This week on the blog is dedicated to parties. We will be featuring all sorts of festive food inspiration for your holiday party needs. First up: a review of my holiday party in two parts (Part The Second to be featured later this week).
I never used to have parties. It seemed like a lot of stress to have to feed and water people at my place. And be in charge of them having a good time?? Yikes, waaaaay too much for me. And then one day I changed my mind. It happened last year at this time when I hosted my first holiday party. And it was GREAT fun. A dance party erupted in the kitchen (why do people ALWAYS congregate in that room above all others?) and lasted until 4:30 in the morning.
Based on this previous success, I decided to go for a repeat and this past Saturday was my second annual holiday party. My apartment is still recovering (as are my neighbors, most likely….sorry ’bout that…). I thought I would give you a run down – complete with recipes – of some of the edible highlights of the evening.
Since I was cooking for the occasion, all my guests were kind enough to bring the drinkables. We had some wonderful ones – not a dry glass in the place! Here a few highlights:
Hendricks Gin: My favorite. I really like gin. And this is the gin I like the bestest (many thanks to Dave for bringing this gem).
Hirsch 2008 Gruner Veltliner: I bought this one. Mostly because of the reindeer on the label. It was really light, crisp and clean.
Laird’s Applejack Rum: This was brought by Tim (hi, Tim– thanks!). This is the stuff that Van Leeuwen puts in their eggnog ice cream to give it a little punch.
New Castle Brown Ale Mini Keg: Everyone seemed to like this very much, but I have no idea what to do with the empty mini keg now. Do you throw that in recycling? Right now it’s on my kitchen floor, just hanging out.
Now onto the recipes! We begin with the Caramel Coated Brie:
What You Need:
1 wheel of Brie
1 1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
a few pecans to make everything look pretty
What To Do:
Prepare an ice-water bath. Heat the sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, swirling until sugar dissolves.
Cook, continuing to stir, until the mixture turns a dark amber color. Immediately dip the bottom of the pan in the ice-water bath to stop the cooking.
Place your Brie on a serving plate and pour the caramel sauce over the top. Place pecans decoratively around the edge. The caramel coating will get hard, like a candy shell.
Notes and Tips: When you are cooking the sugar and water, the mixture will get foamy. This completely freaked me out. Just keep stirring and acting like everything is normal, it will turn dark soon enough. Also, getting the pot clean after torturing it in this manner is quite an adventure. I added more water to the pot and heated it until the remains were all dissolved. Then I poured it out and immediately washed the pot.
* Recipe from Martha Stewart.
I think everyone’s favorite hors d’ oeuvre that I made was “Le Cake,” a recipe that I got from the book A Table in the Tarn, a French cookbook written by two British expats that live in the French countryside and run a boutique hotel. It’s a savory cake that I stuffed with Kalamata and green olives and Havarti cheese. I modified their version a bit, but it’s essentially the same. Here is how you make Le Cake (thereby becoming best friends with every one of your guests):
What You Need:
3/4 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
3/4 cup Green olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
4 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
plenty of freshly ground black pepper
1 cup cubed Havarti cheese (or other semi-soft cheese)
2 tbsp freshly chopped herbs (I used thyme)
1 cup milk (Note: I actually ended up using a bit more because my dough was a bit dry)
3 1/2 tbsp melted butter
1 large egg
3/4 cup créme fraîche (try not to eat it all before you mix it into your dough)
What To Do:
Grease a baking pan (or several smaller baking pans) and sprinkle with half the grated Parm. Whisk the flour, baking powder and seasonings in a large bowl (this is easier than sifting). Mix in the cheese, herbs, and olives.
In a small bowl, whisk the melted (and cooled) butter, egg, milk, and créme fraîche. Using a spatula, fold the wet ingredients into the dry until just mixed – the dough will be thick and sticky – stop mixing when it is just combined.
Turn the mixture into your prepared baking pans and sprinkle with the rest of the grated Parm. Bake for 30 minutes (for small pans) and 45-50 minutes for large pans at 350 degrees until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Keep in mind, if you hit cheese when you skewer-test your cake, it will be sticky.
Blammo: amazingness! Added bonus: your apartment will smell so good, guests won’t know what to do with themselves.
Continuing on with olives, I would like to mention something I did NOT make (GASP!) but was brought over by my friends Stacey and Tony: Blue Cheese Stuffed Green Olives. I think I ate the whole bowl by myself. Just get some green olives, some blue cheese, and stuff the cavity of the olive with the cheese. Put them in a pretty bowl with some toothpicks on the side and watch them disappear. Most likely by me, if I’m at your party.
You can also throw these little guys in a Bloody Mary as a garnish. And as my friend Meg says, “Who doesn’t like a drink that comes with food?” I just don’t know.
Also featured were Avocado Bruschetta (recipe here) and Bacon Wrapped Prunes. If you like bacon (YES!) and you also like that salty-sweet food combination, you’ll love this. And it’s ridiculously easy. Here’s how it goes:
What You Need:
Some dried, pitted prunes (get some plump juicy ones)
Bacon – one slice per prune, please!
Toothpicks – to hold the whole delicious device together
What To Do:
Fry up the bacon. When you have achieved your desired level of bacon crispiness, wrap the the strip of bacon around the prune and spear it on a toothpick so it doesn’t all fall apart.
I will continue the rest of the recipes later in the week, but I am leaving you with two images from the evening to gear up your holiday party excitement. First, is our friend Drew. Drew wanted to be on the blog. And since he won the award for “Most Festive Pants,” I really felt like he deserved to be on it.
Now, I don’t give out the Most Festive Pants Award to just anybody. But look at those – kudos to you, Drew!
Finally, here is my Christmas tree. For those of you that are crazy enough to follow us on Twitter, you may know that my Christmas tree and I have been fighting. It was threatening to fall over the other day, so there is currently a mini pumpkin and an old, empty tin of pepper shoved into the tree stand to help it remain upright. Why don’t they try that with the Leaning Tower of Pisa?
* The graphic at the very top is a postcard I designed back in my old stationery-designing days. © Rosebud Design Studio.