The biggest holiday party season of the century is drawing to a close.
Are you ready for it?
You are if you have appetizers or main dishes stored in the fridge or freezer for a planned millennium gala with friends. If you aren't stocked up, you may want to get busy. Our previous stories this month have given recipes for do-ahead dishes.
But since this is is an especially festive holiday season, you may want to be ready for any little surprises that might occur, as well. After all, the doorbell could ring at any moment with hungry people on the front step.
So keep some party makings handy. We'll give you some recipes for quick-to-put-together food at the end of this story.
But before we do that, here are some other quick party tips: This week, they may come in handy.
-- Realize that this hectic season may be the time to take advantage of all the good take-out food that's available at supermarkets these days.
Ideas range from takeout sushi to a baked ham, all sliced for you.
Realize, too, that you can buy all manner of already carefully cut up vegetables to surround a dip or accompany sandwiches.
To make it extra special, arrange takeout on your own trays or dishes. Which brings us to the next point:
-- Presentation is all.
Serve dip in a large bread bowl, for instance: Take a large round loaf of bread and cut a large circle in the top and remove the top. Pull out the center of the bread, cutting this into cubes for dipping. Put cubes aside (keep in plastic until ready to serve).
Just before serving, fill the center of the bread with the dip you've prepared. You can buy good dips in the dairy case or prepare a quick one from sour cream and seasonings. Surround the bread bowl with the bread cubes and some sliced vegetables.
-- Now is the time to serve up all the fruit you received as gifts. Slice it into a pretty bowl and add some orange juice or a little orange flavored liqueur. And because people like something sweet at the end of people, use up all the Christmas cookies, too.
(You don't want them in the house next week anyway. They'll interfere with your New Year's diet.)
-- If there's nothing sweet on hand, buy some attractive pastries at your favorite bakery.
-- Have some especially festive edibles on hand. if you can. Most people like shrimp and you can buy it frozen, keeping it in the freezer until practically the last second -- it only needs a few minutes to defrost. (Don't try to defrost the shrimp too far in advance, because it tends to get soggy.)
Herring is traditionally supposed to be lucky when served at the stroke of midnight and there's no problem having that on hand.Jars of the fish in sour cream or in wine sauce are in the nearest dairy case.
-- Keep many different kinds of crackers within your reach. And serve them with dips, sliced cheese, even that herring. You tend to use a lot of "scoopers" at this time of year, and crackers keep well.
-- Keep something festive to drink on hand, too. Now's the time to have a bottle of Champagne available. (It will chill in about 20 minutes if placed in a bucket of cold water and ice.) You may also want to keep special fruit juice coolers on hand for guests who are driving.
Mix your favorite juices with sparkling cold soda to make them special.
-- You'll have a better time at your own party if you keep cleanup to a minimum. Use aluminum foil to line your heat up pans if you're clever:
Turn a baking pan upside down and press a sheet of foil around it. Then remove the foil, flip the pan over and drop the formed liner inside. Crimp the edges of the foil rim onto the pan to keep the foil in place.
After cooking or heating, just remove the food, recycle the foil liner if you wish. Put the clean pan back in your cupboard.
Some great zippy party recipes follow. The first two come from three-ingredient diva Rozanne Gold, author of "Entertaining 1-2-3" (Little, Brown and Co., $27.95).
LITTLE ROQUEFORT BISCUITS
8 ounces Roquefort cheese, at room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter
1 1/3 to 1 1/2 cups packed self-rising flour< Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Crumble Roquefort into bowl of electric mixer. Add butter, cut into small pieces, and mix for 1 minute until well blended. Add a grinding of black pepper, flour and 1 to 2 tablespoons cold water. Mix on medium speed until dough comes away from sides of bowl. Do not overmix. Dough should be firm and not at all sticky. Add a little flour if necessary.
Lightly dust a flat surface with flour and with your hands roll dough into a 1-inch-diameter log. Slice into half-inch thick rounds.
Place rounds on ungreased baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Serve warm. These also freeze well and reheat beautifully. Makes 22 to 24 biscuits.
THE WORLD'S BEST PIMIENTO SPREAD
1 pound sharp English cheddar cheese
1jar (6 1/2 -ounces) jar pimientos
2/3 cup light mayonnaise
Cut rind off cheese. Cut cheese into small pieces and put in food processor. Add pimientos, including juice, and process until well blended.
Add mayonnaise, and salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste. Process until as smooth as possible. Using a flexible rubber spatula, transfer to large ramekin or decorative bowl. Chill for at least 30 minutes before serving. Makes approximately 3 1/2 cups.
The ingredients for this appetizer can be kept on hand in the pantry and refrigerator:
CAESAR HOT ARTICHOKE DIP
2/3 cup Caesar salad dressing
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2/3 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1 can (14 ounce) artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1medium tomato, diced
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, Combine Caesar dressing, mayonnaise, sour cream, and Parmesan cheese; blend well. Stir in Swiss cheese, artichoke hearts, tomatoes and hot pepper sauce. Pour mixture into an 8-by-8-inch baking dish. Bake 40 to 45 minutes. Serve hot with crackers or vegetables. Makes 2 cups.
This one freezes:
SUNDRIED TOMATO SQUARES
1 1/4 cups flour
6 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained
1 tablespoon of the oil (reserve)
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh chopped oregano
16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup chopped green onions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
To make crust: In a medium bowl blend flour and butter or margarine until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add egg and blend just until dough begins to clump. Press dough onto the bottom of a lightly greased 9-by-13-inch baking dish (dough will be thin). Bake in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes, until lightly golden. Let cool and set aside. Keep oven on at same temperature.
To make filling: Place tomatoes, reserved oil, garlic and oregano in a blender or food processor. Chop finely. Blend in eggs. Add cream cheese and blend all until smooth. Add sour cream and blend until all mixed together
Stir in green onion. Season with salt and pepper to taste and pour filling into reserved crust. Bake in the preheated oven until filling puffs up and is light brown, about 20 minutes. Cool to room temperature and cut into squares. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 15 to 20 squares.
Last of a monthlong series