How To Stretch Party Appetizers For A Crowd

In their 2018 book "Brunch Is Hell," co-authors Rico Gagliano and Brendan Francis Newnam champion the "dinner party" as a cultural institution to be celebrated and carefully maintained. Dinner parties, say the authors, should be a place "where friends new and old share food, debate ideas, and boldly build hangovers together. If we revive the fading art of throwing dinner parties, the world will be better off." It's a beautiful sentiment — but on a Friday night after coming home late from work with nothing in the oven and 20 guests on the way, the illustrious, gilded carrot that is the "dinner party" can feel more like a weirdly dated pipe dream than a fun reality.

Whether you're cooking an elaborate meal later in the evening or "simply" hosting cocktail hour, whipping up a massive batch of party appetizers can be stressful. Plus, last-minute (and empty-handed) guests are always liable to pop through your door, especially if word gets around that you know how to throw a good party. (Surprise guests are like a punishment for a job well done.) As one headline by The New York Times daringly asks, "Can a Dinner Party Be Stress-Free?" The answer is: Probably not 100%. But it can be a whole lot easier with a few tips and tricks — like minimizing the workload by stretching your go-to party appetizers to feed a crowd.

Slice up some bread

To make those party appetizers fill your guests up and last all evening (or at least, last long enough to soak up some of the booze before you're ready to serve the main course), simply adjust your go-to recipes and serve your one to two-bite snacks on small pieces of bread or toast. This works for charcuterie boards as well, as you can layer some meat and cheese on the crackers or baguette you had planned to offer alongside it to create a complete dish.

If you're familiar with Basque cuisine, you'll likely recognize the inspiration for this tip, where small snacks — like tiny potato omelets or bites of foie gras — called pintxos (or pinchos) are commonly sold at bars (via Eusko Guide). These tapas-adjacent finger foods are traditionally served on small pieces of bread. Classic pintxos are skewered through the middle with a toothpick, but feel free to liberate your imagination when creating your own version — all you need to do is reimagine whatever recipe you were going to make.

The options are endless

You can think of these as finger sandwiches with less fuss and more fun (that tookpick in pintxos isn't for show, it stabilizes sky-high toppings). If you were originally going to pass out deviled eggs as an hors d'oeuvre, simply whip up them up into a deviled egg salad and serve it on pieces of flatbread or crispy pita triangles. Instead of setting out a bowl of homemade pimento cheese, slice some sourdough into quarters and simply dollop the spread on top or create mini grilled pimento cheese sandwiches.

Your fresh Caprese salad will stretch much further if served on sliced rounds of baguette or speared with a toothpick atop a square of focaccia. Making a light, airy cucumber salad? Instead, smear some cream cheese across a small piece of toasted pumpernickel, slam a cucumber slice on top, and garnish with fresh dill. One slice of bread can make a big difference in your energy level on party day and help keep you out of the kitchen and enjoying the fruits of your labors when guests arrive.