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Sophisticated Cocktail Party Bites

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Sophisticated Cocktail Party Bites

The Cocktail Party Conundrum

You might think the most important part of a cocktail party is the booze, and with “cocktail” right there in the name, I can’t say you’re wrong. But I would argue the snacks are just as important, because as any responsible host knows, you need to make sure your guests have enough food to soak up all the alcohol.

While chips and salsa might suffice for a mundane gathering, a more festive celebration calls for something bigger and better. From pâté made with chicken liver or cauliflower to baked brie and the ultimate shrimp cocktail, we’ve got all the recipes you need to throw the most delicious cocktail party possible.

Luxe Pâté and Meatballs

If you’re on a budget, foie gras pâté probably won’t make an appearance at your next cocktail party. Fortunately, chicken liver pâté is much more affordable and still delicious. Our autumnal take on the dish is flavored with bourbon and apple cider and topped with cranberry gelée. Serious Eats has the full recipe.

A throwback to cocktail parties of a different era, these beef and pork meatballs are flavored with onion, white pepper, and allspice. Part of the charm of Swedish meatballs is their dense, springy texture, which you can achieve by mixing the meat more forcefully than we would typically recommend for meatballs.

This updated take on the cocktail meatball also starts with a mix of beef and pork, but gets an Asian twist from garlic, ginger, and hoisin sauce. When the meatballs come out of the oven we brush them with a glaze made from hoisin, ketchup, vinegar, honey, soy sauce, and sesame oil and sprinkle on scallions and sesame seeds.

Savory Dips and Spreads

You can’t go wrong serving a crudité platter with classics like Green Goddess dressing and hummus, but for something a little more interesting, try this intensely savory dip made with walnuts, ground pork, and miso paste. The flavor depends heavily on what miso you use—standard red miso is fine, but I prefer a funkier miso.

My number one secret to throwing a successful party is doing as much work ahead of time as possible. Our take on clams casino can be prepped a day in advance, making it perfect for entertaining. The dish often winds up gritty and bland, but we avoid those problems by using coarse bread crumbs toasted in bacon fat and a flavorful bacon-clam compound butter.

In place of restuffed hard-boiled eggs, these deconstructed cousins of deviled eggs call for seven-minute eggs with creamy yolks, which are then topped off with your condiments of choice, like mayonnaise, herbs, spices, bits of bacon, and more. Here, they’re served with anchovy fillets, capers, chives, and chervil, but feel free to use whatever combination inspires you.

Cheese, Bacon, and Fruit

Don’t be offended if this is the only party snack your friends request from now on. There are few things better than cheese wrapped in slices of bacon, and the figs and bourbon caramel glaze offset each bite’s sharp saltiness.

A simple marinade with fresh herbs is all you need to make grilled chicken exciting. These grilled chicken skewers combine sweet, savory, and tangy flavors from a mixture of Dijon mustard, lemon juice, honey, and tarragon.

Serving a platter of bacon-wrapped potatoes will never, ever disappoint your guests. Here, the small potatoes are tossed with a spicy and smoky seasoning mixture, then roasted until the surrounding strips of bacon are crisp.

Seafood Sensations

Properly made shrimp cocktail is one of the best cocktail party hors d’oeuvres around, but all too often the dish is ruined by rubbery supermarket shrimp. Doing shrimp cocktail justice means poaching the shellfish gently in a court bouillon so that they become flavorful and tender. As for the cocktail sauce itself, we stick to the classic combination of ketchup and jarred horseradish.

Pork is probably the meat most closely associated with rillettes, but for a party I’m more likely to go with salmon because it feels extra fancy while being incredibly easy to prepare. There’s no slow-cooking involved—just poach the salmon, shred it, and mix with mayo, shallots, and chives.

I love cured salmon, but it can get pricey. When I want to treat myself, I turn to gravlax—since it’s easy enough to make at home I don’t have to pay for someone else’s labor. The fish isn’t cheap, but two pounds will serve a dozen people. To turn the fillet into gravlax all you need is salt, sugar, caraway, coriander, and a few days to let it all cure in the fridge.

Another way to save a few bucks preparing for a party is to make shrimp cakes rather than more common crab cakes. Shrimp works with all sorts of flavors—here we look to Thailand for inspiration and make the cakes with jalapeños, garlic, and enough cilantro to turn them vibrantly green.

Your friends probably don’t cook octopus for their cocktail parties, so serving pulpo gallego is sure to put you ahead of the pack. This Galician tapas dish seems impressive but is actually incredibly simple—either boiling or pressuring cooking the octopus will tenderize it, and from there you just have to slice it up and garnish with olive oil, salt, and Spanish smoked paprika.

