Entertaining the Question
Perfect Party Tips from the Pros
December, 2006 - Issue #26
Fun! That's what holiday parties are supposed to be.

Think of something new to do. One of my favorite things to do for a holiday party is to pick one food item and create the entire menu around it. This works really well when guests are bringing a dish. Think lemons, cranberries, apples... From signature beverages and appetizers to desserts, include the item as an ingredient. How about selecting a region as a theme in preparing holiday food? New Orleans, Santa Fe, Caribbean, Hawaii... Why not say "aloha" this Christmas?

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to hosting your own holiday party.

How many appetizers should be prepared?

If you are serving appetizers from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. or before eating dinner, plan to make three or four different appetizers and allow five to seven bites per person. If your party is starting at 7 p.m. you will want to provide enough food to replace dinner, about six to eight different appetizers with 12 to 14 bites per person. For a Sunday afternoon event held from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., offer a selection of four to five different appetizers and seven to nine bites per person.

These are fast and easy appetizers, but oh so good.

Sesame Chicken Drummettes
1/3 cup bottled teriyaki sauce
2 tbsp dry sherry
4 tsp sesame seeds, toasted
2 pounds chicken wing drummettes
3 tbsp bottled barbecue sauce
3 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil

In a large resealable plastic bag, combine teriyaki sauce, sherry and sesame seeds. Add chicken. Seal bag, turn to coat. Marinate in refrigerator overnight.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. Using tongs, transfer chicken to the baking sheet. Discard marinade. Bake for 15 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the barbecue sauce, honey and sesame oil. Brush chicken with half of the sauce; bake for 10 minutes more or until no pink remains in chicken. Turn and brush again with remaining sauce after five minutes. Serve warm. Makes about 20 pieces.

How do you make appetizers attractive?

Garnish, and not with parsley, people! Our rule for what to choose as a garnish is this: Think of all the ingredients, then choose one. For instance, if the food boasts chopped rosemary, then we garnish with rosemary branches; if there is cinnamon, we use cinnamon sticks. Color's also a good way to go. If its green, then of course thrown on some chopped red pepper or yellow pepper. Garnishing individual appetizers may be too time consuming for you. If that's the case, garnish the plate. We like the white and red kale that is available in December, or use citrus slices, banana leaves or dry beans.

How do you effectively double a recipe?

First, work out the recipe math on paper. That way, you are not making mistakes when converting teaspoons to tablespoons or tablespoons to cups. Make sure you have bowls large enough for mixing, and most important, adequate storage containers. Allow extra time, too. While it doesn't take more time in the actual mixing of the double batch of meatballs, it will take twice as long to shape them.

How many beverages should you have on hand?

We like to offer a specialty drink, then keep to beer, wine, water and soft drinks. Here are some important facts that we use with catering. A 750 ml bottle of vodka, tequila or whiskey will give you 25 servings. Bottles of wine or champagne will give you five pours. One quart of juice will allow for six glasses, and one liter of soda/tonic water will serve six. When serving a full bar, offer at least one bottle of each spirit, even if you think only one or two mixed drinks will be consumed. If you are featuring a specialty drink like a pomegranate martini or margarita you will need two or more bottles of the spirit. When it comes to ice, allow one pound per person for drinks. For chilling wine or beer you'll need 10 pounds per case.

Here's a tasty holiday beverage...

Cranberry Martini

Combine one cup cranberries, one cup sugar and one cup water. Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve sugar. Cook until cranberries start to pop. Remove from heat and cool for 30 minutes. Strain mixture, reserving cranberries and liquid. In a large glass pitcher combine one 750 ml bottle of quality vodka, the reserved cranberries and two-thirds cup reserved liquid. Cover and freeze for three days. Strain cranberries out and discard. In a martini shaker add ice and two cups of the vodka mixture. Shake well, strain into four martini glasses and garnish with additional cranberries on festive skewer.

What about keeping food the right temperature?

Have a plan for keeping hot foods hot. Food should be between140 degrees and 175 degrees. Cold food should be below 40 degrees. Be ready with warming trays, chafing dishes and ice baths.


Cindy and Tamra, when not providing catering tips to the masses, are owners of RSVP - The Catering Company.
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