Holiday Hors d'Oeuvres

Three-Cheese Mini Macs
Photo: © Kana Okada

Use an array of hors d'oeuvres to set the tone for your fantastic holiday cocktail party. Keep things playful with mini croques monsieurs, or put a sophisticated spin on crab dip. From juicy cocktail meatballs to sausage potato puffs, these are Food & Wine's best holiday hors d'oeuvres.

01 of 30

Pink Peppercorn and Fennel Gravlax

Pink Peppercorn and Fennel Gravlax
© John Kernick

Boston chef Matt Jennings flavors his tender, silky gravlax with cracked spices, fennel pollen and fresh dill. The vibrant green herbs give this smoked fish appetizer a stunning, festive color, and the pink peppercorns are an unexpected, sophisticated touch. Holiday tip: The gravlax can be rinsed, wrapped in a fresh sheet of plastic and refrigerated for 3 days.

02 of 30

New England-Style Crab Dip with Brown-Butter Crumbs

New England–Style Crab Dip with Brown-Butter Crumbs
© John Kernick

Boston chef Matt Jennings tops this simple, crab-packed dip with supercrispy brown-butter breadcrumbs.

03 of 30

Roasted Shrimp-and-Fennel Skewers with Mustard Chimichurri

Roasted Shrimp-and-Fennel Skewers with Mustard Chimichurri
© John Kernick

To turn simple shrimp into a party-worthy dish, Boston chef Matt Jennings roasts them along with fennel, then skewers them for dipping in a tangy sauce packed with horseradish, parsley and chives.

04 of 30

Smoky Mussel Stew

Smoky Mussel Stew
© John Kernick

This rich stew from Boston chef Matt Jennings gets exceptional flavor from smoked mussels.

05 of 30

Cocktail Meatballs

Cocktail Meatballs. Photo © Con Poulos
© Con Poulos

According to Southern tradition, the hostess at a ladies’ luncheon should serve little meatballs in a chafing dish or on a platter with toothpicks as a satisfying snack for any men in attendance.

06 of 30

Smoky Seafood Cocktails

Smoky Seafood Cocktails
© Frances Janisch

Here, Grace Parisi revamps the classic shrimp-cocktail recipe by including scallops and stone-crab claws, then tweaks the cocktail sauce by replacing the ketchup with bottled chile sauce and seasoning it with hot pimentón de la Vera and prepared horseradish.

07 of 30

Hogs in a Blanket

Hogs in a Blanket
© Chris Court

This fun, high-brow take on pigs in a blanket swaps spicy andouille sausage for the hot dogs, with sweet mustard chutney as a condiment.

08 of 30

Oysters on the Half Shell with Rosé Mignonette

Oysters on the Half Shell with Rosé Mignonette. Photo © Michael Turek
© Michael Turek

Great oysters are delicious “naked,” as Island Creek founder Skip Bennett says, but sometimes chef Jeremy Sewall dresses them up with a mignonette (vinegar sauce) like this one, made with sparkling rosé.

09 of 30

Mini Smoked-Salmon Croque-Monsieur

Mini Smoked-Salmon Croque-Monsieur
John Kernick

For Alison Attenborough and Jamie Kimm, make-ahead recipes are key for holiday entertaining. The night before the party, Jamie spreads a creamy chive-flecked smoked salmon mixture (based on a béchamel, or white sauce, often used in a classic croque-monsieur) between cocktail-size slices of bread. He cooks the sandwiches right before guests arrive. Alison serves the sandwiches with small, disposable wooden forks so guests can keep their hands grease-free.

10 of 30

Creamy Parmesan Custards

Creamy Parmesan Custards

Years ago Rachel Klein worked in a fish store in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, that sold a smoked salmon-Parmesan quiche. The combination was clunky; Klein refines it for this silky custard, which she bakes in elegant egg cups, instead of a quiche crust, and tops with gravlax and peppery arugula.

11 of 30

Crispy Potato, Bacon and Clam Flatbread

Crispy Potato, Bacon and Clam Flatbread

“This is our riff on New England clam chowder,” says Claudia Fleming of the delectable flatbread that she and Gerry Hayden collaborate on (she makes the dough; he prepares the toppings).

12 of 30

Lamb Pizzettes

Lamb Pizzettes
© Kana Okada

This recipe is based on the Arabic lamejun, a thin piece of dough topped with minced meat, then baked. Here Grace Parisi flavors ground lamb with cumin, mint and pine nuts.

13 of 30

Caramelized Onion and Gruyère Tart

Caramelized Onion and Gruyère Tart

Holiday Make-Ahead Tip: This vegetarian tart can be refrigerated overnight. Rewarm before serving.

14 of 30

Chicken-Liver Toasts with Shallot Jam

Chicken-Liver Toasts with Shallot Jam

Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook spent a month perfecting their creamy chicken-liver mousse, topped with a jam of sweet sautéed shallots and balsamic vinegar.

