9 Bites to Serve at Your Next Holiday Party

If you are anything like me, when you cook for others, you tend to spend more time in the kitchen looking after the food than you do looking after your guests. In my mind, the best way to ensure my invitees are having a great time is to serve them the best possible meal. Still, this tendency of mine drives Paul nuts, and besides, it becomes more difficult the more people I pile into our apartment. To combat this issue, I have been working on some hors d’oeuvres that can be made a few hours ahead, piled onto a serving platter and forgotten until the first guest arrives. Most of these will work for any number of occasions, but as the holiday season is upon us, why not try them out now?

1. Lemony Mushroom and Frisee Toasts

I think I made these originally with things I had sitting in the fridge–who wants to see perfectly good salad and mushroom leftovers go to waste? Mix a batch of dressing, wash a bunch of frisee and sautee a batch of mushrooms, and these can be thrown together thirty minutes before your guests arrive. Makes about 20 toasts.


  • 35 cremini mushrooms
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon salted butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bunches frisee lettuce
  • 1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
  • sea salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 1 loaf pain de mie, or 1 baguette
  • 20 thin slices Pecorino cheese


1. Wash, dry and thinly slice the mushrooms; set aside. In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil, butter, minced garlic and thyme until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, and cook them until they are soft, about another 6 to 8 minutes.

2. In a small bowl, mix the mustard with the lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Pour in the olive oil, whisking constantly, until incorporated. Set aside. Wash and dry the frisee.

3. If you are using pain de mie, cut the bread into slices, and the slices into 4 equal quarters. If you are using a baguette, slice into thin rounds. Lay the bread on a baking sheet, and toast in the oven at 300F for about 10 minutes, until lightly toasted.

4. Just before you are ready to serve, toss the frisee with the lemon dressing (give it a whisk if it has separated). If made ahead, gently reheat the mushrooms and slice the Pecorino. To assemble, spoon a layer of the mushrooms onto each toast, then top with a slice of the cheese. Add a bit of the dressed frisee to each toast. Finish with a grating of freshly ground pepper.


2. Camembert and Cranberry Compote Toasts

Here is a life lesson: if you have a Frenchman about, no wheel of Camembert is safe. I’m serious. I once hid some in the back of the fridge, completely covered under a bag of lettuce. I happily flounced off to class, thinking there was no way it would be discovered. Oh, how foolish I was. I received a message about twenty minutes later: “Sorry! I ate the Camembert.” I learn from my mistakes though, and now when I am going to make this hors d’oeuvre, I buy the cheese the same day.


Camembert Toasts:

  • 1 baguette
  • 1 wheel of Camembert cheese

Super Simple Cranberry Compote:

  • 1 bag frozen or fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • zest and juice of 1/2 lemon


1. Make the compote: In a medium pot, combine the cranberries with the water and sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves completely. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat slightly. Add the lemon zest and juice. Stir occasionally, until the mixture thickens, about 20 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 300F. Cut a baguette into rounds, and lay them on a baking sheet. Top each round with a thin slice of Camembert. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, until the toast is golden and the cheese is melting. Take the baking sheet out of the oven, and cover each toast with a dollop of the cranberry compote. Serve immediately.


3. Roast Beef Toasts with Horseradish Mustard and Cress


  • 1 baguette, cut into rounds
  • 1/4 cup Horseradish (or spicy) mustard
  • 1 bunch of watercress, washed and dried
  • 1/2 pound roast beef


Lay the baguette rounds onto a serving platter or baking sheet. Smear each with some mustard, layer with watercress and a piece of roast beef. Cover with plastic and store in the fridge for up to four hours.


4. Salmon and Avocado Toasts

Oh salmon and avocado, has there ever been such a glorious pairing? This hors d’oeuvre amps up the creaminess even further with a swash of crème fraîche. A liberal squeeze of lemon juice balances it out with some acidity. Sea salt and pepper brings the whole bite together. Makes about 20 toasts.


  • 1 baguette
  • 1/2 cup cup crème fraîche
  • 1 package organic smoked salmon
  • 1 ripe avocado, cut into thin strips
  • sea salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 2 lemon, cut into wedges


1. Cut the baguette into thin rounds and lay them on a serving platter or baking sheet. (Toasting is optional).

2. Swipe a layer of crème fraîche onto toasted or untoasted baguette rounds. Top with a slice of smoked salmon and one strip of avocado. Sprinkle each toast liberally with sea salt and pepper.

3. Just before serving, cut the lemons into wedges and scatter them on the serving tray or baking sheet. Guests should squeeze lemon onto their toasts just before eating.


5. Rosemary-Lemon Garbanzo Bean Spoons

I got the idea for this recipe from a Chickpea Salad recipe that ran in Bon Appétit a while ago. I do like the original as is, but it might be better suited to summer, when fresh herbs are abundant. I think rosemary fits for winter. I also experimented with different quantities of the basics–lemon, garlic and olive oil. It tastes even better when the flavors have had a chance to come together, so it’s a great make ahead. Makes one large bowl full.


