holiday entertaining: the dinner party

By Monday, December 17, 2012 , ,

 detritus of a good party: one of my favorite sights

Pre-kiddos, Chris and I used to host a holiday party every year — with loads of cocktails and hors d’oeuvres — for 20 or so friends and co-workers. That annual bacchanalia took a backseat once Rhys and then James arrived. Aching to cook for grown-ups again and wanting to have a little fun this holiday season, we decided to host an intimate dinner party with some close friends.

What I’ve learned over the years of entertaining is this: prepping as much beforehand is the key to enjoying the party yourself. This isn’t a new idea; many professional chefs have based careers and cookbooks off of this thought, but I also think that keeping the menu simple is another key to success. I don’t like multiple courses, but I think having a salad or soup before the main course is a nice way to extend the meal without being too fussy. This time of year, I really love that dessert can be a tray of homemade Christmas cookies and some delicious coffee.

The evening was full of warmth, love and joviality — Chris and I feel very lucky to have such friends. Happy holidays indeed.

Here’s the menu — special enough for Christmas dinner, in case you need inspiration:

Cocktails: Champagne, craft beers and gougeres

Salad: mixed greens with mustard vinaigrette, candied pecans spiced with cinnamon and coriander, dried cranberries and French feta

Dinner: French pork stew with brandy and prunes (From Cook’s Illustrated Best Recipe cookbook), served with crème fraiche mashed potatoes

Dessert: assorted Christmas cookies; I made these:
Mexican wedding cakes
Buckeyes (controversially dipped only half-way in bittersweet chocolate)
Coconut macaroon sandwiches with lime curd
Chewy, triple-ginger cookies
Fig bars

happy eating and much peace in the new year, -s. 

p.s. my heart aches for the families of those who lost their lives on Friday in Newtown, CT. Hug and kiss those you love and let us change our gun laws now before another senseless tragedy occurs.  What terrible loss of beautiful, precious, innocent life.

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