Hors d'oeuvre is a French word that means appetizer. Hors d'oeuvres are foods that are offered before a meal's main course. They are typically offered when there will be a significant amount of wait time before the main course of the meal is served. However, sometimes, they are served as the main course themselves. For example, a cocktail party host may decide to serve hors d'oeuvres with drinks as opposed to providing a more traditional meal.
When served before the main course, hors d'oeuvres are really not meant to fill a person's stomach. Instead, they are intended to allow the person to nibble on something while waiting for a more filling meal. At some parties, people are encouraged to mill about and socialize while consuming small bites of hors d'oeuvres. For this reason, they are often finger foods, such as chicken wingettes, which can be consumed without the need for silverware.
Hors d'oeuvres can be served as part of a sit-down meal either at home or in a restaurant. They can also be served buffet style, allowing each person to pick and choose from a selection of appetizers and then go back for seconds if she's not too concerned about the extra calories. Sometimes hors d'oeuvres are placed on trays and butlered, meaning a person or group of people stands in a room or circulates through the crowd offering the appetizers.
Practically any edible item that is offered before the main meal can be called an hors d'oeuvre, but cheese and fruit typically do not fall in this category. For instance, chocolate-covered strawberries and similar treats may be considered hors d'oeuvres, but strawberries by themselves don't fit into this category. Likewise, crudités are not considered hors d'oeuvres.
One of the most popular types of hors d'oeuvre is shrimp cocktail. It consists of steamed shrimp that are set on ice or simply chilled. It is usually served with cocktail sauce. It may also be served with melted, warmed butter and a seafood fork to keep the hands clean. Sometimes it is offered over fresh salad greens.
Another popular hors d'oeuvre choice is buffalo wings. For this appetizer, the wings are chopped apart, so that one part looks like a drumstick and the other part has a pointy end to it. The wingettes are either fried or baked and then smothered in a sauce that is both tangy and spicy. The sauce is usually made with butter, vinegar, and hot sauce, but many people swear by their own secret recipes.
There's really no limit to what you can serve as an hors d'oeuvre. For example, stuffed tomatoes, potato skins, pigs in a blanket, stuffed mushrooms and coconut shrimp are also popular favorites. Also, they're not just for parties and dinners planned for adults. Some people add fun to kids' parties with tiny pizza bites, chicken and pineapple kabobs, and mini burgers.