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Large cocktail party with heavy Hors d'oeuvres


I am anticipating approximately 50-60 guests for cocktail party in my home for a 50th birthday. I'm thinking everything can be prepared ahead of time and served room temp. All foods are meant to be eaten without a fork. My menu ideas are:
--Thinly sliced beef tenderloin on small rolls (I bought a whole tenderloin from Kroger and plan on roasting it myself a day ahead), served with a horseradish sauce. I'll have the guests prepare their own at the buffet table.
-- wondering if there's enough meat (don't want to spend more money on another beef tenderloin). What about pork loin (not tenderloin) sliders? Would they be easy to eat? Or should it be a pork tenderloin vs loin roast.
--deviled eggs
--smoked salmon (from Costco) on those little pumpernickel squares that one finds in the grocery store, served with creme fraiche. Again, allowing guests to assemble their own.
-- shrimp cocktail (I'm wondering if this might be too expensive given the amount of guests.
--vegetable crudités with various store bought dressings or dips
--cheese platter with crackers
--hummus and spinach-artichoke dip and pita chips (all from Costco)

Here's my question: I don't know how much of the above I need to prepare, and whether I should modify my menu. I don't want to overdo it, but I also don't want to run out of food!

Thoughts? Suggestions?


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  1. This all sounds yummy. I might instead of a pork tenderloin or loin roast do pulled pork - you can use a cheaper cut, do it in a crockpot all day and just shred and sauce.

    The only thing I would be wary of with your plan is having people assemble things at the buffet table. Seems like a way to create quite a traffic jam. If you have the space, I might set food out in a few places - the build your own sliders in one area, the cheese & crackers in another, the things with dips in another. I would get very frustrated if I had to stand behind people building themselves little sandwiches!

    I myself wouldn't do shrimp because I'm not a shrimp eater, but it is expensive AND you're left with all those little tails on your plate. I prefer cocktail food that leaves me with a clean enough plate to go back for more. Having shrimp tails or bones from chicken wings etc. just makes me want to hunt for a garbage can!

    Good luck!

    1. I would still consider some type of seafood if you delete the shrimp (which would be expensive for that many people). What about a crab & shrimp cream cheese spread. Serve with crackers. And a clam/cream cheese spread is also very good. Both would go a long way and are delicious.

      I would also consider swedish meatballs - I make them every year for Christmas Eve and people love them. Also easy and go a long way.

      Make a lot of the vegetable crudites - you definitely need vegies in the menu. And I'll probably get bashed for this - but the Knorr vegetable soup mix spinach dip is great. Everyone loves it - another favorite of my family. It's much better than anything you can buy at Costco or anywhere else and very easy. Recipe on back of the package. Perfect for the vegies.

      9 Replies
      1. re: Jeanne

        Thanks Jeanne! Do you have an easy recipe for the swedish meatballs? i.e.: maybe using frozen? I can't imagine hand rolling a hundred meatballs!

        1. re: Yankeegirl28

          Costco has Italian style meatballs in a big bag that are just fine. Put them in a big crock with marinara or Ragu and have little Italian rolls along side. I do this routinely for big gatherings. Always a big hit.

          1. re: Yankeegirl28

            Yankeegirl28 - my "recipe" is one I made up years ago - will write it down and then post it here. I do it by instinct and habit. Something I came up with when I was a poor post-graduate and have been making them ever since. Don't see anything wrong with toothpicks - and no I wouldn't use frozen meatballs - but that's me.

            1. re: Yankeegirl28

              I have always used pre-frozen meatballs and if you put your energy into the sauce nobody will much notice if the meatballs aren't hand-rolled sirloin. You can do a curry sauce, or sweet-and-sour, or barbecue, or ?

            2. re: Jeanne

              I love Swedish meatballs, but then you are either using toothpicks or forks...

              1. re: Jerseygirl111

                you could use thin pretzel sticks in place of the toothpicks.

                1. re: Vidute

                  Great idea! No toothpicks in the carpet.

                2. re: Jerseygirl111

                  Toothpicks are fine. Just trying to avoid forks!

                  1. re: Yankeegirl28

                    Yankeegirl - below is the "recipe". I apologize for the disorganization of the recipe - I've been making these for over 25 years and as I've said this is something I came up with and have never tried to write it down. Not at all gourmet - but very good.

                    Swedish Meatballs

                    4-5 lbs ground chuck
                    6 eggs
                    1 smaller package (12 oz?) Peppridge Farms bread stuffing mix – mix until texture is correct – stop at ½ bag and go from there if necessary
                    12 oz fresh crimini mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
                    About 2 tsp salt and 1 – ½ pepper
                    3 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
                    1 large chopped onion
                    3 cloves chopped garlic

                    4 heaping tablespoons all purpose flour
                    2 cups water
                    4 cans beef broth
                    At least 16 oz sour cream (I sometimes put in 2 16 oz containers) – to taste

                    Mix all meatball ingredients well. If the mixture is too soft/moist, add more stuffing. Roll into 1 -1/4 inch balls, place on cookie sheet. Bake in 375 oven until slightly brown – about 15-20 minutes. Remove to paper towels to drain. Can be baked ahead and frozen. Thaw to continue.

