Epicurious Users' Favorite Recipes for a Holiday Celebration

Users' favorite recipes for cocktail party bites and beverages

This year we decided to highlight the recipes-holiday cocktail party hors d'oeuvres, desserts, and drinks-that received among the highest marks from our loyal users, along with some of the corresponding comments and tips. The recipe collection below has been curated by our users.


Herbed Cream Cheese Cucumber Rounds

Need a vegetarian option? Ceej2002 from Minneapolis, comments that "these little edible pieces of art" are "delicious, refreshingly light and so easy to prepare." While many thought they were a great summer snack, TEC from IL, finds them a "much needed reprieve after filling up on heavy holiday fare" and Rick99 from Boston, discovers the colors remind him of Christmas. There's more: A Cook from Texas praises the recipe for making use of "ingredients you usually have on hand." Others admit you could omit the mint if necessary or use chèvre in place of cream cheese for a little added flavor.



Bloody Mary Shrimp

"Outstanding recipe and quick to make," says Whollowayl from Cumberland, Rhode Island. Whether you serve the shrimp on Chinese soupspoons or, as B1ggry96 from Ontario, Canada, recommends, on endive, it seems this is one hors d'oeuvre no one can get enough of. Many, including Suejane8 from West Hollywood, suggest using precleaned and cooked frozen shrimp to save precious time during the busy holiday season. Depending on your tolerance for heat, you can play with the seasonings. A Cook from New Jersey shares: "I used chili sauce in place of ketchup and lime juice instead of lemon juice."



Pepper-Crusted Steak with Horseradish Cream on Grilled Garlic Crostini

Expat in the Netherlands raves that the marinade is "perfect for the steak," giving it "a lovely flavor with a bit of bite." Many readers changed things up, substituting beef tenderloin (as TD from Richmond VA did) or flank steak (good idea, Sammousse!) for the London broil. A Cook from Clarkston, MI writes that "This recipe makes quite a bit, I served [it] at a cocktail party for 22 people and have been enjoying the leftovers for days!"



Cumin-Roasted Potatoes with Caviar and Smoked Salmon

The praise for these hors d'oeuvres made us glow and includes exclamations like "VERY VERY GOOD" (from A Cook from Houston, TX) and "Absolutely fabulous!" (from A Cook from Washington, DC). While users agree that the cumin and preserved lemon are crucial to the balance and flavor of the dish, they don't find it necessary to shell out for expensive ingredients: "You don't need $$$$ for caviar; get the supermarket varieties (or sour cream for crème fraîche)...not a big deal" proclaims Rlanzilotti from Berwyn, PA, who also notes that the recipe need not be reserved for special occasions.



Parmesan Black-Pepper Biscotti

"Mmmm, mmmmm....good," declares A Cook from Somerville, MA. "The black pepper adds a subtle bite in the aftertaste," says A Cook from San Diego. Some readers, including Ayngelina from Toronto, recommend livening up the biscotti with fresh rosemary, extra ground pepper, or even a touch of garlic salt. Meanwhile, Chefspeedy from Hamilton, NY, shares a tasty serving technique: "Made these for a cocktail party-thinner and longer, about six inches long by 3/4 of an inch wide after cutting, and wrapped with prosciutto. Believe it or not, these went before the shrimp cocktail!"



Roasted Cherry Tomato and Fresh Herb Bread

"This is a phenomenal, easy recipe that can be made in advance," says A Cook from State College, PA. Users had fun experimenting with different herbs (like basil) and seasonings (garlic) or even a little bit of Asiago cheese (Marilynsob from Lancaster, PA, thought it provided a good counterpoint to the sweetness of the tomatoes). Einerson from Hilliard used yellow grape tomatoes as well as cherry tomatoes for a dash of color. A Cook from Warren, NJ, says the recipe is "absolutely delicious" and suggests making the roasted tomatoes two days early to give the flavors "time to settle in."



Pancetta Crisps with Goat Cheese and Pear

Matisse77 from Boston says, "It's a wonderful combination of salty, smoked flavor blended with the sweetness of the pear and aromatic thyme." A Cook from Warren, NJ, recommends baking the pancetta in muffin tins: "The presentation was still gorgeous, and they were easier for guests to manage." Many readers point out that ten minutes in the oven was too long for the crisps, which should come out after six to eight minutes. Princessww from Seattle, puts goat cheese in a pastry bag and pipes it. Substitutions and additions abound-fig for pear, blue cheese for goat cheese, and even salami for pancetta.



