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Holiday party appetizers only for 75 people

I am a novice cook, we've had many gatherings at our home, but I've never prepared food for this many. usually 40 people during a kids birthday party etc.

Now I am tasked with either preparing the food for an adults only party we are hosting or finding a caterer to help me.

Any help would be appreciated!! Thank you!!
What kind of apps would be best for an evening party and last, its a casual affair, with a cocktail bar :)

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  1. Toasted Crostini with Roasted Red Grapes & Feta Cheese - basically a baguette gets sliced into 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices on the bias and laid on a baking sheet; toasted golden then remove and set aside.

    While these toast, line another sided baking sheet with parchment or baking paper. Rinse seedless red grapes, drain well and place on baking sheet. Lightly drizzle with veg or grapeseed oil. Roast in 375F degree oven for 10-12 minutes, stirring grapes halfway through roasting. Remove from oven and set aside.

    Soften cream cheese to room temperature for spreadable consistency. Thinly spread the cream cheese on the crostini, spoon grapes over the top, sprinkle with freshly grated black pepper and sprinkle with crumbled feta. If there are any juices on the baking sheet from roasting the grapes, drizzle over the top of the assembled crostini. Chiffonade some basil leaves and scatter over the top.

    Blue cheese can be substituted. Or to make it easier for a crowd, you can toast the crostini and line them up on a serving platter. Soften a couple or three 8 oz bars of cream cheese then line a mold with plastic wrap and press the cream cheese into the mold. Refrigerate overnight. Turn the cheese onto platter with crostini, sprinkle with pepper, spoon grapes over the top and sprinkle with feta; provide a knife. Guests can serve themselves with small plates

    3 Replies
    1. re: Cherylptw

      Just as a suggestion. If you decide to go the crostini route, cutting on the bias is always a pretty presentation but it takes some time for a large crowd.

      If you're looking for a little shortcut, if your store has a bread slicer (most do but not all) - you can always hand the person behind the bakery a baguette and ask them to slice it for you. It won't be cut on the bias but you also wont have to slice 6 baguettes at home to make toasts. Huge time saver.

      1. re: thimes

        Agreed! That one of the reasons why I go to bakeries, because the ones that carry loaves of sandwich bread (i.e. panera) have a bread slicer.

        1. re: thimes

          Yes, that may be so but do the stores that pre-slice the bread allow the customer to indicate how thick to cut it? Every store bought loaf of French/baguette I ever saw already sliced was sliced too thin, which allows for breakage which would be waste with the appetizer I suggested. But it might work well with other appetizers.

      2. I would lean towards a caterer for two reasons- it frees you up to actually enjoy the party and refrigerator space/ prep space might be an issue for that much food.

        1. I'd start with some 'guidelines' in mind:
          1 Small 'finger foods' you can put on a little napkin.
          2 Room temperature or chilled not hot. No ingredients like mayo that could make some one ill.
          3 Not too greasy.
          4 Not too 'strange' looking.
          5 Lots easily available so they don't all sit down and eat the entree like starving labradors.
          6 Something that's dead easy to put lots together.
          7 Don't serve anything that someone could 'double dip' like 'chips and dip'
          Having narrowed down the options what's left?
          Some sort of small assorted cracker type things definitely. Creamed cheesy toppings with various things added like cucumber/chopped seafood. These 'stay put' on the cracker.
          Anything going on the crackers should have some sort of edible glue applied to the cracker first. Hummus is a good 'glue' to hold toppings like cheeses/veg slices/shrimp/mussels on. I had a delicious app on a cracker recently. All it was was best quality albacore tuna mixed into cream cheese with a little piece of gherkin and red bell pepper dice on top. So simple/inexpensive and east to put together.
          With that many people wandering around with a cracker in one hand and their drink in the other IMO you need to keep the apps very simple. This isn't the time to 'experiment'. Have fun and please report back afterwards.

          1. Mini quiche (from pie dough, puff pastry or phyllo cups) are easy and freeze well to make in advance [Swiss cheese and spinach, ham and cheddar, shrimp and green onion}. Sliced baguette rounds (get your grocery store to slice the baguettes), toasted or not, and topped with various things--rosemary mayo and super thinly sliced roast beef; brush of olive oil and garlic topped with prosciutto; tomato, roasted red pepper or pesto over goat cheese; smoked salmon over cream cheese with thinly sliced red onion.

            1. This is doable if you're smart about what you serve. With a little more feedback on what you're comfortable cooking or what type of foods you are thinking about I'm sure a lot of people can help you out.

              In general, the easiest path is to avoid a lot of very hands on items, things that each bite needs to be assembled by you. You can have one or two of these but everything else should be "self-assembly" by the eater.

