The holidays are upon us. We watch TV commercials that show foyers full of people clinking wineglasses and greeting one another, and Diane Keaton movies directed by Nancy Meyers where the kitchens look like the love child of Martha Stewart and Philip Johnson. And we start to agonize over the fact that we really, really, really promised ourselves that this would be the year that we (finally) hosted a holiday gathering. But all those people! All that cooking! All that planning!
But we ARE going to entertain, dammit! And here’s how: an open house. Not a sit-down dinner for just a handful of friends, not a frenetic cocktail party—rather, a gentle stretch of time with people coming and going as they please. There’s a serve-yourself bar, an array of (mostly) room-temperature food, and a relaxed atmosphere that makes people understand that the real point is to connect for a little while over a drink and something good to eat.
Finger Foods: Make a hot dip, like Hot Crab and Corn Dip. Prepare it the day before; heat it as the guests arrive. Or put out an assortment of crostini, such as Avocado and Cannellini Bean Crostini with Gremolata, or Radicchio and Endive Crostini with Aged Goat Cheese and Balsamic Glaze.
Main courses: Choose an entrée that can sit happily for awhile without losing its stage presence or flavor as it cools. Serve it in batches, and replenish as needed so it doesn’t sit for too long. Some ideas are Butternut Squash, Black Bean, and Chicken Enchilada Cups (cute and individually sized; heat these as you need them), Poached Salmon with Cilantro Sauce, and Mediterranean Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Vegetables.
Sides: Salads of all sorts are a host’s best friend, and people are so happy to have a few to choose from. Try Light Green Crunchy Salad and also think about vegetable salads and dishes such as Southwest Black Bean and Corn Salad, or maybe a vegetable-studded coleslaw.
Pasta and grain salads and sides, such as, Sesame-Honey Quinoa and Carrot Salad with Sliced Avocado, Vegetable and Brown Rice Salad with Honey Lemon Dressing, Red Quinoa Salad with Arugula, Artichoke Hearts, and Olives are sturdy enough to be left out on the buffet for a nice long time.
Vegetarian options: Make sure you have one or two meatless choices. This might take the form of a salad (see above). Some other thoughts are a frittata, such as Mushroom, Caramelized Onion, and Feta Frittata, or a quiche, such as Leek, Mushroom, and Goat Cheese Quiche. Also try a vegetarian casserole, like Bulgur Wheat,, Black Bean, and Sweet Potato Gratin.
You’ve got this!