It’s wonderful that theaters are back and running, but if you and your friends still feel a little uncomfortable about hitting a bar or restaurant before or after the theater, why not host a small pre-or post-show gathering in your home?

Serve a special cocktail that you prepare ahead of time and put out a few indulgent hors d'oeuvres. All of these recipes can be prepped ahead of time and just heated up and put out before serving. Using already prepared ingredients such as corn muffin mix or frozen meatballs makes things even easier. 

Fried Tortellini

When frying, cook until the coating is just set and lightly browned, then refrigerate and finish cooking in the oven just before serving. 


2 large eggs 

2 tablespoons milk 

1 cup seasoned bread crumbs 

1 teaspoon garlic powder 

2 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese 

1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley 

1/2 teaspoon salt 

Oil for frying 

1 package (12 ounces) refrigerated tortellini, any filling you choose 

Tomato sauce (homemade or jarred) 


Allow tortellini to thaw to room temperature. 

In a small bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. 

In another bowl, stir together the bread crumbs, cheese, herbs and spices. 

In a cast-iron or other heavy skillet, heat 1/4 in. oil to 375°. 

Dip tortellini in egg mixture, then in bread crumb mixture to coat. 

Fry tortellini in small batches (fry about 6-8 at a time so oil doesn’t become too cold), 1 to 1½ minutes on each side. 

Drain on paper towels. 

May be stored in the refrigerator for up to two days. 

To reheat place on a baking sheet and warm in a 350° oven for about 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. 

Serve with tomato sauce for dipping. 

Party Shrimp 

Shrimp is always a big hit at parties, spend a little more for the jumbo (15-18 per pound). Also make certain to dry on paper towels, it makes all the difference. 


2 lbs. cooked shrimp 

1 tablespoon olive oil 

1-1/2 teaspoons brown sugar 

1-1/2 teaspoons lemon juice 

1 garlic clove, thinly sliced 

1/2 teaspoon paprika 

1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning 

1/2 teaspoon dried basil 

1/4 teaspoon pepper 


If frozen, thaw shrimp overnight in the refrigerator. 

Peel, devein, and remove tails from shrimp. 

Place in a sealed container lined with paper towels (if you need to make two layers, put paper towels between each layer). 

Refrigerate while you prepare marinade. 

Heat oil in a saucepan. 

Turn off heat and add remaining ingredients. 

Stir until all are dissolved. 

Remove paper towels from shrimp. 

Pour warm oil mixture over shrimp. 

Refrigerate at least three hours or overnight. 

Remove from marinade and place on a platter with toothpicks. 

Mini Corn Muffins with Spicy Cheese 

These are great for the vegetarians in your group. If you choose to use a corn muffin mix, make certain it doesn’t have lard in the ingredients. 


Corn muffin batter (below or use a box mix) 

1½ cups all-purpose flour 

1 cup cornmeal 

1 teaspoons sugar 

1 teaspoon baking powder 

1 teaspoon salt 

1 large egg, room temperature 

¾ cup milk 

¼ cup vegetable oil 

1 cup frozen corn 

Filling ingredients 

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese 

1 can (4 ounces) chopped green chiles 

½ teaspoon cayenne powder 


Preheat the oven to 400°. 

If making corn muffin mix, follow steps below, if using a box mix, follow directions on box, then stir in corn. 

In a large bowl, whisk the first five ingredients. 

In another bowl, whisk egg, milk, and oil until blended. 

Add to flour mixture; stir just until moistened. Fold in corn. 

Fill greased mini muffin cups three-fourths full. 

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 

Cool 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks. 

In a large bowl, combine filling ingredients. 

Using a small melon baller, scoop out the center of each muffin 

Spoon a rounded teaspoon of filling into the center. 

At this point the muffins can be refrigerated for up to one day beforehand. 

To heat before serving, place in a preheated 350° for 10-12 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. 

Crab Cups 

These freeze wonderfully. Underbake for 3-5 minutes, then just heat for 10 minutes in a 350° oven before serving. 


1 package of 24 frozen phyllo cups. 

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened 

2 (6 ounce) cans crab meat, drained 

2 tablespoons mayonnaise 

4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese 

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese 

2 thinly sliced green onions 


Lightly grease a baking sheet 

Place phyllo cups on the prepared baking sheet. 

In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, crab, mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese, cheddar cheese, and green onions 

Spoon 1 teaspoon of mixture into tarts. 

Refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to one day. 

Bake in a preheated oven to 375° oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until light brown.

Bottoms Up!

To make your party even easier, have a couple pitchers of pre-made cocktails. Make one vodka drink and another with a brown liquor, such as bourbon. Also don’t forget a virgin version for the designated driver and other non-drinkers in the group. Here are two drinks to put everyone in a festive mood. 

Sea Breeze 

In a large pitcher mix: 

2 cups vodka 

3 cups cranberry juice 

1 cup grapefruit juice 

Pour over a glass of ice and garnish with a thin slice of lime. 

For the virgin version, leave out the vodka.

Kentucky Mule

In a large pitcher mix: 

2 cups bourbon 

¼ cup fresh lime juice 

4 cans (12 oz) ginger beer 

Pour over ice (preferably in a brass cup), garnish with lime wedge and mint leaves. 

For the virgin version, just use ginger beer with lime juice.

Rick Karlin is SFGN's food editor. Visit to read his previous reviews. Have a culinary tip to share? Email Rick at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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