                    To make sauce;
                    Combine flour – adding water a little at a time until all is added – making a flour slurry. Mix well to make sure it is mixed without lumps. Heat beef broth in dutch oven, add slurry a little at a time, mixing constantly with a wire wisk. When it has reached the desired consistency, cook on low a few minutes and then add sour cream – again to taste.

                    Put meatballs in a crockpot and add sauce. Cook on high for 4 hours. Turn to low – can cook for 4 more hours or overnight. (I usually set them on in the evening and cook overnight. I normally set them in a crockpot I have that will change from high to warm when set correctly). Serve warm.

              2. It all sounds great.

                I think I'd do pulled pork rather than loin sliders. Easier to serve and tastier.

                You are right , I think, about the cost of shrimp. But it is fast and easy.

                Devilled eggs are a whole lot of work if you are making them yourself. A whole lot of work.

                1. Do you have a slicer for the tenderloin or are you cutting by hand?

                  Mini quiches are always a hit if you decide to trade off the deviled eggs. They are fine at room temp and hearty for people. Can buy frozen or make a day or two ahead.

                  Also are you running the kitchen/serving, etc? If finances permit, think about hiring a girl for the night to help out. It would give you more time to enjoy your guests.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Jerseygirl111

                    Slicing by hand:( most of my prep will be done the day before. I should be able to slice the meat in the afternoon before the party.

                    1. re: Yankeegirl28

                      How many sandwiches do you think you will end up making?

                      1. re: Jerseygirl111

                        Jerseygirl: I saw a recipe on Realsimple.com for beef tenderloin cocktail sandwiches, where you put sliced tenderloin on of those big, long baguettes and slice into one inch slices. I'll probably do about 60 - 80 of those sandwiches. And then probably 30 pork loin sliders, cut in half to make 60. I can cook and slice the meat the day before and then assemble them a couple of hours before the guests arrive. I have a fried or two to help with prep work. and I have a bartender. I have a college age daughter who can help (trying to get a friend of hers as well)!

                        1. re: Yankeegirl28

                          I think you are not really wanting hors d'oeuvre, but just party food. That opens a whole host of ideas!! Loaded baby red potato skins, wings, Tostito cups with salsa and sour cream, etc. The sky's the limit, really. I think of food at a cocktail party differently than at just a gathering with drinks and apps. To me, if you assemble a submarine sandwich and cut it into small sandwiches, this isn't hors d'ouvre, it's party food. Which is great and serves the purpose, but just... different from delicate foods served with cocktails. If you are going to have wine, too, then really, it's just a party with alcohol and food and you don't have to worry about constraining yourself with any particular pre-conceived ideas. No matter what, as long as you are a good host, everyone should have fun, which is the objective. Good luck!

                  2. I think your ideas are delicious.

                    Maybe a torta espanola or a frittata or mini quiches would be good for eating out-of-hand, esp the last two, and much easier than deviled eggs.

                    Also agree that cocktail shrimp for 60 or so guests would be too $$$.How about some oldies but goodies (the Swedish meatball suggestion put me in the mindset).

                    Devils on horseback?
                    Pigs in blankets?

                    And dishes of nuts and olives everywhere.

                    1. I really think you need a friend/relative/someone helping during the party to help refill dishes, clear out dirty ones, fill drinks etc....
                      I agree with others that many deviled eggs is a serious PITA and the shrimp will be $$.
                      Mini frittatas made in a muffin pan are easy (and cheap!)
                      A savory spicy popcorn and nuts mix
                      Flatbread pizzas are easy and popular, with endless topping options, just cut onto small squares

                      1. I love the deviled egg idea. If you boil the eggs & removed the yolks the day before (keep the whites wrapped in the fridge until the day of serving), it won't take long to put them in a mixer with the mayo, etc. and beat them then spoon the mix in a piping bag or zip top bag with the corner snipped off. You can then fill them easily and keep the bag in the fridge ready to refill more when you need it. Personally, I would prefer this to a cold quiche/frittata/egg torta which I don't find appealing in the least un-heated.

                        I absolutely love pulled pork (hey, I'm southern) but I would forgo it here and make the pork loin. It's easier to eat without having the pulled pork falling out of the bun and people looking for a fork to finish it. It can be rubbed with a nice spice rub, roasted then thinly sliced with a good sharp knife. Easy to eat on rolls as is a spiral ham, which is my second suggestion.

