Last Saturday I had the pleasure of hosting a gaggle of ladies at my humble abode for a little kick-off to the holiday season. I supplied a couple of appetizers, and a few bottles of champagne in order to get the party started, but was able to keep well under budget.
Sometimes hosting soirees like this can get away from you, financially. If you take the time to plan what you want to serve, and have a budget in mind, I am certain you can keep things to a minimum, and come out feeling like a monetary champion.
Tomato and Bocconcini Skewers – I marinade the mini bocconicini in balsamic vinegar and a little coarse salt overnight – that way each bite is seasoned and flavourful. Then I use grape tomatoes, and a piece of fresh basil to finish the bite.
Mixed Olives – I had a mixture of spicy jumbo green olives, and sun-dried (Moroccan) olives. Remember to have a pit bowl!
Pears with Stilton, Prosciutto and Arugula – Cut your pears, I used Bosc but any will do – and keep them a little under-ripe, into 8 wedges – remove the core. Toss in a little lemon juice, in order to keep them from turning brown. Cut a piece of prosciutto in half length-wise, and place a piece of Stilton, and a few sprigs of baby arugula on top (width-wise). Now place the fat end of the pear beside the cheese and arugula, in the same direction, and begin to roll the prosciutto around the ingredients. Make sure it tight. Makes approximately 24 pieces.
Caramelized Onions and Apple Tarts with Gruyère Cheese, Thyme and Chives
Ingredients; Makes 32 tarts
- 1 box frozen puff pastry, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 lbs yellow onions, cut in half and thinly sliced
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp coarse salt
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- 1 lb Granny Smith apples, thinly sliced, core removed
- 2 1/2 oz. Gruyère cheese, grated
- 2 Tbsp fresh chives, chopped
- 2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 egg, beaten with 2 Tbsp of water
In a large sauté pan over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the onions and salt, and cook, stirring occasionally for about 30 minutes. You want the onions to be a deep golden brown. Transfer to a large bowl and cool to room temperature – or put in the fridge, in Tupperware overnight.
Position 1 rack in the upper third, and 1 rack in the lower third of the oven, and prehat to 400F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large sauté pan over medium heat, melt unsalted butter. Add the apples and sugar, and coat the apples. Cook, tossing occasionally, until the apples start to caramelize, approximately 10 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the onions, and combine with cheese, chives, thyme, and freshly ground pepper.
Cut the puff pastry into 2-inch squares (no need to roll out the puff any more than it already is – you should get 16 squares per sheet of puff). Place on the prepared baking sheet, with approximately 1 inch between the squares. Brush the squares with the egg and water mixture, and place a heaping Tbsp. of filling in the centre of each square. Season with coarse salt and black pepper.
Baking, rotating the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back, halfway through the baking time. Bake for 25 minutes. Serve at room temperature, with a garnish of chopped chives.
Spiced nuts are a great economical addition to an appie party as well.
The last thing to consider, is whether you are going to have a welcome cocktail. Now, I’m a firm believer in supplying something to your guests upon arrival, but again, this can get away from you price-wise, so just be careful what you choose. Working in restaurants has really helped in finding an economical French sparkling wine; I have two to choose from, just in case one has already sold out of the liquor stores! Remember – it is that time of year…
Veuve de Vernay (Bordeaux) – goes for $14.99 in the BC Liquors Stores normally, but is on sale for $13.99 until after New Years. There is a Blanc de Blancs Brut, and a Rose available. Both extremely drinkable, both dry, and complementary as an aperitif.
Chamdeville (also Bordeaux) – also goes for $14.99 in BCL’s – this a little more creamy, with notes of honey and almonds, so not as dry as the Veuve, but still quite drinkable and lively.
Now, as you can see you technically cannot call these Champagne – because they are from Bordeaux, not Champagne – however, just say they’re from France… unless you’ve invited a Master Sommelier, you’re pretty safe with that.
In order to keep costs low, and inventory high on the booze selection. Try and grab something to mix with in order to make a “mimosa” of sorts. Because of the time of year, I opted for an Unfiltered Apple Juice. This created a play on a cider. And if you want to take it one step further, steep the Apple Juice with a cinnamon stick, some cloves, and a thumb of ginger – to add a little more of a Holiday note.
Now, that’s pretty much the idea. If you follow these little tidbits of advice, you’re going to be laughin’ into the wee hours of the morning – knowing how you got away with throwing a great Holiday party on a budget!
Ally Taylor is a food writer based in Vancouver, British Columbia. Through her All in Moderation blog, she aims to promote a healthy gourmet lifestyle for the 9-5’er. Learn more about Ally or follow her on Twitter @allinmod or Instagram @ally_in_moderation