15 of 30

Caesar Salad Spears

Caesar Salad Spears
© Kana Okada

Salads usually require forks, but Grace Parisi transforms a classic Caesar into a clever finger food. She tosses chopped endives with a lemony dressing, then spoons the mixture inside elegant endive spears, topping it with cheese and crunchy mini croutons.

16 of 30

Mini Tartes Flambées

Mini Tartes Flambées

This is a bite-size version of tarte flambée, a traditional Alsatian tart. Gabriel Kreuther’s mother makes tarte flambée on the family farm in Alsace, using home-smoked bacon and home-grown onions.

17 of 30

Boiled Shrimp with Spicy Mayonnaise

Boiled Shrimp
QUENTIN BACON

Mustard and white pepper amp up the heat in this homemade mayo for shrimp.

18 of 30

Open-Faced Crab Empanadas

Open-Faced Crab Empanadas
© Akiko Ida & Pierre Javelle

José Andrés says: “Without a doubt, one of my favorite American ingredients is blue crabs, a true delicacy! And a great value, I think.” This recipe is his twist on the traditional Basque txangurro (crab simmered with tomato), crossed with a Galician empanada (a savory pie). “Part of my efforts to build a bridge between America and Spain,” he explains.

19 of 30

Gorditas

Gorditas
© Zubin Schroff

Crisp on the outside and soft within, these savory corn cakes are a great base for all types of toppings, from pulled pork to shredded chicken.

20 of 30

Toasted Pistachio-Cheese Arancini

Toasted Pistachio–-Cheese Arancini

These arancini—fried risotto balls—are the size of tangerines, filled with creamy, cheesy rice, studded with nuts and green peas and encased in a great crunchy crust.

21 of 30

Shrimp-and-Pork Spring Rolls

Spring rolls dim sum recipe

Zang Toi’s supremely crispy spring rolls are filled with a mix of marinated shrimp, ground pork and a handful of colorful julienned vegetables, like carrot, jicama and beans. The fried shallot rings add alluring flavor and crunch to the spring rolls, too, but they’re optional. Toi even makes his own chile sauce to serve as an accompaniment.

22 of 30

Italian Fontina Fonduta

Italian Fontina Fonduta

To make her fonduta, the Italian version of fondue, Linda Meyers uses pungent Fontina instead of the Gruyère often found in Swiss recipes. For a splurge, she recommends shaving on white truffles just before serving.

23 of 30

Pimento Cheese & Bacon Crostini

Pimento Cheese & Bacon Crostini
BURCU AVSAR

Down Home with the Neelys cookbook has inventive recipes like these irresistible crostini.

24 of 30

Red Wine Bagna Cauda with Crudités

Red Wine Bagna Cauda with Crudités
© Cedric Angeles

This garnet sauce is Chris Cosentino’s take on the classic Piedmontese anchovy-and-olive-oil dip, enriched here with red wine. Italian for “hot bath,” bagna cauda is served warm with crudités. This version, with both oil-packed and marinated anchovies, doubles as a terrific sauce for grilled meat.

25 of 30

Black-Pepper Breadsticks

Black-Pepper Breadsticks
© Petrina Tinslay

Scott Conant serves these tender, peppery breadsticks as a starter. He packs them into a tall glass or plates them with small wedges of La Tur cheese (a dense, buttery Piedmont cheese made from a blend of cow, sheep and goat milk), drizzled with aged balsamic vinegar and sprinkled with flaky sea salt.

26 of 30

Oysters Rockefeller

Oysters Rockefeller
© Lucy Schaeffer

This recipe is the old Delmonico restaurant’s take on the classic dish, with the Rockefeller sauce base used not only to make the Oysters Rockefeller appetizer, but also used as a spread on toast to create canapés.

27 of 30

Porcini-and-Pecan Pâté

Porcini-and-Pecan Pâté
© Sabra Krock

Proving that vegetables can be as satisfying as meat, chef Sean Baker serves this mushroom pâté on the vegan “charcuterie” plate at his Berkeley restaurant, Gather.

28 of 30

Sausage Potato Puffs

Sausage Potato Puffs
© Frances Janisch

Maria Helm Sinskey has a strategy for parties: there should be a mix of baked, fried and fresh hors d’oeuvres. Besides ensuring that guests don’t overload on one kind of appetizer, she also avoids too much last-minute cooking. These tender potato puffs spiked with spicy sausages are one of her favorite oven-baked starters.

29 of 30

Crudité with Creamy Pistachio Dip

Crudités with Creamy Pistachio Dip
© Anna Williams

Salty, creamy (and even a little crunchy), this recipe is the ultimate party snack for when you are looking to go far beyond the average bowl of onion dip.

30 of 30

Three-Cheese Mini Macs

Three-Cheese Mini Macs
© Kana Okada

Anything big made small is ultrafun for cocktail parties, and these quick, one-bite mac and cheeses are the ultimate example. Cooked in mini muffin pans, the mini macs can be assembled early and baked just as guests arrive.

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