We’re heading fast into holiday entertaining time and whether you’re planning a big dinner or just inviting friends over for a drink, choosing and making hors d’oeuvres can be a confounding part of the cooking and hosting.
So here’s a list of appetizers that are not very complex and most are very easy to make. I’ve tried to avoid expensive ingredients. No foie gras in sight, but there is a little prosciutto and some smoked salmon, as well as popcorn and bacon (although not together). I’ve included some buy-it-take-out options, which can make a cocktail party really simple to produce. Add a case of wine or prosecco or set up a serve-yourself bar, and everyone will be happy.
Remember it’s the guests who count. And the food!
- Mix crabmeat with tiny diced celery and shallots and a little mayo (I find regular lump or backfin work better in this than the more expensive jumbo lump) and serve on crackers or individual endive leaves.
- Place a dab of fresh goat cheese on a slice of seedless English cucumber or cracker. Sprinkle with a little freshly ground black pepper or paprika.
- Bruschetta. Small slices of baguette or good country bread. Lightly toast the bread, rub it with a piece of cut garlic, drizzle with a little olive oil (don’t soak it!), and top with halved cherry tomatoes or room temperature cooked spinach or broccoli rabe that have been tossed with a little olive oil and rough chopped so that it’s easier to eat. Most bruschetta end up being a two-bite hors d’oeuvre.
- Wrap pitted dates that have been stuffed with a shard of Parmesan and wrapped with a half slice of bacon. Skewer with toothpicks and broil, turning once, until the bacon is cooked.
- Arrange a charcuterie platter, with slices of salami, prosciutto, soppressata or chorizo. You can add a cheese selection, some grapes, and also some accompaniments like honey to drizzle on the cheese, fig jam, or slices of fresh pears.
- Cook a pork tenderloin by first pan searing it until brown on all surfaces and then oven-roasting at 400° F until it’s medium-rare, about 8 to 10 minutes. Let rest 10 minutes and then slice into 1-inch slices and cut again in half so that the pieces are bite-sized, and top with a thin piece of cheddar or manchego and a small slice or cube of membrillo (quince paste). If they don’t hold together, secure them with a toothpick.
- A dish of good olives and another dish for the pits. Do not serve pitted olives because there’s always an errant pit and no one will be expecting it if they think they’re all pitted. I know this from experience.
- A big, generous bowl of the best pistachios you can find, plus a little dish for the shells.
- Baby caprese on a little skewer: a little mozzarella bocconcini, plus a cherry tomato, and a basil leaf. Drizzle with a little olive oil and a tiny pinch of salt and pepper.
- You can do the same thing with the popular flavor combo of prosciutto and melon by stacking a cube of cantaloupe with a piece of prosciutto folded small enough to sit on top and then placing a basil leaf on each end.
- Most people love shrimp cocktail. You can buy shrimp already cooked and peeled (or do it yourself) and serve with a dish of cocktail sauce (1/2 c. chili sauce, 1/2 c. ketchup, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, a heaping teaspoon of horseradish, plus a few shots of Tabasco) or buy prepared pesto. Or you can turn the shrimp into canapés by placing a shrimp and a dab of the cocktail sauce or pesto on shrimp-sized slices of baguette.
- Generous bite-sized pieces of candied bacon, like Julia Reed’s recipe that we have. See our link.
- Buy slices of paté at a good specialty market like Zabar’s or its equivalent (not that there is an equivalent to Zabar’s). Include a salmon or vegetable paté for those who don’t eat meat and serve with slices of baguette, some coarse mustard, and a dish of cornichons.
- Good pizza made by your favorite pizza joint, gently re-warmed and cut into two-bite pieces. Keep the pizza thin and simple because it will re-heat more successfully than ones with complex toppings, plus simple ones are less messy to eat. A plain white pizza or margherita are good choices. If you’re anywhere near Sullivan Street Bakery in Chelsea, their potato pizza is ideal and re-heats beautifully, but if that’s inconvenient, investigate choices near you.