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 sprig of rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 can garbanzo beans
  • juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
  • sea salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino cheese


1. In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil, minced garlic and rosemary on medium heat until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

2. Empty 1 can of garbanzo beans into a sieve, and rinse. Move the beans to a large bowl and toss them with the garlic-rosemary olive oil, the lemon zest, lemon juice and Pecorino cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve in Chinese soup spoons.


6. White Beans and Leeks on Toast

This is a shameless example of me topping toast with Delicious Things I Like to Eat. Can you blame me? Butter, leeks and white beans–it’s a pretty winning combination. Finished with a thin slice of fruity, aged Gouda and some lemon zest, it’s not terrible. Makes about 15 toasts.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon salted butter
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 leeks, quartered, cleaned and sliced
  • 1 can white beans
  • sea salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 15 slices aged Gouda (aged Comté also works, or even Parmesan)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest


1. In a medium saucepan, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the chopped leek, and sauté for another 5 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, drain the white beans. When the leeks are almost done, add them to the pan and heat through. After a few minutes, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste.

3. Slice a baguette into thin rounds and lay them on a baking sheet. In a 300F oven, bake them for about 10 minutes, or until lightly browned. (You don’t want to skip this step–untoasted bread does not hold heavy beans very well!)

4. Spoon the leek and white bean mixture onto the toasts. Top each with a thin slice of the aged Gouda, and a pinch of lemon zest.


7. Cream Cheese and Cucumber Toasts


  • 1 baguette, cut into rounds
  • 1/2 cup of whipped cream cheese
  • 1 long and slender cucumber (or equivalent), thinly sliced
  • sea salt, freshly ground black pepper


Lay the baguette rounds onto a serving platter or baking sheet. Smear each with a layer of cream cheese, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover each round with 2 or 3 slices of cucumber.


8. Green and Red Endive Boats:

Christmas-colored and tasty. Endives make a great vessel for any number of cheeses, dips or dried fruits, so let your imagination run wild.Makes about 40 endive boats.


  • 5 heads of endive
  • 1 log creamy goat cheese
  • 2-3 Golden Delicious apples, cored and minced
  • 1 bunch fresh chives, minced
  • 1.5 tablespoons paprika


Separate the endive leaves and lay them on a baking sheet or serving platter. Spoon a small portion of goat cheese into each one, and then sprinkle the minced chives next to each morsel of cheese. Drop some apple next to the cheese and chives. Finish with a dusting of paprika.


9. Boozy Fudge Bites

This recipe did not turn out how I intended. Initially, I had lofty goals of creating a duel-layered, rich chocolate fudge–between the first layer bright fruit preserves, and on top, crushed candied pecans. When I cut this well-behaved fudge into perfect little squares, I would be left with a tray resembling little holiday gifts. However, since I decided to half-haphazardly combine elements of every fudge recipe I came across, the result wasn’t so clean. I was left with a fudge that didn’t quite solidify, even after hours of chilling. In the end though, it didn’t matter very much–my friends simply attacked the pan, family-style, each wielding their own spoon. If you would rather serve these in a more formal setting, though, I suggest spooning a large bite onto individual spoons, and serving them on a tray. They are rich enough so one bite is satisfying. Makes one, 8×8 pan.


  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 bar (100 grams) dark chocolate (80% or higher)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • zest of 1/2 an orange
  • 1 tablespoon fruit brandy (I used cherry)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup jam (I used cranberry and raspberry)
  • 1 cup candied pecans


1. Line an 8×8 cake pan with foil, and set aside.

2. In a large saucepan, combine sugar, light corn syrup, sweetened condensed milk and heavy cream on medium heat. Bring to a boil, cook 5 minutes.

3. Break the chocolate into smaller pieces. Lower the heat, and add chocolate and butter; stir to combine. Stir continuously until the mixture is smooth and the chocolate is completely incorporated.

4. Turn off the heat, and stir in the vanilla, orange zest and the brandy. Pour half of the chocolate mixture into the pan, and chill in the refrigerator, 2 hours. Cover the other half, in the saucepan, with foil and set aside.

5. When the fudge is chilled (it doesn’t have to be completely solid), spread the jam evenly. Reheat the saucepan, and add milk as necessary, until the mixture is smooth again. Pour the chocolate mixture on top of the fudge/jam.

6. In a mortar, crush the candied pecans. Sprinkle evenly over the top of the fudge.
Chill the fudge for another few hours, or until you are ready to serve.


  1. Audrey

    I love this idea! Takes stress out of hostessing. I’m going to try this for my next party.

  2. Mary

    I like your 9 bites – yummy!

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