top, add a dollop of the horseradish cream and garnish with chopped chives.

              2. re: Phurstluv

                Oooooh, this is a very good idea. Have you ever tried doubling the recipe? Have you ever tried it in the teeny muffin tins (I think they are smaller than 2 inches, or not?). I'd like them to be really small. Any further advice? Thanks so much.

                1. re: waver

                  I did double it since it was for a party of 15. It worked fine. I used mini muffin tins, don't know if they measured 2" or not, but they cooked in about the time he states. If you use something smaller, I would cut down on the time, since they will dry out if overcooked.

                  As far as the steak goes, if you are using the tiny muffin tins, just be aware you will need to cut up the slices of steak very, very small, and it may not be as pretty. You can probably get away without two steaks, since you will have a lot of scraps, after cutting them so small. Good luck.

          2. Here's a frustrating answer: it depends. Elegant or casual? Plates or napkins? Standing up or plates on laps? Enough to make a meal, or just little tidbits? Kids?

            2 Replies
            1. re: Tatania

              Thanks for the suggestions so far! As far as more clarity there will be no kids, most people will probably be standing up so we are thinking more along the lines of finger foods, we have small plates and napkins and we are somewhere in between upscale and casual. Thanks! I would love some more ideas of things that I can prepare ahead so I am not in the kitchen all night!

              1. re: lmuller

                Ah, ok. So I can throw some ideas into the mix:
                -Mini spanikopita (make ahead, flash freeze, reheat from frozen)
                -Assorted great stuff on crostini - goat cheese & olives, caramelized onion & mozz, etc (assemble ahead of time and warm at party)
                -Room temp chicken or beef satay w/peanut dip
                -Shumai w/dipping sauce
                -Crudites
                -Cookies, cake & fruit

            2. What about a beef tenderloin or ham that you prepare ahead of time. You could slice it, arrange it on a platter, and have a basket of mini catering rolls along with some interesting spreads (gourmet mustards, horseradish sauce, etc.) on hand.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Whinerdiner

                We're going to try a roast this year. Slice it, provide small buns, horseradish etc AND the mini yorkshire puddings above. Last year we did something similar with pulled pork (except we used turkey), coleslaw and buns and it went over well.

                1. re: waver

                  Those mini yorkshire puddings sound terrific. Definitely printing that recipe.