Make Ahead Hors d'oeuvres
November 26, 2013 1:25 PM   Subscribe

Every holiday season I generally host at least 2-3 get-togethers focusing on small bites, hanging out, and (on Christmas Eve) presents. However, after many, many years of making the same things I am looking for some new additions.

To give an idea of what I'm making now, most of what I make comes from a cookbook from the 1970s and involves such delicacies as "sausage ryes" made with copious amounts of Velveeta, "spinach balls" (which I am thinking of retiring), bacon-wrapped water chestnuts, and "shrimp mold" which is delightfully Pepto-Bismol pink, utterly horrifying to modern sensibilities, and surprisingly delicious.

Classing it up a little is 110% OK with me as fancy cheese doesn't always cut it, though really what I want is something I can make, throw in the refrigerator/freezer for a couple of weeks, and then pull out when I need it. This is why the first three items I mentioned have stuck around in my family for so long; usually they're all done by the end of November, the mold can hang out in the fridge for a while too, and the Christmas holidays are a breeze because all the prep work is already done.

So. Any suggestions? I've already looked through some of the earlier questions on this topic but as the focus here is on recipes that have been tried and vetted for ease of preparation I thought I'd use my question this week to start a new Ask.
posted by daikaisho to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This is excellent, not too fiddly (especially if you roast the peppers in the oven), lovely with crudites, chips, and crackers, and a bit unusual but very delicious and accessible. Make it in whatever quantity you like, and then freeze in 1-2 cup amounts. Improves while sitting in the fridge. Thaw it out, give it a stir, serve at room temp with a sprinkling of cumin.
posted by Knicke at 1:44 PM on November 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

How much work and/or time do you have to spend? Here's a list off the top of my head of all of the make-ahead stuff we're doing for this Christmas and previous parties:

-Charcuterie of all sorts: pork rillette, duck confit, duck breast prosciutto, terrines, galantine. These are all great because a) they are relatively cheap to make, b) they are better if they have some time to "ripen" in the fridge, and c) they're all served at room temperature. Pull out of fridge a couple hours before party, set on tray with toasts or crackers, done.

-Dumplings. Not terribly hard to make, especially if you buy frozen wrappers. Fillings are relatively simple. We usually sit ourselves on the couch with a pile of wrappers and a bowl of filling and spend an evening watching bad TV and making them. When they're wrapped, freeze on a sheet pan and then transfer to a large bag. The only issue I have with these are that they need to be steamed just before eating, otherwise they're not as good.

-Pickles. Fridge pickles are dead simple and you need a week or two to cure them, so making them ahead is essential. I made ours over the summer and canned all of them so they're not even taking up fridge space.

-My girlfriend makes bite-sized spanakopita triangles that can similarly be frozen and baked when needed. It's a filling of spinach and feta, wrapped in phyllo sheets. These always go quickly.

-Similarly, meatballs. Make ahead, freeze on a sheet pan and transfer to a bag; when you want them, they go directly from freezer to a pan in the oven. Or you can deep fry them because why not.

-Ditto on stuffed mushrooms. I probably wouldn't deep fry them, though.

-Spiced nuts, sweet or savory, will keep for weeks in an airtight container.

-Homemade hummus, tzatziki, and other dips will keep in for more than a week in the fridge. Both of these are really easy to put together.
posted by backseatpilot at 1:54 PM on November 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you have a fondue pot or chaffing dish, make bagna cauda with raw vegetable crudite and baguette or italian bread.

If you're into cheese, get a wheel of winnimere or another vacherin mont d'or-style cheese, cut the top off of it and serve it on a board at room temperature for guests to scoop the runny deliciousness out of.

Both of these are easy to make and will really wow your guests.

If you're up for a little more work, get some bacon and good blue cheese and make bacon-wrapped stuffed dates (baked in the oven until the bacon is crisp, cooled, and then stuffed with the cheese either with a knife or, if it's super soft and you don't mind losing a bit in the process, with a pastry bag).
posted by gauche at 1:59 PM on November 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is not so much a recipe yet as I just started playing with it, but if you want to follow my train of thought:

Savory cheesecake recipe
Half a 1lb bag of frozen spinach, microwaved and squeezed as dry as possible
1/2-1 yellow or white onion, sauteed or caramelized
1/2-1 cup suitable cheese (I like a cheddar, but feta or goat or even a hard Italian cheese would be great)
Salt, pepper

Savory pie crust or nut or cracker crust

*I chopped up several mostly-cooked slices, but I also accidentally overcooked about 5 slices in the microwave, so that they were very dry. Not good to eat, but in the food processor it basically turned to bacon powder. Good stuff.

