girls night out

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

Categories: Appetizers, Desserts, Cocktail Party, Wine Line, Posted on December 21, 2014 by Sandy Bergsten

What a fun evening at DLM’s Culinary Center. I hosted a Girl’s Night Out cooking class with Dorothy Lane Market’s wine expert Teresa Kearney. The topic was holiday canapés. And the point was to learn how to make an array of nibbles that would impress without any stress.

Have to say the night was a success. We had a full house and while Teresa kept the glasses filled I taught the group how to make a complete assortment of hors d'oeuvres, along with a couple of “hail mary” desserts, that could be pulled together completely ahead of time. For we all know that no one has fun at a party unless the hostess does.

To wow the group we started the night with a pop of sparkling Biutiful Cava from Spain. To accompany those bubbles I began our holiday class with two canapés that command a bit of attention Caviar Egg Toasts and Smoked Salmon on Cucumber Rounds.

I explained that because these two don’t travel well and need a bit of last minute construction they are best for a smaller group at your own home. Just make sure to pass them and not place them down for if you do all of your effort will be devoured before you can say happy holiday.

With a Domaine de Pajot Quatré Cepages, Côtes de Gascone from Southwest France we moved to two hors d'oeuvres that can be made and frozen weeks ahead of time- Cheese Puff Cups with Fig Preserves and Mushroom Cheese Crisps. These two are so simple. I make a large batch of each and stock my freezer.

They are my go-to canapés for a crowd, last minute guests or if I need to bring something to someone’s house. Remember to cover your baking sheets with heavy-duty foil then when they’re done baking you’ll have absolutely no clean up.

Teresa then poured a Kenwood Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley. Here I featured two dips that were a far cry from the typical boring and labor-intensive crudités- Asparagus with Wasabi Mayonnaise and Goat Cheese with Olive Tapenade.

The asparagus is green and festive and the wasabi dip has just the right amount of kick. The goat cheese and tapenade is impressive. But what makes it even more so is that it takes less then 60 seconds to put together. The key here is using top shelf ingredients such as Chevremousse whipped goat cheese and fresh tapenade from your grocer’s olive bar.

It’s always a good idea to serve something a little more substantial when throwing a cocktail party. The Serrano, Manchego and Cherry Confit Croutes and Dates Wrapped in Bacon went perfectly with the Zuazo Gaston Rioja Crianza from Spain.

Using a thin baguette, such as ficelle, makes these croutes truly bite size. Everything can be prepped ahead of time to make assembling a snap. And is there anyone who doesn’t adore dates wrapped in bacon. The secret here is using small dates such as the bagged Dole ones you’ll find next to the raisins and a thin center cut bacon such as Hormel.

Every party needs a bit of a sweet ending. But if you are like me the last thing you want to do is bake some elaborate dessert for a crowd that might just pass it by on the buffet. Here are two embarrassingly easy sweets to place decoratively on a tray. Cheesecake Tartlets and Brownie Bites with Strawberries. The perfect pair for Teresa’s Quady Red Electra Muscat.

Deconstruct an existing piece of cheesecake into these wonderful premade dessert cups, then top with a fresh raspberry. And I don’t know why but everyone thinks if something is cut into a small triangle then it is special. Well here are center cut store bought brownies cut into triangles and served with fresh strawberries. What’s really special is all the time you’ll save.

A big thank-you to all my helpers Mary, Macy, Susan, Kelly and Barb. They made the night go off without a hitch, not an easy task when teaching thirty-plus people how to make ten recipes completely ahead of time in about two hours.

And to our wonderful group- here’s to making holiday entertaining a breeze!

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