Menus & Entertaining

The hors d'oeuvres dinner party

By: Randy Taylor

Author: Canadian Living

Menus & Entertaining

The hors d'oeuvres dinner party

By: Randy Taylor

An easy and interesting dinner party idea is to prepare a feast made entirely from hors d'oeuvres. In addition to providing your guests with the greatest variety of taste, colour and visual appeal, this dinner party approach can be done by anyone, from a seasoned chef to someone who feels a little more nervous in the kitchen. All you need is a few of the basics to turn up the dial on taste and selection.

Planning your hors d'oeuvres dinner party
Once you have a good understanding of the mix of guests coming to your home or event, the first step is to plan a variety of hors d'oeuvres to suit their tastes and match the timing of the event. If the event is in the late evening, fall or winter and accompanied by a selection of wines, your menu will lean toward meats and cheeses. If, however, the event is to occur during the daytime or summer, the menu will feature more fresh fruits, dips and vegetables. The general rule of thumb for quantity is approximately eight to 10 individual hors d'oeuvres per person or the equivalent. But don't be afraid to prepare more than that -- this meal is a big hit with guests.

Presenting the hors d'oeuvres
Unless you are planning on having all hors d'oeuvres served on trays by wait staff at your party, I strongly suggest a combination of individual hors d'oeuvres (both hot and cold) combined with trays of different ingredients your guests can experiment with themselves. The presentation is spectacular.

Depending on the number of guests you're serving, trays can be individual or combined. They can include one or more of the following:

A variety of cold cuts, kielbasa and paté layered and decorated with cherry tomatoes, parsley and cucumber slices. This tray can be complemented with a variety of mustards, horseradish and sweet and hot peppers.

Variety is the spice of life. This cheese tray can include Cheddar, Brie, Swiss, Camembert, Jarlsberg, Gouda, smoked cheese, blue cheese and any of your other favourites. This tray can be complemented with dill pickle slices, olives (preferably pitted), sweet pickles and even hot peppers as an added taste selection. If you are not having an individual fruit platter, this platter could also include grapes, apple slices, pear slices, mango and pineapple.

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Cut fruits into individual servings. This tray can include pineapple, strawberries, blueberries, apple slices, pear slices, grapes, watermelon and melon. It can be complemented with fresh fruit dips.

This tray can include celery, radishes, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms and bell peppers of all colours -- all cut into individual servings. This tray can be complemented with a variety of dips, hummus, baba ghanoush, ranch dip, black bean dip, etc. Display these veggies by balancing the colours on the tray.

This is the tray to impress. Admittedly this will likely be your most expensive component, but few selections will draw attention like a seafood tray. You can include shrimp, crab legs, mussels, smoked oysters, fresh oysters, smoked salmon, baked salmon or any of your other favourites. The tray can be decorated with lemon wedges, hot garlic butter, seafood and tartar sauce.

Variety will provide your guests with a great selection to experiment with. This tray or basket should include a variety of fresh breads, flatbreads and crackers. Serving the breads warmed in the oven is a nice touch.

Once you have decided upon which elements you are going to include on trays, the next step is to plan the individual hors d'oeuvres. While most hors d'oeuvres are typically served on flatbreads and crackers, a great addition is to experiment with building them fresh from the ground up, that is, to replace the crackers or breads with cucumber slices, tomato slices on sliced cheese or on slices of fresh fruit.

When planning your individual hors d'oeuvres, a good mix is to prepare three hot and four cold selections to complement your trays. If you are stuck for recipes, your answer is as close as your favourite cookbook or the fabulous selection in our Food section. There is a myriad of options available and preparation can be quite easy. Consider that most hors d'oeuvres will have the base (cracker, bread or vegetable) and a topping such as cream cheese, hummus or paté, topped by olives, oysters, cheese or any topping of your choice.

The final thing to consider is time and experience. Any hors d'oeuvres dinner party can be complemented by fresh store-bought sushi, spring rolls or other favourites. By mixing in a few different items, you will not only keep them guessing, but keep them coming back for more. Bon appetit!

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Menus & Entertaining

The hors d'oeuvres dinner party