Mix your cheesecake base in a food processor or mixer, then add remaining ingredients and mix. Bake about the amount of time of your base cheesecake recipe, then test and see if it needs a little extra time.

I made mini cheesecakes with an almond crust. It was good, but almost rich enough you could eat it on crackers.

Also, my go-to party pleaser: Cream cheese and sundried tomato torta, either with Spinach, or Pesto.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:13 PM on November 26, 2013

Response by poster: I should probably add that the emphasis on making things ahead should have included something about easy prep as I have a toddler to take care of during a lot of the time I would be making things. A rambunctious, grabby toddler.

Also I do intend to inflict an Epoisses de Bourgogne on my guests. Not that this really affects much since I will probably get chased out of the house with it. Ah well - more gloriously stinky cheese for me!
posted by daikaisho at 2:17 PM on November 26, 2013

Best answer: Sauerkraut balls! They seem to be an Ohio/PA thing, but the short version is sausage, cream cheese, and saeurkraut, rolled into balls, breaded, and deep-fried. You can make reuben balls, as well. They freeze beautifully--fry them when you roll them, and then pop them into the freezer. Holiday party time, just put some on a baking tray and bake them until they're crispy and heated through. Memail me if you'd like the recipe for either the saeurkraut or reuben variation, and I'll happily type it out.

I've also made tiny savory cheesecakes--they freeze well and only need to be thawed before serving. You make a crust of ground walnuts, rosemary, salt, flour, and butter, and parbake the crust. Then make a cheesecake filling with some sort of savory cheese (I've had good luck with gorgonzola and, better, imo, a cranberry stilton), egg, and cream cheese. Bake them until they're set, cool, and freeze. Just thaw to serve.

Latkes freeze surprisingly well, and can be reheated in the oven, then served with [whatever you usually serve them with].

You can buy pre-made filo dough cups, about the size of mini muffins. Cut brie into chunks, add a bit of [apricot jam/hot pepper jelly/chopped pecans and brown sugar/raspberry jelly/cranberry salsa], and all you have to do is melt the cheese in the oven before serving. (You can also freeze them filled and unbaked.) Takes about five minutes of prep and you're done.

Those filo cups I mentioned can also be used to make tiny quiche, which has about ten million options and freezes great.

Seconding stuffed mushrooms, which I make in quantity and freeze, then bake from frozen to serve. You can be creative with the stuffing, too--sun dried tomato, cheese, spinach, and breadcrumbs is lovely, as is the more obvious bacon and cheese. I hear crabmeat is a hit, though have never done it as I'm allergic.

If you want to level up on the bacon-wrapped water chestnuts, you could do the stuffed dates, or you could do jalapenos--buy small ones, smear them with cream cheese (and maybe garlic), and wrap them in bacon. Yum.

I know that it's super dated, but I still love those cocktail wieners wrapped in puff pastry or crescent roll dough and then baked. Both freezable and something that can be purchased premade and frozen.

Arancini can be made ahead of time and then frozen, and, again, reheated in the oven.

I have recipes for all these things, in the event that you need them. I really, really like appetizers.
posted by MeghanC at 2:18 PM on November 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Gougeres are my number one freeze-ahead and pop in oven easy appetizer bite. Alain Ducasse's recipe is easy ( but there are tons of similar recipes on the web (smittenkitchen also has a good recipe), and honestly, all are similar- I like to use cheddar and Jarlsberg for mine. People seem to love them, as I get requests from people to make them a lot!
posted by PinkPoodle at 2:22 PM on November 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh, also you don't need a pastry bag for gougeres, just using a spoon to dollop out walnut-sized chunks is perfect.
posted by PinkPoodle at 2:25 PM on November 26, 2013

If you have a mini tart/muffin pan there are loads of things you can do with them. Brie and Bacon tartlets always go down well and they're super easy to make. With my tin I also have a wooden tool for shaping the shells, you pop a small ball of pastry into each hole then press them with the shaper. Then you just need to fry up some little cubes of pancetta or bacon, chop the brie into small pieces, mix in the bacon then spoon some into each shell. They go in the oven at 180c for about 20 minutes. You can make so many things with a mini tart pan though, or of you can find pre-made shells you can fill them with all sorts of things - like smoked salmon and cream cheese or even sweet things like caramel topped with ganache.

