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How to: Throw a Thanksgiving Tasting Party - Menus, Recipes, and Tips

How to: Throw a Thanksgiving Tasting Party - Menus, Recipes, and Tips
Restaurant chefs began having tasting parties as a means to showcase their best dishes. The practice soon spilled over into kitchens everywhere. This year, I decided to see how one might extrapolate the tasting party into a Thanksgiving dinner. 

 Why, you may ask, would you want to pare down a holiday menu known to embrace surfeit into something that consists of bite-sized servings? I can think of several very good reasons. One, eating yourself into a coma no matter what the occasion isn’t a good thing. Two, it’s something different and lends to a very festive, party atmosphere. And three, not everyone has a big dining table/room that seats as many people as you plan to invite. You know what this means. People balancing loaded plates on their knees. Have you ever tried cutting a piece of meat in such a position? And don't get me started on the dangers of sloshing gravy. As for this being an 'adult' kind of gathering, I'd disagree. Kids just might think the smaller servings were created with them in mind.

So, imagine this kind of Thanksgiving dinner instead: Everyone sampling a delectable 6 course meal, all while mingling through your kitchen, dining area and living room, conversing genially and, when they’re done eating, feeling satisfied and not like they need to hibernate for the next three days. Sounds good, right? 

But how does one actually pull this Thanksgiving Tasting Feast off? It’s not as hard as it might seem.

The first step in throwing any tasting party is picking a theme. In this case, we’d pick Thanksgiving, but you could easily choose Fall, concentrating not so much on Thanksgiving staples but ingredients that are abundant in fall. (More on recipes in a bit.)

Next, decide how many courses you’d like to serve. You can make as few as 5 or as many as 7. What courses you serve and in which order, very greatly based upon what country and what type of food you're serving, but in standard American tradition, these are generally accepted as appropriate:  

  • Five courses = appetizer, soup, salad/veg, main course, dessert
  • Six courses = appetizer, soup, salad/veg, starch dish, main course, dessert (the addition of a starch course makes this particularly suitable to a Thanksgiving meal)
  • Seven courses = appetizer, soup, salad/veg, fish (or seafood), main course, dessert, cheese and fruit served with coffee or brandy

Now for the recipes themselves. You could easily prepare your Thanksgiving favorites and serve them in bit-sized quantities. But for something more unexpected and festive, you might want to opt for recipes created especially for bite-sized portions like appetizers, finger food and amuse bouche. Each of these are represented in Google searches, but here are some that seemed abundantly appropriate for our occasion. 

Pinterest's Tasting Party page maintained by Lacey Pentland has a superb collection of bite-sized recipes. To begin, we might want to start with Picky Palate's Baked Spinach Dip Mini Bread Bowls.

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To get our stuffing on, check out Gary's Stuffed Mushrooms courtesy of All Recipes. Yup, there's stuffing in those 'shrooms. 

For our soup course, any favorite recipe could be served in shooter glasses, but check out these selections, which are just perfect for our menu.  Butternut Squash Soup Shooters from She Knows:

Butternut squash soup shooters

White-Bean Soup Shooters with Bacon from the Food Network:

Picture of White-Bean Soup Shooters with Bacon Recipe

 

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For more great recipes check out this book from Fine Cooking!

For our salad/vegetable course, we'll go back to Lacey's page on Pinterest. Take a look at these cute creations from Taste of Home. They're called Festive Bean 'n' Pepper Bundles:

Festive Bean 'n' Pepper Bundles Recipe

Or how about these Vegetable Fritters from Taste? Taste, btw, has a GREAT selection of finger food recipes.

Vegetable fritters

Pinterest also has a nice little collection of amuse bouche recipes maintained by Lizz Nguyen. One that jumped out as being perfect for a starch course is Jaymee’s Triple Threat Potatoes, pictured below. They consist of baked, mashed and hash browns. Yummmmm.

If sweet potatoes are more your thing, check out these Sweet Potato Bacon Rolls from Messy Witchen. I spotted the recipe at TasteSpotting's collection of amuse bouche recipes.

Sweet Potato Bacon Roll

Now for our main course. Although Cranberry Turkey Crostini is a cold dish, it might be the perfect bite-size treat for our Thanksgiving tasting party as it not only features turkey but cranberries too. It comes from Taste of Home. Click here to see a list of appetizer recipes that feature turkey. 

Cranberry Turkey Crostini Recipe

Or how about these Turkey Cigars with Cranberry-Dijon Dipping Sauce

Turkey Cigars with Cranberry-Dijon Dipping Sauce Recipe

And, finally, dessert. We'll go back to Lizz's Pinterest page. These Individual Whole Peach Pies from Yummy Mummy Kitchen look divine:

Although, for our tasting party, it couldn't get much better than these individual pumpkin pies from My Baking Addiction via Lacey's Pinterest page.

These are just a few ideas culled from a variety of sources, but if you'd like to see a complete menu for a tasting party, check out The NY Melrose Family's fall tasting menu (pictured below). It consists of zuchini & garlic mini quiches, homemade cream of tomato soup, grilled brie and cranberry sandwiches, maple brandy coffee and mini apple pies topped with vanilla ice cream. (For links to recipes, go here.) Also, notice this is for a gathering of 6 and the hostess decided to plate 20 of the mini quiches to start. This is a perfect way to present self-contained selections, and it gives those with bigger appetites the option for seconds, thirds or even fourths. 

If you'd like to put on a spread using sweet serving dishes like the Melrose's, check out these tips from Pier 1. The retailer has been in on the bite-size phenomenon for quite awhile and their Tasting Party™ pieces prove it. Below is a shot of their products creating a spread that's as scrumptious to look at would be to eat. To see the individual items used and for some of the recipes used click here. If you don't want or can't lay out the cash to buy dishes for your tasting party, check out the great selection of plastic tasting dishes from Party City

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Aly on Nov 08, 2014:

I love to cook and have had fun collecting all types of mini dishes and barware.  I let my friends know I was collecting and have enjoyed receiving various pieces for gifts. Espresso cups are also good for soup tastings or shots of hot chocolate.  Libby makes a great line called Just Tasting, also Alex Liddy, Pier 1 and you can often find pieces in Home Goods or TJ Maxx. I have also had good luck on Amazon and Ebay.


Heather on Nov 02, 2012:

I wish I had all those dishes/platters etc for that presentation!  Alas!  I am poor!


Chrisjob on Nov 02, 2012:

Fantastic. Great idea, and great post!


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