Christmas is finally over, and gone with it are the numerous platters of food that everyone somehow found a way to tuck into their already way-too-full tummies. With all that food gone, foodies need not be sad though because New Year is on the way and the partying is just getting started!
New Year’s Eve is, however, all about cocktail parties, and unlike Christmas day where everyone expects a huge spread of rich filling dishes, these cocktail parties are all about dainty bite-sized concoctions that go down well with wine, cocktails, or whatever drinks you serve. This doesn’t mean though that cocktail parties are any less labor-intensive, contrary to that, it is actually very time consuming preparing hundreds of appetizers, since that is really how many you usually have to make if you don’t want to run out of food before the party ends. With that in mind, here are some tips, which I hope will help you throw a successful New Year’s Eve party without overstretching your resources.
Pare Things Down
I’ve never subscribed to the saying “the more the merrier”. Not for homework, not for the pounds, not even for parties, and surprisingly, not even for food. Instead, I have always valued quality over quantity (at least in most things). And when it comes to cocktail parties, you never should listen to the “more the merrier” mantra, unless you want to get into trouble.
If you want to throw a great party, make sure you pare down your guest list to a manageable size. Now that manageable size will all depend on your cooking skills and how much help you’ll be getting. If you’re going to have a caterer take care of the whole thing for you, then go ahead and invite everyone you know (although be prepared for a big fat check!). But if you’ll be doing all the cooking and hosting yourself, be realistic and invite only a select number of people.
It also isn’t just your guest list that you need to pare down. You also need to pare down your menu or food selection. While it is indeed tempting to try to out all the delicious appetizers and amuse-bouche recipes you can find, remember that the food, being bite-sized, takes a lot of time to prepare. So be discriminating in the number and kind of food you choose to decrease the prep time.
It’s All in the Food
I can never stress enough just how much time goes into preparing each and every appetizer by hand. So make sure you opt for recipes that need fewer ingredients and require simpler cooking techniques. Avoid labor-intensive recipes at all costs! And remember, just because something looks simple and elegant doesn’t mean its easier to make. So check the recipe ingredients AND instructions before deciding on what will make it or not on the evening’s menu. It’s also a really good idea to use a single main ingredient for two different appetizers, since this will help shorten your grocery list, as well as prep time.
To help you out, here are some easy-to-make recipes that are ideal for cocktail parties. I have categorized them as appetizers, chips and dip, and desserts, to make it easier for you to mix-and-match the ones different kinds of food you can opt to serve to your guests. Make sure you take into account the prep and cook time for each (which I have indicated for your easy reference) so that you won’t end up preparing stuff too early or too late.
There’s a whole slew of appetizers you can make, the following appetizers I chose are mostly out of personal bias. You can say that they’re my cocktail party go-to food.
- Tomato Crostini with Fontina Cheese (10 minutes)
- Beef Crostini with Pesto Mayonnaise (50 minutes)
- Vegetable-Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms (12 minutes)
- Cheese and Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms (25 minutes)
- Shrimp Cocktail Deviled Eggs (85 minutes)
- Mini Ceviche Appetizer (140 minutes)
- Variety of Chips and Dips (No time at all with the chips, since you can just open bags of your choice chips. It’s the dip that you’ll need to prepare, which then brings us to the next section.)
When it comes to dips, your choices are limitless with only your own palate to say yes or no as to the kinds of dips you’ll be serving. The key to choosing which dips to serve lies in the kind of chips you’ll be serving (and maybe even vegetable sticks and sliced fruits). Make sure that whatever you’ll be dipping in them will go well with more than just one dip. If each chip or vegetable platter is to be paired with a specific dip, make sure that the pairing is clear (label them?) so that people don’t end up criticizing you for lack of pairing savvy. Here’s a short, but varied list of dips that you can choose from:
- Raspberry-Lemon Fruit Dip (10 minutes)
- Savory Spinach-Artichoke Dip (30 minutes)
- Beer-Cheese Dip (15 minutes)
- Chipotle Avocado Dip (15 minutes)
- Basic Tomato Salsa (60 minutes)
All that savory stuff needs something sweet to take away the aftertaste. The following dessert recipes will make any sweet-tooth smile though they take just one bite to finish off.
- Assorted bite-sized chocolates – Just buy your favorite chocolates in bite-sized packages and toss them together for a colorful bowl of prep-free, stress-free desserts.
- Chocolate fondue – Whether you serve it in a simple fondue bowl or hire a nice chocolate fountain, the secret is in the recipe. You can make a basic chocolate fondue, or put a twist on your basic fondue by mixing it with other ingredients to make Chocolate-Peanut Butter Fondue, Caramel-Chocolate Fondue, and even an Orange-Chocolate Fondue.
- Cookies and Whoopie Pies – Really easy to handle food is what cocktail parties are all about. Cookies and whoopie pies always hit the spot and are perfect, being easy to chomp on and tote while making the rounds.