Caramelized-Onion Tartlets(see recipe below)

Catleen from Lakeland, FL, found a way to make this dish easier to prepare: She uses mini phyllo cups instead of rolling out the pie dough. Kristenfc from Providence, made the shells and caramelized onions a day in advance. Many readers play with elements of the dish, substituting everything from Gouda to fat-free Greek yogurt for the crème fraîche. The results? "Embarrassingly easy to make," says DrBehavior from Sacramento and, "essential for a party!" says A Cook from California.



Stilton Tart with Cranberry Chutney

A Cook from Boston, says, "It has become a signature dish for us…Whenever we go to any pot luck party our friends ask for 'that cranberry one.'" Many suggest buying puff pastry or premade crust in a pinch, and agree that using good Stilton is the key to this recipe. A few readers, like Carol from Atlanta, GA, have tried mixing it with something milder or switching to an entirely different cheese, like Caerphilly or Gorgonzola. Those who couldn't find fresh cranberries experimented with rhubarb or even raspberries.




Tiramisu Eggnog Trifle

With 120 reviews and counting, this sure is a popular dish, but users have tips: Vivianwang1 from San Jose observes "The [custard] filling takes more than the 5 minutes indicated...more like 15-20 minutes," while Picht from Natchitoches, LA says, "I beat the Mascarpone thoroughly before adding it to the custard, so [it] came out completely smooth." Some reviewers pointed out that the recipe made too much filling. Judy Wheeler's solution? "We used the left over custard on our French toast the next morning!"



Tipsy Turtle Bark

What is this bark? It's rich chocolate with roasted pecans and butter-rum caramel. If you don't want to include rum, A Cook from Sonoma County suggests vanilla paste instead. Justineliz from Boston recommends "melting the caramel while melting the chocolate, as it hardened before the chocolate was melted. Also make sure to really push the second round of nuts into the caramel coat (I didn't do this and the whole top of the bark fell off)." GypsyRvr from Kamloops, BC, notes it's "wonderful for packaging to ship!"



Chocolate Chip and Peppermint Crunch Crackles

To achieve a brownie-like texture that holds its shape and doesn't flatten, many readers form dough balls and then chill them for a few hours or even overnight. Ktrot006 from Cairo, Egypt, rolls the balls in powdered sugar before baking them "to give them a nicer, more crackled look." How to break up the peppermint? Smash it with mallets, crush with cast-iron skillets, grind in a coffee grinder, or whirl in a blender or food processor. The finished cookies are best on the day they are baked, but A Cook from Tempe says that microwaving them for about 10 seconds "freshens them up and brings out the mint flavor again."



Pomegranate-Champagne Punch

"We had to mix another batch because the first bowl went so quickly," says Kmeaney from Devon, PA. A few readers, eager to play party mixologist, doctored the punch with more fruit flavors. "It seemed rather bland and needed something. I added about 3/4 cup of pineapple juice and it was much better," explains Ocgal. Others added lime wedges or, like Corym from Wilton, CT, used pineapple-flavored rum in place of white rum. "Don't make this if you want the party to end early!" concludes A Reviewer from Simi Valley, CA.



Caramel Swirl Hot Chocolate

A Reviewer from Apex, NC uses bittersweet chocolate or even half bittersweet and semi-sweet because "it makes it not nearly as sweet and gives a more complex chocolate flavor." An initially skeptical Reviewer from Kelowna, BC, Canada, says, "Very rich, and no one could finish a whole mug in one sitting. I recommend small portions in small mugs, but it keeps very well-we've had leftovers for two days." Anaaz from Singapore was thrilled to discover "after experiencing this drink u wont need to go to Starbucks again!!!"



CARAMELIZED-ONION TARTLETS

Gourmet | October 2004

Yield: Makes 12 hors d'oeuvres

Active time: 30 min

Total time: 45 min

Ingredients

  • 2 cups very thinly sliced onion (about 2 onions)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 3/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 (9-inch) refrigerated pie shell (from a 15-ounce package)
  • 3 tablespoons crème fraîche at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh chives
  • Special equipment: a 2 1/4-inch round cookie cutter; a mini-muffin pan with 12 (1/8-cup) muffin cups

Preparation

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F.

Cook onion, butter, water, salt, and pepper, covered, in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderately low heat, 10 minutes. Remove lid and cook, stirring frequently, until onion is deep golden brown and very tender, about 25 minutes.

While onion cooks, roll out dough to slightly less than 1/8 inch thick. Cut out 12 rounds with cutter and lightly press each into a mini-muffin cup. Bake until pale golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove tartlet shells from muffin pan.

Stir together crème fraîche and chives and divide among shells, then top with caramelized onions.

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