Small Plates

Joined Jul 15, 2010
Hello All,

I am wanting to throw a small get together for about 12 people. Instead of making a big meal I was thinking about making small plates. Anyone have any suggestions or favorites they would like to share?
Joined Feb 1, 2007
Small plates are great, as they allow you to fully express your imagination and creativity. But, if you haven't done a small plates party before there are several things to keep in mind.

First and foremost is leaving enough prep time. Small plates can take exponentially longer to prepare and plate than a comparable quantity of mains. Part of this, of course, is the number of dishes you'll be serving. But individually they can take longer to prep as well. Keep in mind that small plates tend to be fussy and time consuming. Along those lines, answer the question, how impressive do I want the plates to be? The more wow factor you go for the longer each dish will take. For instance, my Seafood Lollipops always get raves from everyone who's tried them. But they're a complex dish to make and to plate.

Keep in mind, too, that scaling down and adapting a favorite main can produce a very appealing small plate. I do that, for instance, with bite-sized versions of Kentucky Hot Browns.

Second, decide whether you're going to plate buffet style, family style, or individual plates. Then make sure there's enough serviceware for the style you've chosen. And, again, if you go with individual plates leave yourself plenty of time to get them done.

Balance the flavors and types of dishes. That is, unless you're going for a theme, you don't want all seafood, or all salads, etc. Similarly, style of prep should vary. You don't want everything fried, for instance. And you want to strike a balance between cold, hot, and room temperature dishes as well.

Even if the party doesn't have an overall theme, there's nothing wrong  with having variations on a theme as one plate. For instance, I often do what I call a Reuben Exploration, which, depending on circumstances, consists of three, four, or five variations on the Reuben idea, all on one plate. Each of them consists of only one or two bites.

Consider your budget. It usually costs more to entertain with small plates than with a couple of larger dishes due to the diversity of ingredients.

There are an incredible number of small plates type cookbooks you can consult. Top of the list, IMO, is JoAnne Weir's From Tapas to Meze. But there are many others.

For 12 guests, I wouldn't consider fewer than six dishes, and would more likely go with 8-10 as a minimum. That assures that nobody's tastes are ignored while, at the same time, introducing new flavors to your guests.
Joined Apr 3, 2010
Go on line or to library and look up  "TAPAS" you should get great ideas from this Commercially from a profit standpoint you make more money doing this then serving Entree's.
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Joined Feb 1, 2007
In a fit of nothing better to do, Wasabi, I put together a list of 12 possibilities that I might serve at a small plates party this time of year. If you find them useful, great:

Gazpacho in Cucumber Shooters

Caramelized Red Onions & Goat Cheese Crostini

Shrimp & Melon Skewers w/Mayonnaise Charles

Mini Hot Browns


Serrano Croquettes

Cabrales-Stuffed Potatoes

Broiled Lamb Chops w/Moroccan Flavors

Stuffed Zucchini Pinwheels

Squash Ravioli w/Brown Butter & Sage

Southwestern Salad in Won Ton Cups

Bison Sliders
Joined Feb 1, 2007
Here's another group of possibilties:

Albondigas w/Herbed Tomato Sauce

Orange & Cod Salad

Chicken & Tapanade Rolls

Falafel w/Garlic Sauce

Grilled Tuna Skewers w/Green Olive Salsa

Individual Pizzas

Brandade Fritters

Tortilla Espanole

Char Shu Slices

Octopus in Vinaigrette

Lamb Loin w/Kumquat Chutney

Tomato & Watermelon Salad
Joined Feb 1, 2007
Everybody's view is different, philpbvic. But I strongly disagee that a "barbecue" is more interesting than a small plates party. Just the opposite is so, as a small plates party lets the cook's creativity and imagination rule, provides interesting and, maybe, unusual tastes for the guests, and is visually much more pleasing.

For a "barbecue" to be easier means it's also mundane: burgers and hotdogs and maybe a hunk of chicken. For it to be at all interesting means stepping away from the standard back-yard fare. And preparing that on a grill can be just as complex and PITAish as dong a bunch of small plates.

At a typical "barbecue," it's the mix of people that's interesting, not the food. At a small plates party it's both. Indeed, with small plates, the people dynamic could be absent, and it would still be a successfull party because the food is so interesting.
Joined Jan 8, 2008
I recently experimented with sliders, since i see them on EVERY menu (usually next to the word Kobe) and it makes me cringe. 

I used just ground chuck, and made them 'white castle' style, or more-so for you Jersey folks...White Manna/White Rose System style where they put basically what seems like a 3:1 ratio of meat to onion...only I used cabbage. 

cabbage --- awesome. 

Topped with a quail egg.

served with Sriracha. 

I don't think they would be the 'best' to make for a crowd with the egg, but certainly without it. 

Joined Feb 1, 2007
Ya know, I've always wondered why White Castle never protected the name "slider." Now, instead of being a unique size/shape, it's used in reference to any mini-burger.

Just to pick a nit, Rob, to be White Castle style, your patties would have to be much thinner, and have 5 little holes in them.

I like the idea of the quail egg.  And I agree; the idea of grinding up Kobe beef for burgers makes me shudder. But there are an incredible number of proteins that can be used. For sure, various beef cuts, alone or in combination. But also lamb, pork, duck, other fowl, and even fish.

In restaurants the concentration seems to be running the changes with toppings. But with a little thought it's a wonder what you can do with seasonings and other ingredients to vary the flavor of the burger itself.

Another way of varying sliders is with the choice of bun. While there's nothing wrong with hamburger buns, the breadstuff, many times, can be an integral part of the flavor profile. Among the typical choices are potato bread, brioche, and English muffin. But don't hesitate to go further afield. Virtually any yeast bread recipe can be adapted to slider-bun size. For instance, in my Lamb Burger Afrique sliders I use pumpkin buns. Here's the recipe:

Mini Lamb Burgers Afrique

1 lb ground lamb

1/2 cup dried dates, finely chopped

Salt & pepper to taste

2 tbls ras el hanout

2 tbls yogurt

Halloumi cheese, thinly sliced

Tzatziki for topping

Olive salad for base

Mini pumpkin buns

Combine lamb, dates, salt, pepper, ras el hanout and yogurt in a bowl. Form into balls using 2 heaping tablespoons of mixture. Flatten balls to make patties about 1/4 inch thick.

Lay a patty on work surface. Press a small square of Halloumi into center. Top with a second patty, pressing to seal well.

Pan fry in a film of olive oil, 3-4 minutes per side.

Split buns. Spread a little olive salad on bottom half. Top with burger. Spoon some tzatziki over burger. Put top of pun in place.
Joined Jul 15, 2010
Thank you all for your suggestions.

I think I have decided on trying to have a Mediterranean theme going with the small plates.

KYHeirloomer - Your ideas are great, I will have to try a few.

Philbvc - Barbecues are fun and being a college student in the Midwest we have defiantly had our fair share of them this summer.

RPMcMurphy - Those sliders look amazing :)
Joined Feb 1, 2007
Wasabi, when people say "Mediterranean," they most often mean the north shore. If that's the case with your theme, there are three words to think of when doing your research and planning: Tapas, Antipasto, and Mezze.

Don't forget, however, that the MidEast and North Africa are also Mediterranean cultures, with an array of finger foods of their own.
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