How many times have you gone to a wedding or some sort of gathering where you are presented with a fabulous pre-dinner cocktail hour, then a full-blown dinner? Do you eat too much at the cocktail hour to really enjoy your dinner, or do you avoid the cocktail hour for the dinner, only to discover you made the wrong choice? This is the season for entertaining. You may want to socialize informally, or formally if you wish, with an expanded cocktail hour. Usually a cocktail hour treats the guests to hors d’oeuvres or light snacks, along with an assortment of beverages, wines, and beers.
At a cocktail hour, guests are served either light or more substantial hors d’oeuvres depending upon whether a dinner is to follow. More substantial hors d’oeuvres often include finger sandwiches, assorted meats and pastries. If a dinner is following, lighter fare such as chips and dip or vegetable platters may be served. You can even limit the types of beverages served at your cocktail “hour.”
The purpose of a cocktail hour is to provide your guests with an atmosphere where they can informally socialize, enjoy different tidbits of food, and kick back and have fun. As the host, your job is to provide music suitable for the occasion, not too loud to overpower, just enough to set the mood. The host should also prepare comfortable seating and casual eating. But don’t forget to enjoy yourself, as well!
Here are some ideas and recipes for a holiday cocktail hour. While other items could be added to the menu below, these are some substantial hors d’oeuvres that should leave guests satisfied. They’re perfect for a New Year’s Eve party, or any time.
31-40 count cleaned and deveined shrimp — quantity depends upon the number of guests
Garlic — depending upon the quantity of shrimp — about 4 cloves per pound
Extra Virgin Olive Oil — enough to coat the shrimp generously
1 Tsp. Smoked Spanish Paprika
Dry shrimp with a paper towel and place in bowl. Add garlic, olive oil and paprika. Let marinate for at least an hour — can be done way ahead of the party. Cook in a frying pan until shrimp is pink and firm — do not overcook. Place everything — especially the oil and garlic – in a party dish so people can eat the shrimp and dip their bread into the garlic flavored oil.
Filet Mignon Bits
Filet Mignon – allow 1 filet per couple
Extra virgin olive oil
Dry filets with paper towel. Brush with olive oil. Season with salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder and let sit for at least an hour. Grill until rare to medium rare. Remove from grill and let sit for 10 minutes or so to allow juices to go back into the meat. Slice into thin bite-size slices. Serve with a bowl of good Blue Cheese on the side and garlic toasts — guests put steak on the toasts.
1 French baguette
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 or 4 cloves garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Slice bread at an angle. Mince or chop the garlic into tiny bits. Pour olive oil into a glass measuring cup. Add the garlic and place in microwave. Cook for 25 seconds twice — not 50 seconds once. Brush each piece of bread with the garlic olive oil mixture, including the garlic bits, add some salt & pepper. Place in broiler to toast and watch — don’t let it burn!
Warm Clam Dip
2 cans minced clams
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup butter
1 whole chopped onion
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch fresh parsley
1 tablespoon oregano
Dash of tabasco
3/4 cup of plain breadcrumbs
Grated Italian cheese
Simmer clams in small pot with lemon juice. Saute’ butter, onion, garlic and parsley a frying pan. Add oregano and Tabasco. Pour clams into frying pan mixture and mix together. Stir in breadcrumbs and stir to soften breadcrumbs. Put into a small greased baking dish, add paprika and cheese on top before baking for about 20 minutes at 250° F. Serve immediately with crackers or sliced Italian bread.
8 ounces mozzarella cut into cubes
1/2 cup grated Italian cheese
2 garlic cloves minced
2 tablespoons parsley minced
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 can or frozen package artichoke hearts drained and chopped
Double crust pie-crust — either homemade or store bought
Prepare 9” pie pan with bottom crust. In a medium sized frying pan, add the olive oil, garlic and cut up artichokes. Saute’ until lightly browned, let cool. In a medium sized bowl, add eggs, both cheeses, parsley and artichoke hearts after they have cooled. Pour mixture into prepared pie plate. Add top crust. Bake for15 min at 450° F, then 350 for 30 minutes.