How to Throw a Chic Holiday Party
The holidays are upon us, which means many people will be hosting family and friends. Spending time with loved ones is a highlight of the holiday season. After all, who doesn't enjoy eating delicious food, imbibing some spirits and, of course, reminiscing about the past.
The responsibility of preparing for a house full of people can be stressful though. Before the guests arrive, it's important to plan ahead so we've put together some of the best tips to make entertaining easy.
SET UP A BUBBLY-COCKTAIL BAR
Melia Marden, chef of the Mediterranean-inflected Smile restaurant in N.Y.C., suggests setting up a gorgeous table with all the ingredients necessary for four fizzy libations—a black velvet, a mimosa, a Champagne cocktail, and a kir royale. Little signs with the super-simple recipes for each guide guests toward the one they prefer and allow friends to mingle along the way.
SERVE SPANISH CROSTINI
First, make the cream (it can be done the day before) in a food processor by blending together ½ cup each diced tomato, diced cucumber (seeds removed, skin on), diced red bell pepper, 2 tbsp minced red onion, 1 minced garlic clove, ½ tsp each smoked paprika and kosher salt, ¼ cup sour cream, ¼ cup sourdough bread (torn into pieces, crust removed), and ½ tsp cayenne pepper.
Then slice up a baguette into ¼-inch rounds, brush with olive oil, and toast in the oven at 400°F. Place a thin slice of Manchego cheese (you'll need 8 oz. total) over each piece (pop them back in the oven for another 2 minutes to melt cheese if desired). Then add a dollop of gazpacho cream and a thin slice of Serrano ham (from ¼ lb. total) on top. Yields 24.
OFFER FIG & NUT TARTLETS
First, candy the walnuts (you can do this up to a week ahead): Place ½ cup each of walnut halves and sugar into a small saucepan with 1 cup water. Let boil, and stir until sugar dissolves. Lower heat and let cook for 5 more minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a pie plate; sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake in a 350°F oven for 9 minutes until lightly caramelized. Let cool.
Fill store-bought mini tart shells (usually sold in packs of 24) with a tsp of creamy Stilton cheese, quartered fresh figs, and the candied walnuts. Drizzle with honey. Yields 24 tartlets.
MAKE SPICED PUMPKIN SOUP
To make it, heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add 1 cup chopped onions and ½ cup each of chopped carrots and celery; sauté for 5 minutes. Add 3 oz. tomato paste; cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add 2½ lbs. peeled, seeded, and diced pumpkin; 1 lb. peeled, cored, and chopped apples; and 6 cups chicken stock. Bring liquid to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer, then cover and cook until pumpkin is tender, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat; cool 10 minutes. Purée mixture in a blender; transfer back to the soup pot. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle soup into individual shot glasses, and sprinkle with popcorn. Yields 12 cups, or 64 shots.
BAKE SNOWBALL COOKIES
YIELDS 40 COOKIES
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2u cups confectioners' sugar
2 tsp vanilla bean paste
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup roasted almonds, finely chopped
1. Using a mixer, cream butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add ¾ cup of confectioners' sugar and vanilla paste; mix well. Add flour y cup at a time, mixing until thoroughly combined. Fold in the almonds.
2. Turn dough out, divide into three portions, and shape into disks. Wrap disks individually in plastic wrap or waxed paper and chill for 1 hour.
3. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; heat to 350°F. Line two large, heavy baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.
4. To form cookies, break off a piece of chilled dough that's the size of a measuring table-spoon. Roll dough between your palms into a ball, and place on the lined baking sheets, leaving 1 inch between each cookie.
5. Bake for 17 to 20 minutes, until the bottoms of the cookies are slightly golden—lift up one of the cookies with a spatula to be sure. Let cookies cool somewhat on the baking sheets on cooling racks for 5 minutes.
6. Put remaining 1y cups confectioners' sugar in a small bowl. Drop one warm cookie at a time into the confectioners' sugar and roll until it's completely covered, then shake off any excess and put on a cooling rack. Let cool completely.
HAND OUT GILDED TORTES
A sprinkling of metallic dust in an elaborate pattern makes any hostess look like an all-star pastry chef. Start with a basic chocolate torte, either store-bought or home-made (the darker and richer the chocolate, the better to make the pattern pop). Lay down a culinary stencil of your choice and sprinkle with edible dust and - voilà! - a decadent, knockout dessert.
CREATE A DIY GINGERBREAD-COOKIE STATION
A cookie-decorating crafts table keeps kids (and adults) happily entertained. Set up a separate table for the wee ones with this genius all-you-need kit that comes with pre-iced gingerbread folk and edible-ink pens. The best part? The results serve as one-of-a-kind party snacks and favors.
GLAM UP YOUR GLASSWARE
Inspired by "jars of dry paint pigments found in an artist's studio," N.Y.C. event designer David Stark imagines a fairy-dust still life for a table-top that you can whip up in just minutes. First, spray the interior of apothecary jars with starch (yes, the kind you use for ironing). Wipe down any excess starch on the top half of the jar with a paper towel. Pour in some fine craft glitter to coat the part that's sprayed until it forms an undulating pattern, then shake out any excess. Option: Finish with a battery-operated tea light at the base for added twinkle.