              For example: you can do crostini as suggested already. There are two ways to do this - you have them all pre-assembled in the kitchen and pass them or put them out on a platter versus arranging a crostini "station" with toasts/crackers a few cheeses, some fruit jam, etc and let your guests assemble them.

              There are also a lot of appetizers that are easily assembled ahead, frozen, and then just reheated for the party - meatballs always come to mind but I know not everyone loves these at parties (I do).

              Give some direction on what you were thinking and I'm sure we can get you through it if you decide to cook yourself.

              1. if it's an evening party, that means dinner time. you need to offer 6-7 "pieces" per person. that means 450-525 pieces. typically, you'd offer 6-7 items, so roughly 75 of each thing. about an equal mix of hot and cold.

                this is not a task for the faint of heart to do solo; even when professional caterers entertain at home, they have help for this many people -- there is prepping, cooking, serving, clearing and cleaning.

                what kind of space is this? an open floorplan with plenty of flow? or an older home with tiny rooms? is it temperate enough that people might be outside? (30 degrees in my hood today!)

                what kind of capacity do you have for oven, stove, fridge?

                can you hire some high-school or college kids to pass trays of hors' d'oeuvres and also to pass through taking soiled napkins and empty glassware? you will need somebody refreshing serving displays and keeping that all clean and appealing.

                if space permits you may also want to consider some sort of ham or roast (several obvz) as a centerpiece. this will cut down considerably on the number of individual pieces you should provide.

                i strongly suggest calling some local caterers for quotes and ideas. especially if you want to spend any time at all enjoying your guests.

                1 Reply
                1. re: hotoynoodle

                  I strongly agree you need significant help.
                  Another option is to check with your local whole foods, they offer a wide variety of choices. Your local upscale/gourmet markets may also have this option. You could prepare a portion of apps (cruidite and dips, antipastos, etc) and order more intricate labor intensive apps

                2. Try easy stuff, dips, cut veggies, crackers, a few wedges of imported cheeses, dried fruits, mixed nuts, imported cold cuts, shrimp cocktail. Add some hot stuff where the oven will do the work, crustini with fresh tomatoes and herbs baked, make tiny pork and beef meatballs, roasted chic wings, beef tenderloin sliced real thin.

                  1. Easy, and ALWAYS popular is shrimp with cocktail sauce, and as a secondary sauce a salsa verde.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: letsindulge

                      For 70 people, that would be quite an expense!

                      1. re: chowser

                        About $36 for five pounds of 26/30's. Worth it's price in ease of preparation, and likeability. The platter can be passed, rather then left for people to help themselves for better portion control.

                    2. Can you do the cold/room temperature appetizers and then have the hot appetizers brought in, either from a caterer or a restaurant? Start w/ a base of crostini, endive leaves, cucumber, frico, empty deviled eggs. Have toppings like chicken pear salad, salmon mousse, deviled egg yolk fillings, goat cheese w/ chopped dates, etc. Keep the toppings in zip lock bags and snip the corner to fill. Mix and match whatever goes best.

                        1. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...
                          I love this mushroom pate, it serves a huge crowd. It is a bit time consuming but it can all be done ahead of time. Serve it with baguette.
                          Crudite and chips with dip
                          Mini grilled cheese sandwiches
                          Spicy Cheddar shortbread cookie
                          Guacamole filled tortilla mini cups
                          Mary vickers-decadent hot cheesy toasts
                          Phyllo triangles
                          Artichoke dip
                          Mix high/low
                          Buy some from costco, make some and accept anyone's offer to bring anything
                          You can always order pizza for the after party.

                          1. Home made gravlax is an elegant, celebratory appetizer. Ease of preparation with inexpensive ingredients that will WOW your guest. Serve with a whipped dill butter, and pumpernickel slices.

                            1. For 75 people and a cocktail party, I'd go with a caterer and a bartender. The logistics of preparing about 500 individual cocktail pieces, storing them until the meal is ready, and serving them appropriately is complicated enough that I'm not sure it would be possible to do well, even if the hosts spent the whole time in the kitchen (and even then, you'd have no-one to greet the guests).

                              If you have a gigantic kitchen with multiple fridges, helpers, and are willing to spend the whole time (and a day or two previous) in the kitchen you could do things like...

                              - tomato and cheese skewers

                              - chilled whole shrimp skewers drizzled with garlic lime sauce

                              - marinated olives, with toothpicks

                              - whole marinated button mushrooms, with toothpicks

                              - hardboiled eggs

                              - melon or dates wrapped with prosciutto

                              For even more causal/messy

                              - do big batches of nachos and serve with homemade salsa and guacamole. (spread tortilla chips on baking sheets, top with grated cheese, sliced pickled japapenos, chopped green onion, etc, bake until the cheese is melted).

                              - baked chicken wings. Bake until they are almost done, spread with the sauce (BBQ, hot sauce, honey lime, etc) in the last few minutes of cooking.