Dips, Spreads, and Bites

Despite the dish’s fish-forward origins, modern tapenade is all about the olives. The ingredient list is pretty simple: Niçoise olives, garlic, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, capers, and anchovies. The trick is in how you combine them—a food processor works, but a mortar and pestle will give the spread much better flavor and texture.

I don’t know of any country on earth that respects canned food like Spain does. Far from survival rations, Spanish canned goods are often delicacies. This tapas recipe combines two of them, stuffing piquillo peppers with bonito tuna and serving them on baguette slices with allioli.

Bagna càuda is a potent dip made from warm olive oil loaded with tons of garlic and anchovies, all cooked together until melted down. Paired with a beautiful vegetable platter, it’s the ultimate dip.

This is one of those wonderful dishes that is pretty much reserved exclusively for the holidays. We should probably be eating blini and caviar all year long, but until then, the time has come again. After making the blini, all that’s left to do is buy plenty of caviar and crème fraîche.

Serving briny, juicy baked oysters is a good way to remind your guests that you’re capable of far more than arranging a cheese board (though you can do that, too). Our take on the classic oysters ditches spinach and cheese, resulting in a lighter, fresher dish.

This vegetarian pâté gets its meaty flavor and texture from roasted cauliflower, which we cook with pecans and then purée. You can make the recipe vegan by using vegetable broth and oil instead of cream and butter, but it won’t have quite the same silky pâté texture.

Fancy Cheese Moments

A ball of cheese sounds like a wonderful thing, but if you’ve ever been burned by an unappetizing cheese ball made with industrial pre-shredded cheddar you might be a little hesitant. Don’t worry, through—our versions are made with high-quality blue cheese, goat cheese, and feta.

You could do a lot worse than serving a plain old log of chevre with crackers, but even better is to take the cheese and marinate it in olive oil with flavorful ingredients like garlic, thyme, fennel seed, and lemon peel. You don’t have to use the very best olive oil here, but do know that the oil’s flavor is going to come through in the finished dish.

In the spirit of taking a cheese that’s tasty on its own and making it even better, consider serving baked brie at your party. While you could keep it relatively simple and top a wheel of baked brie with honey and pistachios, wrapping the brie in puff pastry before baking makes for a more impressive centerpiece. This recipe pairs the brie with fig jam and fresh thyme, but you may want to also check out our version made with a homemade apple and pear compote.

Toasts, Dips, and Crispies

Yes, it really is possible to enjoy bruschetta in December—the classic fresh tomato variety is of course a no-go this time of year, but you can prepare this oven-roasted version made with canned tomatoes instead. It’s not bruschetta without the bread, so serve the spread with homemade baguette crackers.

Does the idea of garlicky cold mashed potatoes appeal to you? No? Well you should give skordalia a try anyways, because I think you’ll be surprised by how much you love this tangy dip. It’s best served with pita, and unless you can get the good stuff from a local bakery then I’d recommend making it yourself.

This dish calls for just four ingredients, including salt and oil. You start with Padrón peppers, blister them in canola oil in a blazingly hot skillet, and finish with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of coarse sea salt. About one in ten Padrón peppers is super-spicy, which makes this part appetizer and part parlor game.

The ingredient list here looks a little intimidating, but once everything is together the dish only takes five minutes to prepare—it’s just a matter of heating everything up long enough to incorporate all the flavors. You won’t want to lose any of the sauce, so serve this with crusty bread to soak up every last drop.

Seasoned with Kashmiri chile powder, garam masala, and turmeric, these crisp, tender cauliflower pakoras make a satisfying snack or a fun party nibble.

This crowd-pleasing French take on the all-American dip uses lots of spinach and artichoke. Boursin adds creaminess, herbaceousness, and that strong, distinctive garlic flavor. Everything is tossed together in a bowl and baked for 15 minutes.

These toasts are equal parts easy and delicious. Crisped slices of sourdough are topped with burrata and grated ripe tomatoes, then drizzled with a creamy, bright, herbal pesto.

This “deconstructed hummus” features whole chickpeas in a tahini-based sauce. Serve with warm pita bread or cut vegetables for a rich and bright take on hummus.

Think of these deep-fried, hollowed out potato skins as the best possible chip there is. You can fill them with all sorts of things, or leave them empty with a rich dip on the side. We suggest filling them with crème fraîche and smoked salmon, melted raclette cheese, or pulled pork and cheddar.

Crispy, cheesy hand pies that are a must for any mezze spread. These are stuffed by three kinds of cheese, spinach, and herbs, and garnished with sesame and nigella seeds.

No matter the occasion, you can’t go wrong with a spread of sophisticated cocktail party bites from Home Cooking Rocks. From savory dips and stuffed bites to elegant cheese and seafood hors d’oeuvres, these recipes will make your next event a true culinary triumph. So grab a martini, select your favorite nibbles, and get ready to impress your guests with your hosting prowess.


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