pony ride

perfecting the "done before they arrive" party- a work in progress

Categories: Appetizers, Cocktail Party, Fête Fact, Posted on February 14, 2022 by Sandy Bergsten

When it comes to entertaining, is it time to get back in the saddle? Restrictions seem to be lifting as quickly as things shut down. The big difference- two years have transpired. I’m eager to embrace this new normal (whatever that means) but I am finding I am also filled with a good dose trepidation. 

I’ve come to realize that one of the major reasons is because I’m out of practice. In the not-so-distant past, every month I would throw dinner parties, hop on airplanes, multitask, be efficient. Now the mere thought of things can feel a bit crippling. One thing is for sure, I have definitely forgotten how to pack a carryon bag. 

Just like the novice air traveler who overpacks, the novice entertainer over does. They prepare more food than they need to, obsess about signature cocktails, worry about flowers, cleaning their house, rearranging their furniture. They agonize over things most guests won’t care about or notice, and in the end usually talk themselves out of having people over.

That’s a shame. Now is not the time to go big or stay home alone. Perhaps a mini soirée is just what the doctor should order. In that spirit I decided to have an impromptu cocktail party for ten. The exciting part most were fun acquaintances who I hoped might become closer friends. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t done much with others outside my bubble. This felt exhilarating. Especially the planning. But just like my two-ton carryon I could sense that I was falling into that rooky rut of overdoing.

I needed to remind myself that this was simply cocktails. Drinks and nibbles. One of my specialties is hors d’oeuvres, especially those I can stow in my freezer. When my husband was away, I stocked up on some favorites.

One of the things I love best about entertaining is really focusing in on who are my guests. Do they have a go-to drink, any food restrictions, chosen cravings? Turns out two of my guests are gluten intolerant and another is embracing his martini. That helped me shape my menu and the bar, down to the blue cheese stuffed olives.

One my favorite freezables is mushroom cheese crisps. But out here in California I can’t find Jarlsberg dip, so I set out to make my one. 

I grated eight ounces of Jarlsberg cheese.

Mixed in one quarter cup Hellman’s mayonnaise and two tablespoons finely chopped red onion.

I then diced and sauteed eight ounces of cremini mushrooms. 

Once cool I combined that with the cheese dip.

English muffin halves are the perfect vehicle for this spread. Everything melts and melds perfectly into the nooks and crannies. And no one can ever guess that it is an English muffin, they assume it is a labor-intensive pastry.

Place a generous spoonful of mushroom cheese mixture on top of each muffin half. With the back of a spoon press the mixture into the muffin. 

Cut each topped muffin half into six wedges. Place on a rimmed cookie sheet. Cover with foil. Freeze until solid, at least two hours. Remove and place in a Ziploc bag. Place in the freezer.

Put the frozen wedges cheese side up on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in a 350-degree oven until crisp, about eight to ten minutes, until bubbly and brown.

Because this get-together was just cocktails I wanted to make sure the canapes were substantial. I made crowd-pleasing smoked salmon on cucumber rounds.

Another gluten-free offering, radishes with pesto goat cheese.

I was thrilled to find Siljan shells and Caviart back on my grocer’s shelves.

Making caviar and egg cups a breeze.

The night before I made chicken satay for dinner. I decided to double the recipe and portion half into bite sized pieces to serve up as an hors d’oeuvres with peanut sauce.

The night was a success. Not only did the guest enjoy themselves, I had fun. It made me realize that maybe the best way to engage in many of my former aspects of life is to take small manageable steps.  No need to go galloping into the sunset, turns out a slow trot will do. 

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