Jan 5, 2018

Five on Friday- Cocktail Party Menu and Recipes for a Crowd

We had a wonderful and much needed Boxing Day party Tuesday evening.  As much as I adore my darling children, it's just fabulous to take a break from battery insertion and refereeing disputes.

There's a touch of confusion as to what Boxing Day consists of- there's no fight (other than my children).  Instead, it's a British bank holiday that's the day after Christmas.  My  knowledge comes form extensive reading of classic British literature (or, ahem, watching Bridget Jones Diary on repeat in college, whatevs).

For us, it's just a great excuse to have a party.  Our shindig began at 8, in order to allow me to frantically clean shards of wrapping paper, and get my children in their beds with dreams of sugar plums in their head.

(Note, none of these pictures are mine, as I was running around like mad trying to get everything ready, and forgot to take a single picture before my guests arrived).

We had about fifty to sixty guests popping in and out- along with the following I also prepared a massive charcuterie and cheese board.  The party didn't begin till eight, so most people ate dinner before.  However, I always like a good quantity of food on hand, especially if people are imbibing!

1.  Mulled Wine:

I'd never had mulled wine before.  This is a grave omission on my behalf.  I was a bit leery about warm wine, so a friend who arrived a bit early helped me taste.  We decided to drink the entire pot after a single sip.

It's amazing!  Warm, comforting, and incredibly delicious.

This recipe is adapted from Ina Garten.


4 cups apple cider1 (750-ml) bottle red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon
1/4 cup honey
4 cinnamon sticks
2 oranges, zested and juiced
4 whole cloves

Combine the first four ingredients in a big pot, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, and add in your wine.  Simmer for 10 minutes.

Pour into mugs and try to share.

2.  Roasted Chickpeas:

An excellent alternative to roasted nuts, roasted chickpeas offer the same munchability factor.  I like to scatter bowls of them around- especially by the bar.  An added bonus?  A can of chickpeas is a hell of a lot cheaper than the same amount of pecans or cashews.

4 cans chickpeas
1/4 cup olive oil
2 T seasoned salt
2T smoked paprika

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Pour olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet and place in oven until oil is hot, 3 minutes. In a medium bowl, combine chickpeas, cayenne pepper, and cumin seed. Season with salt and toss to combine. Place chickpea mixture on hot baking sheet and spread in a single layer. Bake until chickpeas are crisp, 10 to 12 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels and let cool slightly. 

3.  Fig Gorgonzola Bites

I hadn't made this old favorite in quite a while- the sweetness balanced the charcuterie platter and all the other savories perfectly.

1 box of puff pastry
1 jar fig jam or spread
8 ounces of crumbled gorgonzola
4 ounces butter (melted)

Take two sheets of thawed puff pastry
Lay in on a lightly floured surface, and brush with melted butter
Cut the puff pastry into squares
Spread with a fig jam or spread (if you nuke the jar for about 20 seconds it makes it far easier to spread)
Top the square with Gorgonzola crumbles
Bake at 350 for about 20- 30 minutes, until puffed and toasty.

4.  Sweet Potato Biscuits with Country Ham:

I check out a bunch of Southern Living Christmas cookbooks from the library, for some ideas and inspiration for the party.  Nothing really caught my eye, until I landed on there little nuggets.  We are lucky enough to have Benton's ham at the grocery store here, so country ham had me ready to go!

To be honest, I was a bit intimidated to make them for the party- there's a lot that can go wrong with baking, especially trying out a recipe for the first time.  However, I threw caution to the wind, and got out my flour at 7 o'clock the morning of the party.  These biscuits were SO GOOD!  I had to restrain myself from eating all 36 before my guests arrived.  Next time I will double the recipe, as they disappeared in a flash.

Although a bit tedious to stuff each biscuit with the ham and apple butter, I prepared them hours in advance, refrigerated, then kept covered in a warm oven.  They did not suffer for it!

2 3/4 all-purpose flour
1 T sugar
1 T baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup cold butter, cut into pieces
1 cups (4 oz), freshly shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1 cooked cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
1/3 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
parchment paper
2 T butter, melted
1 lb thinly sliced country ham 
apple butter

1.  Preheat oven to 375.  Stir together the first 5 ingredients in large bowl; cut in 1/4 butter with a pastry blender or couple of forks, until mixture resembles small peas and the dough is crumbly. Stir in cheese and chives
2.  Stir together sweet potatoes, buttermilk, and eggs.  Add to the flour mixture, stirring just until he dry ingredients are moistened.
3.  Turn dough out until a lightly floured surface.  Pat dough into a 1 inch thick circle.   Cut dough witth a well-floured 1 1/2 inch round cutter, retooling scraps as needed.
4.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; place biscuits, with sides touching on baking sheet.  Brush tops with 2 T of melted butter.
5.  Bake at 375 for 25 minutes or until golden brown.
6.  Cook ham in large nonstick skillet over medium high heat for 6 minutes, turning once.  Split biscuit, lightly spread with smidge of apple butter, fill with ham.

5.  Baked Fontina

I remembered this recipe, which I served at a NYE party a number of years ago- cluster of people huddled around a hot cast iron skillet filled with gooey melted cheese.  Fantastic!

From on the fabulous Ina Garten recipe- (just cheese altered to make it a bit more fiscally minded)

Preheat the broiler and position the oven rack 5 inches from the heat.
Distribute the cubes of Fontina evenly in a 12-inch cast-iron pan. Drizzle on the olive oil. Combine the garlic, thyme, and rosemary and sprinkle it over the cheese and olive oil. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper and place the pan under the broiler for 6 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbling and starts to brown.
Serve the baked Fontina family-style-right out of the oven in the cast-iron pan with crusty chunks of bread for everyone to dip.


  1. Did the kids snooze through the festivities? Fletch has decided he wants to be make appearances at all events lately. These all sound fab. I used to make large quantities of mulled wine at the Bed and Breakfast during the winter. We would sometimes float orange slices in it just for appearance!

  2. Can you just host me at your next party so I can eat all of these? xo


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