                        Shrimp cocktail is a common dish at a buffet but keep in mind that for your crowd, you're going to need at least 300-400 pieces or 19 to 24 pounds of 16-20's (medium size) to allow for 6-8 pieces per serving. It might be pricey for you. If you want to serve shrimp but that amount might be more than you want to spend, consider a baby shrimp or mixed seafood salad served in spring rolls (rice wrappers cut on the bias and set up on a tray) or maybe like a smoked trout spread with crostini.

                        You'll need about 16 pounds of vegetables for crudité. Hope my contribution helps. Good luck!

                        1. Im not sure how much salmon costs where you are. I fish so don't know how much they are going for these days. but a couple nice whole salmon sides done the day before and serverd cold are usually a hit. Esp if some people don't eat beef. Easy good looking way is make a mix of miracle whip and dill. smear it on med. layer, bake or bbq for around 20mins depending, chill.

                          Your probably going to need at least 2-3 sheets of that smoked. Id also grab a tub of there spreadable cream cheese and other option then pumpernickel. Maybe put out some dishes of capers,sliced lemons and sweet onion as toppers.

                          Grab a tub of the sour cream too (so cheap) and can stretch out the spinach dip (pretty salty) and maybe make a dip with some of the cream cheese or just make a tzatziki dip for the veggies. You can make your own pretty cheap but buying there 3 pack of cucumbers, a cauliflower, baby carrots, cheery tomatoes, mushrooms,zucchini, bag of broccoli already cut up. 50-60 is a lot and I know everybody isn't going to eat everything.

                          How big is your tenderloin? A nice stone ground and dijon mustard might be nice too.

                          You can buy one shimp ring for I think $30 and it has around 50 on it. When its gone its gone.

                          You could also to 2-3 kinds of deviled eggs. I love one with a touch of curry. Who knew! I saw one recipe with crumbled bacon on it that looked good. Might not be quite fancy enough. More super bowl

                          Tapenade is easy to make and goes good with hummus. I can give a great recipe.

                          1. Something that I used to do that was a huge hit at the many cocktail parties I hosted pre-parenthood is mini open-faced sandwich varieties. I would have a few different breads of 1 to 2 bite portions, a few different spreads, such as Allouette, roasted red pepper, pesto, etc. a few different cold cuts, a few different cheeses, some fresh herb or other topper...Then assemble randomly, but with a little purpose. So one might be a small baguette slice, with pesto, a slice of turkey, a small slice of provolone, topped with a grape tomato half. These can be done ahead of time the day of and surprisingly don't get too soggy or dried out if done properly. Takes time to assemble ahead of time, it gives a variety and avoids the traffic jam if people are doing it themselves.

                            At a cocktail party, also you want passed hors d'ouvre, which are brought around on a platter in addition to the stationed ones. Otherwise, it's not a cocktail party... jmho.

                            No matter what, I think at a minimum, for a cocktail party, a selection of cheeses is a must, then some sort of warm food selection and a cold selection. Remember that guests will be standing and juggling a glass, as well as a plate so the food should be small enough to eat in one or two bites... preferably without utensils. Either the food itself is the utensil (why shrimp cocktail is so popular) or the vessel to get it to your mouth or it fits on a toothpick.

                            1. One less expensive, easy, do-ahead, shrimp option would be to serve pickled shrimp with those same little rye or pumpernickel party squares that you said you were purchasing. Here's a link to a recipe:


                              Anytime I make pickled ship, it is a huge hit. It is very pretty in a glass bowl. Save time and $$ and use the smaller shrimp that are already cooked/frozen. Works great for pickling! Have a wonderful party!

                              1. BLT sliders are really easy and cheap--instead of layering the lettuce, bacon and tomato just shred the ice burg, chop the tomatoes, and crumble the bacon together in a big bowl, add enough mayo to have a cole-slaw like consistancy, and spoon onto slider rolls.

                                1. The best thing I have served at such parties is an attractive baked ham, a basket of little rolls partly cut through, and a sharp knife. People love to make little sandwiches. Set out a variety of mustards. You might put your beef at one end of the table and ham at the other with other offerings in between.

                                  I also applaud the deviled eggs. Every single time I serve them, two things are predictable. 1) Somebody will make a crack about how passe' deviled eggs are then 2) They will all get gobbled up ASAP. People adore them.

                                  Had you thought of fresh fruit that can be taken on toothpicks---chunks of melon, strawberries, large grapes? This lightens the cocktail party "diet".

                                  1. Check this out for wonderful if you are having a large party. In New York City's Chinatown there is a store like a huge Chinese dime store and now it is ONLINE. Go to "Pearl River eMart" then search " Bamboo Mini Forks". Better than toothpicks for picking up bits of food, these cost $1 for 70. And lots of other intriguing items are offered for sale.

                                    1. Since you want to serve shrimp why not some kind of canape with a shrimp mousse? It would be easier to manage in terms of serving and the budget.