Menu Monday 5: Cocktail Party
Today’s Menu Monday is a little bit different. Last week I catered a party for the first time in my life. It’s sort of a dipping-my-toe-in-the-water thing. I don’t think I’d do well working in a restaurant, or even catering large events. But I love to cook for other people, and this was a way to cook for people who normally wouldn’t eat my cooking. A co-worker and I made the entire spread for an afternoon small plates + drinks party at my office. We made all appetizers, snacks, and desserts. Today I’m sharing a few of them with you that you might want to try at your own cocktail party.
Now, we were cooking for 90 people, so my numbers were pretty huge. I’m reducing the quantities here for a more “normal” sized group. If these were the only three appetizers you wanted to make, then you could probably comfortably serve a party of 10-20 people with the quantities below. If it’s part of a larger spread, then these quantities are good for more like 30-40 people.
They look like this:
And I have to level with you, people. These are SO easy. The only one that really requires any chopping or mixing is the crab salad, and even that is incredibly easy. The other two are mere assemblages. You just make it look pretty, and voila!
First Course: Caprese Skewers
Caprese salad is incredibly popular. It’s so simple, too – fresh mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes. An easy way to make this a bite-sized treat is to use the mini mozzarella balls, called bocconcini, along with grape tomatoes and a rolled-up leaf of basil. Use cocktail party toothpicks or skewers, and put a tomato on first, followed by the basil, and the mozzarella last. Follow it up with a drizzle of balsamic syrup (you can make your own by reducing about 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar in a pot on the stove – bring it to a boil, reduce to simmer and continue to simmer until it is thick and syrupy).
This one is easy to measure quantities – however many people you are having at your party, assume they might eat one or two of each appetizer (depending on how many appetizers you have to choose from). So if you’re throwing a party for 20, maybe a safe bet would be 30 grape tomatoes, 30 bocconcini, and 30 basil leaves.
Second Course: Crab Salad with Baby Romaine Leaves
I made up this crab salad based on flavors that I personally like together – crab, mango, cilantro, and cider vinegar. Those were my building blocks. I added a few other things to jazz it up and round out the flavor. Put the salad out in a bowl with tongs, and place a platter of washed and dried baby romaine leaves next to it. The idea is for your guests to spoon a bit of the crab salad onto a romaine leaf and eat it that way. It’s elegant and delicious.
- 12 to 16 oz. fresh lump crab meat, drained
- 1 English cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1 mango, peeled, seeded, and diced
- handful of cilantro, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup cider vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and toss lightly. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours. Toss again before serving with romaine leaves.
Third Course: Brie with Caramel
This one is an unusual combination, but trust me. It’s amazing. You can, of course, make your own caramel sauce (butter + brown sugar, bring to a boil, cook 3 minutes, stirring all the time) but jar sauce is so so easy. You can find pretty good caramel sundae topping that actually tastes like home made! Usually they come in 12 oz. jars.
- one wheel of baby brie
- 12 oz. jar of caramel sundae topping (Smuckers or Hershey’s are good)
- 1/4 cup chopped nuts (almonds or pecans are best)
Place a wheel of baby brie on a platter. Remove the lid from your caramel and heat it in the microwave for 30 seconds. Pour it over the brie immediately – it will spread out onto the platter and form an amazing glaze. Top with the chopped nuts. Serve with crackers.
So there you have it, three easy appetizers for a large holiday cocktail party!