Holiday Cocktail Party

One of the problems with my love of cooking is that it seems I never have the opportunity to actually make all of the delicious ideas saved on my computer and floating around in my head. After all, there are only so many gatherings and dinner parties I feel like hosting in my own home. So when someone is looking for help with their party, I love nothing more than to come to their rescue. This past weekend, my friend Kate and I had the opportunity to cater a holiday open house party. The hostess’s parents have held this party for years and years, and this was the first year they passed on the tradition to their daughter and her new husband. Over the years the menus have certainly varied, but Steph, our client, wanted to make sure that her first holiday party had food that was a little different from other recent offerings, with a variety of tasty options for her 50 guests. We decided to go with a cocktail party and prepared a wide selection of hors d’ouevres. We made a few desserts too, but kept this to a minimum since we figured that many friends and family would show up with their holiday cookies and other treats (we were right). Kate and I stayed throughout the party, continuing to cook and replenish the food so that everything was hot and fresh, and cleaning up at the end. The result? Steph got to mingle and socialize with her guests, and what party hostess wouldn’t be excited about that? The food was all very well-received, with many people claiming they just couldn’t pick a favorite, and others were being pleasantly surprised when they tried something new and loved it. I always have a lot of fun planning and creating these events, and this was no exception. On the menu was:

*Pumpkin-Cream Cheese Wontons with Cider Dipping Sauce
*Black Bean Cheddar-Chipotle Wontons with Avocado-Sour Cream

*Brie and Cranberry cups
*Cheesey Artichoke Purses

*Curry Mango Chicken Salad cups
*Pistachio-Crusted Goat Cheese Truffles with Honey on Baby Spinach Leaves
*Smoked Salmon Canapes on Potato Latkes
*Caramelized Onion Tartletts with Bacon and Sage
*Portobello-Fonitna mini-quiches
*Maple-Butternut Bisque soup shooters
*Southwestern Roasted Corn Chowder soup shooters
*Peppermint Tuxedo Brownies
*Pecan Tartletts
*Cheesecake Wontons with Strawberry Sauce

Keep scrolling for pictures of some of our creations…

For these lovely bites, I blended 11oz of goat cheese and 8oz of cream cheese, both softened, with some honey mixed in. I let it firm up a bit, then used a small cookie scoop to form balls. I coated with chopped pistachios and placed each one on a baby spinach leaf. A drop of honey on the leaf helps hold it in place and creates a pleasant sweet contrast to the salty cheese.

I chose to serve the curry-mango chicken salad in little wonton cups. Phyllo is another option, but given the volume we were making here, I found wontons to be a cheaper and easier option that is just as tasty. The wontons are baked in mini muffin tins, and then filled with scoops of the chicken salad. This type of appetizer is so versatile because you can use any filling you like, and they are easy to pick and eat without being messy.

Thinly sliced smoked salmon was served on warm, crispy mini potato latkes with a dollop of seasoned cream cheese with chives. Simply delicious!
Here’s a good one for all of you Pampered Chef fans. The tart shaper is perfect for pressing bite-size rich chocolate brownies (baked in mini muffin tins) into little cups for holding peppermint buttercream. Garnished with crushed candy cane Kisses, this is the perfect addition to any holiday spread.

Mini pecan tartletts – there are about a gazillion recipes posted online and let’s just say we picked a good one 🙂 Flaky, buttery crust and a rich caramel-like filling surrounding the pecans made these a real treat, and better than any platter you could pick up in the supermarket.

Another use for wonton cups: Place a cube of brie in each one, and fill in with some whole-berry cranberry sauce mixed with a bit of cider. Warm in the oven, and then garnish with chopped scallions and pecans.

Inspired by a recipe I got long ago from Peabody and by my own signature pumpkin ravioli, these crispy dumplings with a rich pumpkin-cream cheese filling and slightly-spicy cider sauce were the big hit of the night.
For these mini quiches, I started with a basic tart/quiche dough and used a round cutter to make circles from the rolled-out dough. I pressed these into my mini muffin tins and filled with a mixture of sauteed portobellos, a bit of onion and garlic, grated fontina cheese, and eggs beaten with milk. Obivously, you can choose any filling you desire!
The caramelized onion tartletts started out with the same dough as the quiches, but the filling was adapted from this recipe. The sweet and savory combination was excellent.

Deliciously sweet and gingery maple-butternut bisque was served in little sipping cups . We found the best way to serve was by passing, to ensure it was enjoyed hot!

Kate modeling our holiday red aprons – yes, we matched for this occasion 🙂

Happy Holidays!

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4 Responses to “Holiday Cocktail Party”

  1. 1

    Katie — December 5, 2007 @ 2:29 pm Reply

    Wow Cara! This is rally impressive!! You’re creative juices are really flowing for this one!!

  2. 2

    Emiline — December 7, 2007 @ 6:03 am Reply

    Wow, I can’t believe how much you made! Everything looks fabulous.

  3. 3

    rach257 — December 11, 2007 @ 2:53 pm Reply

    Cara…you are so amazing to me! everything looks DELICIOUS and so creative! i am totally impressed!!

  4. 4

    Kate — November 6, 2008 @ 4:15 am Reply

    hey Cara, I have been searching your blog for party ideas ( I am a former boston knottie) & had a few questions–any chance you could email me? kateherbst@gmail.comthanks!

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