Holiday Entertaining Made Easy - The Cocktail Party

Holiday Cocktail PartyIf you've hesitated to host a holiday get-together for fear of the effort involved, we've got some helpful tips to make entertaining easy, and most importantly, fun. A small cocktail hour is the perfect type of party to test your abilities – it's short, doesn't require place settings, and even non-cooks can pull it off. Here are some suggestions to make it super simple:
  • Don't be afraid to get help. It's okay to ask a caterer to do just a few items for you – especially time-consuming, unique or specialty items.
  • Ask friends to pitch in with specific dishes (great for hosts and hostesses who like to control the party – you'll avoid ending up with duplicates or dishes that don't compliment your menu). Ask for your guests to bring a specific wine, crackers or bread, or even give them a recipe. Our recipe for Spicy Marinated Provolone can be made ahead, travels well, and you can plate and/or garnish it in your own kitchen.
  • Don't be afraid to purchase and serve ready-made products, such as olives, hummus, etc. Not everything has to be homemade.
  • Garnishes are key. They can make even the simplest dish look more interesting, more refined and more unique. Try drizzling a plate of hummus with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkling with fresh oregano, crushed red pepper flakes, lemon zest, kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper.
  • Don't serve too many dishes. Keep the list of recipes you personally have to execute short – 2-3 at most – and consider "non-recipe" recipes:

Make Caprese Skewers by alternating grape tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cubes and fresh basil leaves on wooden skewers; drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil.

Italian Style Deconstructed Melon and Prosciutto is just as easy. Serve sliced melon and sliced prosciutto side by side; drizzle melon with warmed honey and sprinkle with finely minced fresh rosemary leaves.

  • Consider make-ahead dishes, such as our recipe for Sweet and Spicy Pecans.
  • If you are serving dinner, keep appetizers simple and light so as not to spoil everyone's appetite for the main meal. A few cheeses and a bowl of mixed nuts or a plate of sliced melon and a cracker-and-spread combo is plenty when paired with a glass of wine.
  • If a cocktail party takes the place of a meal, plan on 8-12 pieces per person, depending on how long the party is. Serve at least one sweet item to serve as a stand-in for dessert.

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