Palmiers are another really easy thing to make that impresses people and they're really delicious. The complete cheat to make them is get a jar of pesto and some ready-rolled puff pastry. Spread the pesto on the pastry then roll it up and cut into slices. I would freeze them uncooked as puff pastry is kinda fragile. They only take around 10-15 minutes to cook. I've made them with green pesto and sundried tomato pesto and they were yummy.
posted by missmagenta at 2:38 PM on November 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

I do a big wood cutting board overflowing with piled nibbles - fancy nuts, cut apples, prosciutto, salami, a hard cheese, a soft cheese, cut up baguette, fig jam, olives, cherry tomatoes, grapes. It is always empty in no time.
posted by cecic at 2:39 PM on November 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This time of year I always get a hankering for cretons. I can either buy it around here or make it, but if you make it with a bit of fat (depending on the fat content of your ground pork) and leave out the milk, it will last longer in the fridge. That way if someone doesn't like paté, you can just tell them it's ground pork, no liver involved. Serve it on crackers or toast points, you can broil it also.

It's not fancy, but people are fond of the spread made of cream cheese mixed with chopped Buddig beef and green onions. That's the recipe right there: a brick of cream cheese and chop up some Buddig beef from one package and a few green onions or chives. Serve with crackers.

I did try making a mushroom paté one year, but people seemed put off by it and came back to the other things more often. Holidays are more about creamy, dippy and fatty tasty things.

Another fast dish is putting wonton wrappers into a mini cupcake pan and filling with cream cheese and canned crabmeat (or your savory filing of choice, maybe I should have put my mushroom mix with cream cheese). You can make ahead of time and then pop into the oven when your guests arrive.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 2:57 PM on November 26, 2013

Caprese skewers! Your toddler, depending on age, might even be able to help with them. Drizzle a plate with olive oil and basalmic vinegar. Slice grape or cherry tomatoes in half.

Then, on a decorative toothpick (or in my house, tiny drink swords) skewer a mozzarella ball (make sure to salt them,) a folded leaf of basil or a dot of basil paste, then the tomato (cut side down.) Line them up on the drizzled plate, and you're set.

You can also dot garlic paste on the side of the plate for people who want an extra dash of noms.
posted by headspace at 3:47 PM on November 26, 2013

Little hot dogs in barbecue sauce. Simple and tasty.

Pigs in a blanket.

Meatballs, Swedish, Italian or with sirracha and grape jelly.

Pin wheel sandwiches. Have your bakery slice a loaf of bread lengthwise. Cut the crusts off. Lay thin layers of yummy sandwich things, then roll up. Slice each roll into five spirals. Works really well with egg, chicken and tuna salad.

Deviled eggs

Little roasted potatoes, sliced in half. Salted and topped with sour cream and caviar.

Cheese Straws


I could go on and on.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:56 PM on November 26, 2013

Oh man, I love Christmas spinach balls!

Other than spinach balls, a popular item in my family is just melted brie and sea salt bagel chips. You just throw a hunk of brie in a baking/casserole type dish, and heat however you want (oven, microwave, whatever). It's like a classier, more Holiday-ish take on chips and dip or nachoes.

We'll also do stuffed mushrooms. You can just prepare your favorite type of stuffing and stuff small mushroom caps and keep it on a baking sheet in your fridge until you're ready to throw in the oven for a party.

Wieners in barbecue sauce is also an easy one. If you get smoked wieners or beef wieners, it's tastier. You'll want a thick barbecue sauce. Just throw in a casserole dish in the fridge and then bake until it's hot or the sauce starts to bubble. Serve with toothpicks.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:57 PM on November 26, 2013

We generally serve mini empanadas, cheddar cayenne coins, zucchini parmesan crisps, chèvre kisses, crazy feta dip, taquitos, and the aforementioned gougeres. Won't lie, though: the most popular hors d'oeuvre on the sideboard is a bottle of Pickapeppa sauce poured over a block of cream cheese.
posted by evoque at 5:47 AM on November 27, 2013

Crab muffins are perfect for this. You make them ahead of time. Cut into quarters and freeze on a tray for about 30 minutes. Then you can put them in a ziploc bag and keep frozen until you need them. Always a big hit at parties.
posted by maxg94 at 6:44 AM on November 27, 2013

Ok, this is going to sound kind of white trashy, but it's a delicious and quick hors d'oeuvre nonetheless

* Dill Pickes
* Cream Cheese
* Sliced Ham

Cover the pickles in the cream cheese, then wrap with ham. Slice into little rolls. Serve with toothpicks.
posted by wcfields at 1:10 PM on November 27, 2013

Response by poster: Hmm... I may come back and mark a few more best answers, but for the recipes that meet the make ahead and easy criteria I think I've got a few things to try starting now. (And I'm just morbidly curious about the cretons.) Thanks, all!
posted by daikaisho at 6:12 AM on December 3, 2013

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