A cocktail party menu that’s also hassle free for the host

The holidays are synonymous with entertaining. And though we talk about hosting a gathering often in this column, holiday entertaining is really our favorite way to share with friends.

An elegant cocktail party is always a great way to celebrate. However, these types of events do seem to take the most amount of planning and prep work because the menus favor time-consuming dishes and fancy hors d’oeuvres. That’s why we decided this month to create an elegant menu that’s also hassle-free.

All of these recipes can be made ahead of time, leaving you plenty of time to relax and enjoy your own party. But the results will be so impressive, we promise your guests won’t know you cheated!


Lump crabmeat is such a decadent treat during the holidays. It really doesn’t take much to make it a fabulous cocktail party addition, which is why it’s one of our favorite easy-yet-elegant things to serve. This crabmeat ravigote can be served as an individual hors d’oeuvre or as a delicious salad. The ravigote dressing can be made a day or two in advance. When you are ready to serve, toss it over the jumbo lump crabmeat. You can serve the ravigote over endive or your favorite greens.

Servings: 8

2 pounds fresh jumbo lump crabmeat
¾ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon Creole seasoning
½ cup chopped red bell pepper
¼ cup chopped red onion
½ cup chopped green onions
¼ cup capers
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
2-3 heads of Belgian endive, washed and separated

1. Place the crabmeat in a large bowl. Gently pick through it for shells, trying not to break up the crabmeat too much.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, mustard, Worcestershire, lemon juice and Creole seasoning until smooth.
3. Add the chopped bell pepper, red onion, green onions, capers and parsley. Stir to combine.
4. Pour this mixture over the crabmeat. Gently fold it in until the crabmeat is just covered with the dressing.
5. Cover and chill for an hour or two before serving.
6. Serve the Crabmeat Ravigote over the endive or with toast points or water crackers.


This has become one of our new holiday favorites. It has all the elements of a savory cheese board rolled into one delicious cake. The crust is crunchy and buttery while the filling is creamy, rich and savory. We topped the cheesecake with a homemade roasted garlic jam consisting of a few simple ingredients like apple jelly and oven-roasted garlic. We kicked it up with a bit of red pepper flakes and a splash of apple cider vinegar. The combination of sweet and spicy on top of the savory cheesecake makes for a delicious combination of flavors. Adding just a little extra texture and saltiness: crispy bacon crumbles. Overall, this is a great appetizer that can be made a day or two in advance and then served at room temperature. It’s elegant but still a cinch to pull off.

Servings: Yields 1 (9-inch) cake

For the crust:

1½ cups crushed Ritz crackers
5 tablespoons melted butter

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Place the cracker crumbs in a mixing bowl and drizzle in the melted butter.
3. Mix until the crumbs are all covered. Press the crumbs into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.
4. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool before filling. Note: Keep the oven running for the remaining steps.

For the filling:

8 ounces softened cream cheese
8 ounces softened Camembert
3 tablespoons flour
¼ teaspoon Creole seasoning
½ teaspoon herbes de Provence
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
3 eggs
¼ teaspoon black pepper
8 ounces sour cream

1. In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to cream the cream cheese and Camembert until smooth.
2. Add the flour, Creole seasoning, herbes de Provence and vinegar. Beat to incorporate everything.
3. Add the eggs. Continue beating until smooth.
4. Add the black pepper. Fold in the sour cream. Pour over the cracker crust in the springform pan.
5. Bake in the 350-degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes. The cheesecake is ready once it is puffed and golden and set in the middle.
6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Carefully release the springform and chill the cheesecake for a couple of hours or overnight.

For the roasted garlic jam and bacon:

1 whole pod of garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup apple jelly
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Pinch of salt
3 strips crispy cooked bacon, crumbled

1. Remove most of the skin from the garlic pod. Trim the top.
2. Line a baking pan with foil, and place the garlic pod on it. Drizzle with a little olive oil and place it in the 350-degree oven.
3. Roast for 30-35 minutes or until the garlic is very soft. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool.
4. Once cooled, gently squeeze the pod to release the roasted garlic. (It will be the consistency of a paste when you squeeze it.)
5. Place the garlic in a small sauce pot. Add the apple jelly, vinegar, crushed red pepper and pinch of salt.
6. Stir and heat over medium heat until smooth and bubbly. Turn off the heat and allow the roasted garlic jelly to cool completely.
7. Top the Camembert cheesecake with the roasted garlic jam and crumbled crispy bacon.


Turtle soup was traditionally a Creole dish served on special occasions. It is rich and hearty, but still elegant enough to serve at a cocktail party. We like serving it in our fine china coffee cups with a saucer, making it a very easy dish to eat at a cocktail party. Today, many restaurants use lean ground beef in place of turtle meat, which is often difficult to prepare. We came up with our own version of a mock turtle soup using ground sirloin. All the other ingredients are traditionally found in turtle soup. We topped it with chopped boiled eggs and a splash of sherry—just like in many of the fanciest restaurants across south Louisiana.

Servings: 8

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
½ cup finely chopped onion
½ cup finely chopped celery
½ cup finely chopped bell pepper
½ cup tomato paste
1½ pounds ground sirloin
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons flour
4 cups low-sodium beef broth
1 (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup sherry, plus more for serving
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon paprika
2 -3 bay leaves
2 hardboiled eggs, finely chopped

1. In a large skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Saute the onion, celery and bell pepper for 3-4 minutes. Add the tomato paste and continue to saute for another 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside.
2. In a large pot, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Brown the ground meat over medium heat until it is no longer pink. Add the browned meat to the onion-tomato paste mixture. Wipe out the bottom of the pot.
3. Place the pot back over medium heat. Add the butter and flour to make a roux.
4. Cook the roux for several minutes, stirring constantly to prevent it from burning. Continue cooking until the roux becomes the color of peanut butter.
5. Whisk in the beef broth and stir until smooth. Add in the crushed tomatoes and the ground meat mixture.
6. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, sherry and remaining seasonings.
7. Bring the soup to a simmer, then lower the heat. Continue cooking on low for 30-40 minutes.
8. Serve the soup with chopped hardboiled eggs, fresh chopped parsley and a little more sherry, if desired.

Note: This soup is better when made a day ahead so the flavors can come together.

This article was originally published in the December 2019 issue of 225 Magazine.