CHEF JEFF: Holiday party advice: plan aheadHoliday parties can be a lot of fun. But they also are a lot of work, especially if they involve a sit-down dinner, which can take a lot of the enjoyment out of it for the host. My advice: Just serve appetizers or hors d’oeuvres.
Holiday parties can be a lot of fun. But they also are a lot of work, especially if they involve a sit-down dinner, which can take a lot of the enjoyment out of it for the host.
My advice: Just serve appetizers or hors d’oeuvres.
That’s what we’re planning on doing next month, when Therese and I hope to have a few friends over for some holiday cheer. This will make for a more free-flowing party and allow us to sit back and enjoy the company of our guests.
If you thinking about having a get-together like we are — whether it’s for a crowd or just a few friends and family — it’s not too early to start planning.
There are a lot of things to consider when it comes to throwing a party, and the first is how many people will be served. For small groups of 10 or fewer, about six different appetizers will do the trick. If you’re going to serve up to 20 people, offer 10 appetizers. And for up to 40, about one dozen will do. (Hosts can figure guests will eat between a half-dozen to 12 pieces of appetizers during a two-hour party.)
There are a few nice things that make an appetizer party appealing. First, much of the food can be prepared ahead of time and set out with little need for attention, which can make things especially enjoyable. Second, cleanup is much easier. But probably most important these days — when money for gift-giving can stretch a family’s budget — is that many appetizers can be made much more cheaply than a three- or four-course dinner party.
Here are a few more tips:
• Make-ahead appetizers that only require heating and no further work will ease pre-party time pressures, so don’t make too many things that you need to keep warm.
• If appetizers are to be warm, make sure you have enough oven space to warm them and warming plates to maintain their temperature. (Choose only one or two, such as chili con queso, that are time-consuming. Queso can be made ahead up to two days and kept refrigerated and then warmed the day of the party.)
• Put your appetizers around your house in different areas. This not only gives easier access in many spots and eliminates one big line, but it sets up different areas for people to group and get acquainted at.
• Put drinks in a separate location to prevent line backups.
• Distribute your silverware, plates and napkins widely. (Throw-away dishes will make your life easier.) Place them on each corner of a table instead of just at one end.
Our party still is in the planning stages, so we haven’t settled on what appetizers to make, but there are two that I’m considering. Not only do both contain ingredients that are high on my list of favorite foods, they also meet two criteria mentioned above: They are simple to make, and they can be prepared ahead of time.
The first appetizer is a pretzel dip that comes highly recommended by co-worker Matt Purpur. It contains Cheddar and cream cheese along with Ranch dressing. (There’s nary a cheese that I don’t like.)
The other appetizer I’d like to try is one a friend, Bob Sullivan, passed on to me. It’s his wife Shirley’s bacon-wrapped water chestnuts. (Everything is better with bacon!) However, I’m having trouble finding the instructions on how to make it. (I’m hoping the Sullivans can help me out with this.)
Regardless, this sounds like a recipe for a successful and enjoyable party.
Tiedeman is food editor at the Herald. Reach him at (701) 780-1136 or toll-free at (800) 477-6572, or e-mail at email@example.com.