Cook’s notes: Two excellent discussions at Chow and at thekitchn.com centered around having a Thanksgiving party with just finger foods and appetizers. As one reader noted, “a Thanksgiving cocktail party instead of the traditional gut-stuffing menu” sounds like a really fun idea. Notice that no one suggests a green salad! This party is one in which you have all appetizers for the menu.
For a regular Thanksgiving dinner, the suggestions for appetizers were consistent: a raw vegetable (crudite) platter with a light dip, shrimp cocktail, stuffed mushrooms, and spiced nuts.
I was inspired to take reader suggestions from both discussions, sort them by category, add a few ideas, and add links to recipes and other related sites. Remember, you would not serve all of these dishes at one party! (nor have I tested all of these recipes!)
When planning your party menu, pick a few items from each category. Diane Phillips recommends a cocktail party menu similar to the following:
- 1 to 2 signature cocktails
- 1 dip with veggies
- 1 cheese platter with breads and crackers
- 5 to 7 “small bites”, including spiced nuts
- 2 dessert offerings
Since this appetizer menu is in place of a meal, you’ll want some substantial offerings. Pick at least one turkey dish. It’s Thanksgiving, after all.
SIGNATURE COCKTAILS / BEVERAGES (1 to 2)
Be sure to have at least one non-alcoholic offering for the designated drivers. Sparkling cider is easy: just pop the cork.
- Autumn Sangria with figs, plums, and dried apricots (Recipe from Better Homes & Gardens)
- Cider or sparkling cider
- Cosmopolitans or cranberry martinis. Presentation tip: For the martinis, skewer cranberries on swizzle sticks and freeze.
- Maiden Madras: Blend 4 oz cranberry juice and 1/3 c orange juice
- “The Signature Cocktail”: Fill a 12-oz glass with ice. Stir together and pour in: 2 oz simple syrup, 1.5 oz cranberry juice, and 1 oz vodka. Top drink with club soda.
Source: USA Weekend, Nov. 10 – 12, 2006, p. 7
SPREADS AND DIPS (1 dip plus veggies)
Presentation tip: Scoop out some mini pumpkins and serve dip in them
- Baked Brie cheese topped with cranberry sauce appetizer, such as Cranberry Sauce with Cherries, Marsala and Rosemary (link)
- Baked sweet potato fries with dipping sauces
- Cranberry Chutney served over a block of cream cheese
- Blanched Green Beans (link) served with an onion dip (link): these are green beans served as crudites instead of green bean casserole
- Mediterranean 7-layer dip: layer hummus, scallions, cucumber, grape tomatoes, Kalamata olives, feta cheese, roasted red pepper, and chopped fresh parsley. Serve with pita crisps or flatbread. (This is “easy and a hit even with unadventurous eaters,” says Chow reader “intuitive eggplant”)
- Pear chutney and goat cheese bruschetta (link)
- Raw vegetable platter with a bowl of blue cheese dip (link) and Terra Chips (Sweet Potato, naturally)
SMALL BITES – Pick 5 to 7
Include 1 cheese platter with assorted breads and crackers.
- Black Pepper Almonds (link)
- Chicken wings or small drumsticks
- Mini butternut squash and cheese tarts (link)
- Mini corn muffins
- Mini turkey sandwiches: 1) buttermilk biscuits flavored with sage and spread with cranberry sauce and dressing or
2) whole wheat rolls with sliced turkey, cream cheese and cranberry sauce
- Olives wrapped in cheese dough (link)
- Orzo salad-stuffed tomatoes (link)
- Potato pancakes (link) or sweet potato latkes (link)
- Pumpkin bread
- Relish tray: black olives, mini sweet pickles, and carrot sticks.
- Fancy additions to the relish tray: Harvard Beets (link) or stuffed olives: Get fancy with green olives stuffed with blue cheese, whole garlic cloves, or whole almonds.
- Shrimp Cocktail (the absolutely best recipe is by Alton Brown)
- Spiced nuts or pumpkins seeds (18 recipes and counting here)
- Stuffing-stuffed mushrooms (link)
- Stuffing baked in muffin cups (such as Rachael Ray’s version)
- Turkey Crescents with Cranberry Sauce (link)
- Turkey Cutlets
- Turkey Cranberry Pinwheels (link)
Presentation tip: Serve the soup shots in espresso cups with tiny cheese straws.
- “Shots” of butternut squash soup (link)
- Also suggested: chowders, creamy garbanzo bean soup, cream of mushroom, or pumpkin
DESSERT OFFERINGS – Pick 2
- Apple wedges and seedless grapes (fresh fruit)
- Bakerella’s mini pumpkin pie bites (link)
- Mini apple pies made in muffin tins
- Nantucket Cranberry Pie made in muffin cups with whipped cream (link)
- Pear slices with caramel fondue (link)
- Pumpkin and pecan tarts (link)
- Pumpkin pie cupcakes (link)
- Mini pumpkin cheesecakes (link)