We’re going back in time to December 2006, when Chef Bill Scepansky provided advice and recipes for hosting a holiday party. Ten years later, shooters, grilled cheese, martinis and mojitos still rule supreme. And, Bill’s advice still stands: “Put your fears aside” and let the planning begin!
The first step, of course, is devising a guest list . Since this will be your first party (or the first one in years), keep it simple. Invite close friends, co-workers or the neighbors. The “or” word is important. A manageable number of guests will do wonders for your self-confidence. Next year, you can up the ante.
The party’s style is also important. Drop-in and open-house invitations convey the message that hors d’oeuvres and drinks will be served.
The timeframe of your party will also indicate the level of hospitality – early to mid-afternoon ensures your guests won’t arrive expecting lunch. The same thought holds true for a party that begins at 7 or 8 p.m.
As for the menu , don’t be afraid to mix it up: order some things from a caterer or specialty shop and supplement your purchases with a few recipes that always get rave reviews from family and friends. Again, simple is better. Your guests won’t want to juggle plates, utensils and drink glasses or worry about dripping something on their clothes. Finger foods that can be eaten in one or two bites are perfect. Plus, variety is important. In this age of gluten-free, vegan, low-carb, food allergies, etc., you’ll need to know your guests’ tastes to ensure that you have something that will appeal to everyone.
How much to prepare is always a dilemma. According to Bill, eight to 12 hors d’oeuvres per person is usually a safe bet. They can be augmented with cheese, crackers, veggies, fruit, nuts, dips and desserts.
The same holds true for beverages. To keep it simple, serve a selection of wine and beer, plus devise a signature cocktail such as a mojito or martini that is holiday-oriented. Also, be sure to have non-alcoholic beverages on hand.
One last tip: allow yourself to enjoy your own party, and hire a few people to oversee the bar, the displays of food, and to gather discarded plates and glasses, etc. Employment agencies, such as Mack Hospitality Employment, specialize in such scenarios. Also, you might want to work with a rental company to ensure you have plenty of glassware and small-sized plates available.
Slip in some bacon, and it would become so 2016.
Pomegranate: no explanation necessary!
Bill’s assessment that simple is sometimes better applies to this canapé. Here, shrimp and king crab are the stars of the show. Making your own cocktail sauce? Be sure to add Long’s Horseradish from Central Market.
Bill observed that nothing hits the spot on a cold day like soup. He also coached that even the simplest of recipes can become the star of a party with the addition of a special ingredient. Here, he took a straightforward recipe for sweet potato soup and added a treat for the palate: lobster. And to make it party worthy, serve it as a shooter. And, don’t worry, shooter – or shot – glasses are easy to locate. Walmart, Amazon, Pier One and Party City all have glass and/or plastic versions on their websites, as does Overstock.com. Another fun idea would be to visit antiques stores or shops specializing in vintage and buy shot glasses from the ‘50s and ‘60s.
Bill proved that a little ingenuity can go a long way with this dessert canapé. He simply purchased jam-filled tarts at the grocery store and added a festive touch with fresh fruit and sprigs of mint. Whipped cream is optional! Put them on a pretty plate and guests will think you spent the day creating the sweet treats.
Mojitos have never been more popular! Drink recipes courtesy of Bacardi.