                              - a crock pot or two full of meatballs in sauce.

                              - veggies and dip

                              - chips and dip.

                              As an aside - I tend to avoid things like crostini for large parties. It's too much work during the party, and if you make them far enough in advance they get soggy.

                              1. Call a caterer. You yourself say you're a novice cook, and since you obviously want something with some flair (vs opening many bags of chips) it's going to be too much.

                                I was in charge of day-of ops for my sister's block party, serving around 100 people. I mistakenly thought a taco bar plus desserts would make things easy peasy. Oh, I was so, so wrong. We spent three days prepping and my sister and I finished cooking that morning, but the service was a nightmare. People are vultures!!

                                Next year, we're catering almost all of it..

                                1. Gougeres if you go for apps and caterer. Do you have a Costco membership? That's probably the only way I'd do apps by myself.

                                  1. I definitely agree a Costco membership will make your life easier for this. For a party of this size the $55 is well worth it. I host a few parties a year 50-100 people, heavy apps. It is possible just think creatively. You didn't post a budget, but if you can afford catering for 75 people, this is definitely doable. I am usually able to do one big trip to Coscto, a regular grocer and a specialty grocer (like a nice deli).
                                    I don't have a giant fridge or huge prep space. Think ziplock baggies and coolers to hold prepped food and platters (silver or porcelain) to present it. (new ones @ TJmaxx/marshalls, used ones from thrift stores, plastic ones from Sams Club)
                                    Most of the stuff you have pre-packed in ziplocks, If your fridge is emptied out before this party have everything labelled and put like items together. When your friends ask if they can help - designate 2-3 people to help replenish a particular tray. It's as simple as emptying a ziplock on to the platter after they wash their hands. Takes 1 minute and doesn't require having hired help.

                                    Shrimp cocktail - 2lb bags cooked,froz shrimp from Costco - Med/Lrg/Jumbo pick whats in your budget, 3bags. Lemon wedges and cocktail sauce (1 regular 1 spicy)

                                    Cheese platters - two wheels brie, wedges of other cheese or chevres of goat cheese - you pick whatever looks interesting. 2 packs of the Carrs water crackers (variety packs) Pears (sliced). Apples (sliced). Grapes (red and green). Strawberries (hulled/halved or whole).

                                    Veggie Tray - baby carrots, broccoli florets, cauliflower florets, celery (baton cut), zucchini (baton cut), grape tomatoes. Canned chickpeas (rinsed). Canned black olives (rinsed). Cucumbers (sliced, peeled is optional). Radishes (sliced). Arranged on platter with contrasting colors, a few sour cream based dips around (use sourdough bread bowls for nicer presentation) If you have a way of keeping it warm (like a fondue pot that uses sterno) find a hot veg dip (i use a anchovy/heavy cream).
                                    Cheese - 1 big block of cheddar and monterrey jack (cubed)

                                    Charcuterie - 2lb nice salami (or cheap), 1lb proscuitto, 1lb capacola. 1lb soppresata (all sliced thin and rolled) Serve on a platter with a nice dijon mustard in a bowl in the middle, a dish of cornichons on the side as well.

                                    Cured olive tray - assorted cured olives on tray - kalmatta, large spanish green and what ever other ones look good- I'd get about 3lbs worth. Roasted red peppers and marinated artichoke hearts as well (get the glass jars of them from Costco).

                                    A tenderloin or two - pork is $20ea, beef is $60-90ea - seasoned and roasted off (probably an Ina Garten recipe out there), sliced thin and served @ room temp with some sauces. Pork - an apple chutney or a pesto. Beef - a horseradish cream or jus

                                    If that seems too much - roast beef from a deli, 3-4lbs of a very nice one sliced thin. A dairy base (sour cream, creme fraiche, cream that has been whipped - you pick) with horseradish/pepper/dill/salt.

                                    Lots of good fresh bread arrange around in baskets. Good butter.

                                    Not everything goes out at once. Put 1/3 of all quantities out to start. replenish so trays look fresh. Hit a cheap produce market and pick a green leafy (kale?) to be your garnish under the food for the platters.
                                    Add a chopped green salad and a pasta salad (vinagraette not mayo based) to round it out.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: ncghettogourmet

                                      That looks like excellent advice. If you stick with high-quality versions of these items, it will be impressive. I would add sliced baguette rounds to the tenderloin presentation.

                                      Make sure the bread is good; people remember good bread.

                                      And NO tired, old crudités; make sure they are fresh and interesting.

                                      Obviously, no cheap processed cheese slices/cubes on the cheese presentation.

                                      Also, I would add some sort of sweet. Maybe even just cookies from a high-end bakery, or some good chocolate truffles. Don't get anything too fussy here, because it will be too hard to store and serve.