I absolutely love hosting parties. The reasons for this are three-fold:
1. At my party, I know, at least marginally, all of the guests. As I am pretty much a failure at small talk, this is a big advantage.
2. When I’m ready to go home, I’m already there!
3. I have sweet party accessories.
This last is pretty much the biggest factor in my quest to entertain. Over the course of the years of collecting vintage barware, I’ve also accumulated a fair amount of related paraphernalia in the form of platters, relish plates, and of course, my beloved chip and dip bowl. (Although, to my eternal sadness, I continue to lack a deviled egg plate. One way or another I intend to rectify that this summer.) Hosting parties, large or small, allows me to not only showcase, but truly utilize my collection. I believe that if what you collect is a utilitarian object it should be enjoyed fulfilling its intended purpose!
Since Mr. Menace and I had a shindig just last week to celebrate completing the marathon and just generally getting our lives back, it was a perfect time to pull out all of my wares. Here’s a picture of the spread:
Pinwheels were courtesy of my sisters, who also brought additional snacks and can always be counted on for top-notch party gear.
Next to it is our lovely cheeseboard!
I didn’t photograph the chip and dip bowl because you’ve seen it before, and sadly, I forgot to take a picture of the punch bowl, which was filled with sangria and an ice ring that made utilizing my very fancy Bundt pan. This was a grievous oversight, for which I am ashamed.
However, I’m going to make it up to you by providing recipes for the three special snacks I made for this event! In addition to the usual cheese plate, chocolate chip cookies, and hummus, I decided that this party needed a few treats that went above and beyond.
The first was the dip that you can see in the first picture, being served with the crudites. While chopping vegetables isn’t particularly fancy (especially if you’re me, and HATE chopping vegetables. Where were all of my sous-chefs?), the dip took a bit of patience and skill. It was the Blue Cheese and Caramelized Onion Dip from AJ Rathbun’s amazing book, Party Snacks. If you have any interest in entertaining, buy this book. Rathbun’s writing style is chatty and fun, the instructions are easy to follow, and everything I’ve made from this book so far has been wonderful.
* 1 tablespoon(s) vegetable oil
* 1 1/4 cup(s) (about 1 onion) very thinly sliced yellow onions
* 3/4 cup(s) mayonnaise
* 3/4 cup(s) sour cream
* 4 ounce(s) blue cheese, at room temperature
* 1/4 teaspoon(s) freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
* 1/8 teaspoon(s) kosher salt, plus more to taste (note, when a recipe tells you kosher salt, they mean it. Using an equivalent amount of table salt will make your recipe WAY too salty. If you don’t have kosher salt, a good rule of thumb is about half as much table salt.)
1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, stirring regularly, and cook for 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to low. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes more, stirring occasionally. This is not a difficult task, but it is one that requires patience and attention. Properly caramelized onions are slow work! You want them to be lovely golden brown and soft, not burned! Make sure you really do reduce the heat to low! Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.
2. Whisk together the mayonnaise and sour cream in a medium-size bowl until combined. Crumble in the blue cheese. I used Fourme d’Ambert, which is Mr. Rathbun’s recommendation. It’s tangy without being TOO blue-cheese funky, and it’s reasonably soft without being a mess.
Add the caramelized onions and the salt and pepper, and stir until everything is well combined. Taste and add more salt and pepper as desired.
3. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, until completely cold.
This was a big hit, and I will definitely be making it again!
Next up, we have gougères, which are delightful cheese biscuits, made light by the fact that they are made with choux pastry, which utilizes a high moisture content that creates steam which then puffs the pastry. Again, they’re not difficult per se, but they are time consuming and require a slightly strange technique to make the choux, involving dropping beaten eggs into a hot flour/water mixture. Do this incorrectly and you will cook the eggs! Since the recipe can be found here I’ll let you click the link rather than retyping – you get a bonus liqueur recipe from one of Mr. Rathbun’s other books! The gougeres are in the white bowl in the top photo.
Finally, even though I failed to capture a picture of it, here’s my sangria recipe! There are many variations on sangria, which is a wine punch that originated in Spain. None are necessarily right or wrong, but I was pleased with the ratios in mine:
*3 bottles of Jam Jar Shiraz. This was recommended as THE go-to sangria wine by our lovely local liquor store, Berman’s. If you live in the area, check them out!
*1 cup of brandy. I just used Christian Brothers’ VS.
*1/2 cup Triple Sec. Or if you want to be fancy, Cointreau.
*1 orange and 1 lemon, sliced into rounds
Mix all of the liquid ingredients well. Add the fruit and chill overnight! You’ll notice I don’t add any other juice or sugar, I find it unnecessary.
If you make any of these, let me know what you think! Or better yet, invite me to your party!