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May 16, 2012 06:09 AM

Appetizers for a Memorial Day BBQ for a crowd


My family is hosting a Memorial Day party for a large amount of people (mostly work friends). I've asked that people bring their favorite dish if they like so the main course, sides and dessert I'm not worried about. I need some ideas for appetizers - I would like as little to do as possible on the day of the BBQ, so I am hoping that I can get some help with some make ahead things.

Any/all help and suggestions are much appreciated!


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  1. When you have a ton of people, little things that must be made individually become a huge hassle. I would focus on things that can be made as one large thing, then cut into smaller pieces. What type of food will be served, generally speaking? I probably wouldn't do caviar if the main course is dogs and burgers!

    5 Replies
    1. re: biondanonima

      We're doing BBQ, tri-tip, chicken, ribs, chili, burgers and hotdogs. I'm 100% with you on making one large thing and cutting it into smaller portions. Any suggestions?

      It's a very casual party, we live on the water so people will be in and out of the water.

      Thanks for your response!!

      1. re: AMM2008

        If you're not averse to turning on your oven that day, I'd suggest a large pan of clams - they always are the first to disappear at my parties. Buy one of those extra large foil roasting pans with a lid, add white wine, garlic, lemon and parsley, a ton of clams (personally I prefer the littlenecks as they're so sweet) and pop them in the oven for 20 minutes or so - serve with Italian bread - you can do garlic bread if you're so inclined, but if you don't want to be bothered just cut the loaves into pieces for dipping into the clam broth.

        1. re: AMM2008

          pizzas, cut into small squares; pinwheels (wraps, spread with a mixture of cream cheese and chopped veggies), focaccia (or bruchetta) with toppings...

          1. re: wyogal

            Ditto on the pizza or other variation on crust with topping cut into squares - very easy and always a hit. I make a sort of retro veggie-pizza by rolling out a can of crescent roll dough onto a sheet pan, baking it, then topping with a mixture of cream cheese, mayo and ranch salad dressing mix. I then finely chop raw carrots, cauliflower and broccoli in the food processor and spread the "confetti" over the cheese mixture, then top with shredded cheddar. Serve cold. Always a hit.

            Shrimp cocktail is easy and popular, served with a variety of dips. A large frittata, cut into small squares, can be served warm or cold. A crockpot full of some type of soup or chili, with small shotglasses for serving? A big hash brown pancake, cut into small squares and topped with a little sour cream or something? Twice baked potato halves or filled potato skins?

            1. re: biondanonima

              In the same vein...I had the most delicious flatbread today at a local restaurant. It was so good, I've decided to make it for my Memorial Day BBQ. Grilled flatbread with bacon, grape tomatoes, five cheeses and then a bunch of chopped fresh spinach on top. The menu description mentioned artichoke hearts, but I couldn't detect any so if they were present they were very small pieces. At any rate, it was lovely and fresh. (I took some home and just ate it cold to soak up some alcohol and it was still delicious.)

              Here's a pic I found on urbanspoon:

      2. If it's a casual bar-b-q, then maybe just chips (variety: potato, corn, flour, pita), dips (salsas, creamy, hummus), and a variety of fresh vegetables usually works for us. Is this a grilling event, or a pot luck picnic?

        2 Replies
        1. re: wyogal

          Wyogal - Yes, I was planning on making those dips you mentioned and a few different kind of salsa's but want to put out something hot or more substantial.

          It's a BBQ, but on the invite, I gave the option of bring a favorite dish for the sides or dessert table or for the BBQ, so I'm not sure what people are bringing.


          1. re: AMM2008

            While it's individual, it won't be much more than making dips. Crostini. You can probably get your local bakery to cut the bread for you in their slicing machines. Maybe shredded chicken tossed in a sesame vinaigrette. Caponata. Ricotta cheese with honey or aged balsamic drizzled on top.

        2. Make your favorite tuna salad (or crab or chicken or a variety of salads) and fill cooked jumbo pasta shells. Serve cold on platters on a bed of shredded lettuce.

          Better if made ahead and refrigerated overnight.

          1. I make a 7 layer dip that everyone loves.
            Refried beans or black beans, taco meat, sour cream, lettuce, tomatos, black olives, quacamole.
            Grilled kilbasa served with a variety of mustards. (can be smoked sausages, brats, hot links, etc.)
            Baby Hot Pockets, are easy and can be made ahead....I put chicken, cheese and BBQ sauce. (kids love these) If you use premade frozen biscuits or rolls it's quick and easy.

            1. I love grilled artichokes for bbqs. You clean and steam/boil them the night before. Then just half them....season with salt & pepper and whatever herb mixture you like....and throw them on the grill.
              They're done quickly....and I serve them with a couple of different dipping sauces. Usually a chipotle mayo and a mustard sauce. I get lots of requests......