December 4, 2020
Holiday entertaining will be different this year, without the usual bustle of holiday parties, work obligations and school performances, nor the option to host your usual open house or cocktail soiree.
Still, an evening of food, drinks and good times for even a few of your family members or cohorts does wonders for the psyche—and the holidays is all about being with the people you love, regardless of the length of your guest list.
Appetizers and finger foods are traditional holiday fare, but are worth making even on a smaller scale—in fact, cooking for a smaller group will likely lower your stress level, and allow for more intimate conversations. Charcuterie and cheese boards and mezze—middle Eastern small plates—are popular options when the goal is to graze; they involve merely arranging ingredients on a platter, cutting board or even a kitchen tile or long piece of wood. (If your serving vehicle is not meant for food, lay a piece of parchment on top.) One of the benefits of platters is that you don’t have to make it all yourself—pick up a few deli items, like cured meats, olives, pistachios, cheeses, figs, chunks of pâté and tubs of hummus or bruschetta, and arrange them in piles with dried fruit, nuts, crackers, breadsticks and fresh baguette scattered in between. Anything goes, and the rustic look is easy to pull off.
Of course, bite-sized snacks are also a good call, and make any gathering feel like a party; if you’re cooking for fewer people, it’s easier to pull off tiny pastries, skewers and other nibbles that may be fancier than you’re used to. Serving something warm is nice, and allows for the house to smell like something delicious baking, but if most of your offerings are tasty at room temperature, you’ll save yourself running back and forth from the kitchen to reheat.
If you’re hosting a cocktail party, estimate 6-8 pieces per person; aim for about 60g of meats and cheeses per person for cheese and charcuterie boards.
Any appies that require oven time can be arranged on baking sheets, covered and frozen (or kept in the fridge) until party time, when you can simply uncover and slide the sheets into the oven to bake. If they’re small items that cook quickly, try to time it so that they go in at around the time you’ve invited people over, so that they’re ready when they arrive, or soon after. Have nuts, cheeses and other nibbles out and ready to go; by the time people come in and get settled, your warm items will be ready to nosh. Try to choose individual items, like little pastry pockets, devilled eggs and gougères, that people can pick up without touching the entire batch; serve toothpicks with olives, small cheeses and the like, and consider serving popcorn and spiced nuts in small individual Dixie cups if you’re sharing with more than just your immediate cohorts.
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