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Christmas Eve appetizers - suggestions on menu?

I host Christmas Eve for my family. it's the one holiday I get, and I love it! The general idea is several hours of appetizers (our favorite course) while we're playing games, then sit down at the table to a bit of French Onion soup and Christmas cookies.

For the appetizers, I like to get as close to the "seven fishes" concept as is practical as an homage to my ancestry, although not iron clad. There will be 15 or so people this year, ranging from age 8 to AARP eligible. As much as can be done ahead of time is better! We have some tried-and-true favorites, but I'm always looking for new twists.

I'd prefer everything to be gluten free (so my celiac niece doesn't feel 'special' in a bad way), and so that once I degluten my kitchen work space, I don't need to worry about cross-contamination. I've used firm polenta, corn chips, apple/pear slices, gluten free crackers as "vessels".

Must haves:
Potato nests with creme fraiche and smoked salmon (my sister's favorite)
Crab cakes (using gluten free waffles as the bread crumbs, my nephew's favorite)

Other concepts:
Tuna - some kind of ceviche? Tried it before but definite use error.. it was too oily
Scallops - I've typically done seared scallops on parmesan cheese crackers, which folks love, but a different twist would be nice
Shrimp - Maybe a shrimp avocado salad in Chinese spoons (just got these cool Chinese spoons -- have to use them!)
Shrimp/scallop pate
Baccala salad - traditional Italian, but how to serve?
Potato pancakes with sour cream and caviar - too hard to make ahead? I don't like caviar myself, but it's another fish...
Something with prosciutto/salami - definitely need to have something along this lines :)

I open it to the Chow community... I love reading these boards, and you always give me new ideas! Thanks :)

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  1. why not make tuna tartare with avocado and put that in the chinese spoons?

    scallops: do you make them a la minute, at the party? i love them raw, sashimi style, just with a squeeze of tangerine or yuzu juice over them. maybe some togarashi pepper. depends if you can get super fresh scallops though. seared are also nice over a celery root or parsnip puree. what about retro angels on horseback?

    shrimp, chilled with sambal/mayo for dipping, or butter-poached over steamed watercress. or a greek-style salad of shrimp, olives, parsley and feta.

    what about another smoked fish for the pate, instead of repeating shrimp/scallop? (also seems a waste to turn the glory of scallops into pate.) smoked bluefish or smoked trout, or cured mackerel make great pate. that can be served on black bread rounds or cuke rounds.

    smoked oysters in butter lettuce leaves

    baccala salad on endive leaves.

    what about a side of poached salmon with dill?

    potato pancakes really are best made to order. they only hold for a few minutes, so that's your call. blini hold better and are traditional with caviar. i have had amazing potato pizza topped with creme fraiche and caviar.

    some kind of fish chowder or bisque if you have a crock pot.

    mussels with red sauce or white wine and garlic, with fennel and crostini

    fresh spring rolls with rice noodles, mint and lobster bits

    there are many fans of lobster mac and cheese

    you could also do a seafood lasagne with a white sauce, cut into small pieces for serving. that will hold well at a low temp.

    deviled eggs with flying fish roe (or better still, wasabi fish roe)

    roasted asparagus spears wrapped with prosciutto.

    i think i a cured meats tray, with some pickled or fresh veg would be a good balance here too.

    1 Reply
    1. re: hotoynoodle

      I wonder if I could do the blini with GF BIsquick. I don't know if I will have the time to mess with the mix of GF flours that you need to replace AP. How long ahead would you make regular blini?

      And yes, we usually cook the scallops during the party. My niece is a great cook, and will man that station. The apps come out at different times, so it's really a grazing fest!

    2. We'll be starting with potted shrimps which will fit with the entirely "traditional British" style of the meal.

      1. A sliced, seared fillet of beef?
        Tiger prawns marinated in olive oil, grated ginger & garlic, lemon juice, deseeded mild chopped chilli & chopped fresh coriander then skewered & griddled.
        Thai fish cakes?
        Some form of fish & prawn hush puppies?
        Blinis with topped with wild smoked salmon, creme fraiche & caviar/lump fish roe?
        Tiny meatballs (a good recipe) on skewers with a tomato sauce dip?
        Mini fritattas with your choice of fillings?
        Crab or prawn mixed with a mild mustard mayo & chunks of avocado on top then wrapped in lettuce leaves?
        Bubble & squeak cakes? (left over roast potatoes, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, parsnips etc chopped & mixed with mashed potatoes. Make into little patties & fry until very well browned on each side. You could make ahead & bake in oven. MUST have sprouts in!!!)

        1 Reply
        1. re: psycho_fluff

          I do love the meatballs idea. And I've always wanted to do little filet/horseradish bruschetta. But that might be too much "meat" for the Christmas Eve thing. Maybe I'll have to have a New Year's Day party...

          Thai fish cakes? Tell me more!! Same with fish and prawn hush puppies (fried? Would they need to be done last minute?)

          Tried the frittatas before, but while it gets inhaled at brunch, didn't go over well as an appetizer. Go figure!

        2. We always serve salami and provolone on Christmas Day, along with our traditional antipasto platter (roasted peppers, artichoke hearts, olives, capers and anchovies). Christmas Eve Feast of the Fishes, just the platter, no meat.

          I'm also doing fried crab balls, plus shrimp cocktail and lobster salad baked in artichoke bottoms. Then I'm being lazy and putting out some fig tapenade I had made and froze, plus some artichoke pesto and a chipotle pesto, which are not home made...lately I love putting out dips like this since there's already plenty of Italian bread. I'm getting lazy in my old age! The one new thing this year is the Bacon Bourbon spread I found here, for Christmas Day of course (we're all old enough to remember the old rules on Days of Holy Obligation!) you cook bacon, onions, bourbon, coffee, brown sugar and I don't remember what else in a crock pot til it cooks down into a spread. I'll let you know if it's a keeper!

          2 Replies
          1. re: coll

            Lobster salad in artichoke bottoms? Yum! Do you make your artichoke bottoms or use canned?

            1. re: ChiGal1962

              Canned, I get them at an Italian specialty store. I try to keep a few in the pantry at all times. Anything is great in them, just top with a bit of cheese and bake a little.

          2. Not a fish but GF is polenta rounds fried in butter and topped with a sauteed mushroom melange.bound with some tomato paste and soy sauce.