From finger food to cocktails constructing a party menu is just like planning a dinner menu. The chosen items need to blend and contrast to create a balance of flavor.
Heavy, light, strong, mild, hot, cold, savory, sweet, spicy and creamy — all things to consider when planning food for your party.
Creating small bites that pack big flavor requires fresh ingredients, attention to seasoning and stunning presentation. After all, we eat with our eyes before we eat with our mouth and making the food look as good as it tastes is an important part of a successful hors d' oeuvre.
For parties that include a meal, plan two to three different hors d' oeuvres, each yielding one to two per guest. If the party is hors d' oeuvres only, plan six to eight varieties, yielding two or three per person.
A variety of offerings from dips, canapés, vegetables, meats and cheeses should be considered. Assorted small bites or pieces along with items that are stuffed, stacked, filled, rolled or layered will round out your party menu.
When planning drinks offer an assortment that is favorable to the type of crowd you are entertaining. Estimate one to two drinks per person per hour.
Blue Cheese Truffled Potatoes
15 fingerling or new potatoes
1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
1/4 cup light sour cream
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon truffle oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Place the potatoes in a pot of water and bring to a boil. Boil until fork tender. Drain the potatoes and cool just to the point that you can handle them. Slice off the top 1/3 of each potato. Place the tops in a mixing bowl and set aside. Using a small spoon carefully scoop out the insides of the potatoes leaving the skin and a small amount of flesh as a shell. Place the insides of the potato in the bowl with the potato tops. Add all remaining ingredients to the bowl and mash together with a fork until all ingredients are completely combined. Spoon the mixture into the potato shells and place on a greased baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 15 minutes or until tops begin to brown and are bubbly. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
Cornmeal-Crusted Ravioli with Pesto Dipping Sauce
1 – 7 ounce container of basil pesto
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons mustard
Vegetable Oil, for frying
1 package of cheese ravioli from the refrigerator case
2 cups flour
3 eggs, plus 1/4 cup milk
2 cups cornmeal
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
In a jar or salad dressing bottle combine the pesto, olive oil, 1/2 cup of milk and mustard. Cover tightly with the lid and shake to combine. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Set out three bowls on the counter near the stove. In one bowl place the flour, in another scramble the eggs with 1/4 cup milk and in the third bowl combine the cornmeal and parmesan cheese. In a large fry pan pour enough oil to reach a depth of two inches. Heat the oil over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 325 degrees. Working in small batches, dip ravioli in flour, shake off the excess, then in the egg mixture and then completely coat with the cornmeal and Parmesan. Place the ravioli in the oil and fry on both sides until golden brown. Remove with tongs to a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Serve immediately with the pesto sauce.
Candy Cane Martini
1 ounce white chocolate liqueur
1 ounce peppermint schnapps
2 ounces vanilla vodka
In a food processor pulverize the candy canes and pour onto a small plate. Prepare a small bowl of water. Dip martini glass in the water and then into the candy cane dust. In a cocktail shaker combine the white chocolate liqueur, peppermint schnapps and vodka. Shake with a small amount of ice and strain into the martini glass. (Makes 2 martinis)
Caprese Cherry Tomatoes
20 cherry tomatoes
8 ounces of fresh mozzarella
1/2 cup fresh basil, chiffonade
1/4 cup prosciutto di Parma, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt & pepper
Cut the tops of the tomatoes and using a spoon or a small paring knife remove the seeds and the guts. Discard the insides of the tomatoes and place the hollowed tomatoes on a plate. Chop the mozzarella into small cubes. Combine in a large bowl with the basil, prosciutto, olive oil, salt and pepper. Spoon the cheese mixture into the hollowed tomatoes. Place on a platter and drizzle with the balsamic glaze. Note: Make your own balsamic glaze by combining 2 cups balsamic vinegar with 3/4 cup of sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer and let reduce by almost half. Stir occasionally. Transfer to a squirt bottle and keep on hand for garnishing salads, steaks, roasted vegetables, pork chops or chicken.
Chocolate Cups with Raspberry Creme & Mixed Berries
1 box semi-sweet baker's chocolate, at least 60 percent cacao
Small round balloons
Raspberry jam, room temperature
Assorted fresh berries
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Blow up balloons to the desired size of chocolate cup and set aside. Melt chocolate in a double boiler or the microwave according to package directions. Dip the round end of the balloons in the chocolate and roll around the sides to coat well. Place the balloon on a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper. Repeat with more balloons. Dip a few extra in case some of the chocolate breaks during unmolding. Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator to set for two hours. When chocolate is set cut the tied end of the balloon and let the balloons slowly deflate. The balloons should release from the chocolate. Gently pull if the balloon does not completely release. Store the chocolate bowls in the refrigerator until ready to serve. For the filling combine the whipped cream and strawberry jam. For every 1/2 cup of whipped cream use 1 tablespoon of jam. Refrigerate the cream for an hour. Spoon the cream into the bowls and top with fresh berries. Sprinkle with powdered sugar for garnish.
Stuffed Artichoke Bottoms
3 cans of artichoke bottoms
Oil for frying
1 lemon, halved
1/2 cup mozzarella, chopped
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Drain and rinse artichoke bottoms and pat dry with a paper towel. Place 1/2 inch of canola oil in a sauté pan. Heat to frying temperature. Pan fry the artichokes until slightly browned on each side. Place on a paper towel to drain. Squeeze the lemon juice over the artichokes. To prepare the filling combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Stir to combine. Spoon the filling into the artichoke bottoms. Place on a baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes or until filling is hot and melted. To prepare ahead of time complete all steps up to the baking. Refrigerate the bottoms and bake before serving.
1 package of refrigerator pie dough (see note)
1/2 pound mozzarella cheese, cubed
1/4 cup chopped pepperoni or salami
1 bunch fresh basil, chopped
1 cup pizza sauce
1/2 cup chopped, sautéed mushrooms
10 cherry tomatoes, sliced
Unroll the dough, roll out slightly with a rolling pin and cut into six inch rounds. Press into a greased muffin tin or ramekin. Prick the bottom and sides of the dough with a fork. In a bowl combine the mozzarella, pepperoni, basil, pizza sauce and mushrooms. Set aside 8 to 10 slices of the tomatoes and place remaining slices in the bowl with the cheese mixture. Spoon the filling into the pie shells and top each tartlet with a slice of tomato. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and crust is golden. Note: Mini pie shells from the freezer case or refrigerator pizza dough also can be used. Makes 8 to 10 tartlets.