This menu of tasty party snacks is perfect for the 2020 version of a holiday blowout — that is, all-night nibbling on the couch.
There’s a lot I’ll miss about my usual holiday shindigs this December. There’ll be no sipping eggnog in red lipstick and spangles, no parking myself in front of platters of Camembert and Stilton, not even any sleeves of Ritz crackers with that unidentifiable orange cheese spread I look forward to year after year.
But while there won’t be any parties, there will still be festive snacks, and plenty of them. My plan for a grand but small-scale holiday celebration is to make an array of fun, tasty bites to nibble on throughout the evening — and if things get wild with a double feature, well into the night. Having a varied mix of dishes, ones that pair as well with Champagne as they do with a winter fruit shrub for the kid, will make it feel like a blowout even when it’s just my family of three.
A menu like this should be filling enough to take the place of dinner, and very casual, so you can eat it snuggled on the couch, silverware strictly optional. Plus, because you’ll probably be grazing over the span of an evening, you’ll need things that are as good at room temperature as they are piping hot.
These four dishes hit all the right notes.
First, there’s a dip, because everyone knows it’s not a party without a dip. (Lockdown bonus: When it’s only your immediate household, you can probably get away with double dipping.) For this menu, there’s not one, but two thrilling dip options. Or, technically speaking, one dip and one spread, since the fig-and-olive tapenade might be too thick to scoop without breaking your breadstick.
Instead, use a spoon to smush it all over a hunk of country bread, and pile some prosciutto and maybe a few persimmon slices on top to highlight the marriage of savory and sweet. The other option — scallion and white pepper-spiked sour cream strewn heavily with salmon roe — is just the thing for dunking potato chips and celery sticks, just to get a green vegetable into the mix.
Stuffed mushrooms — that party circuit stalwart — also make an appearance. But instead of the usual bland, stodgy caps, these are spicy, crunchy and oily in a good way, seasoned with harissa, cumin and plenty of Parmesan, and rounded out with dried apricots. Conveniently, you can stuff them up to six hours ahead, then pop them in the oven when your stomach starts to growl.
Finally, to anchor everything and make it feel like a meal, there’s a satisfying, ultrabuttery puff pastry tart, filled with herbed mascarpone and thinly sliced fennel that singes at its tips. To make it even fancier, the pieces get draped with silky smoked salmon and garnished with chopped capers (vegetarians can skip the fish and double up the capers). It’s zesty, flaky and just exciting enough to make it feel like a special occasion. Which, even without the spangles, your small-scale holiday can certainly be.
Recipes: Fig-Olive Tapenade With Prosciutto and Persimmon | Caviar Sour Cream Dip With Potato Chips | Crispy Stuffed Mushrooms With Harissa and Apricots | Smoked Salmon, Fennel and Herbed Mascarpone Tart
And to Drink …
The rich combination of herbal and savory flavors in this puff-pastry tart will go well with many wines, as long as they are white, with lively acidity. Chablis would be terrific, as would restrained examples of Sancerre, its sauvignon blanc cousin. You could drink assyrtiko from Santorini, or dry riesling or grüner veltliner from Austria. I think a mildly sweet riesling, like spätlese from Germany, would also go well. If you are serving this for a holiday celebration, it would pair nicely with Champagne or other sparkling wines. Perhaps you have been curious about sherry but don’t know when to drink it? This would be a fine dish to help you discover the joys of fino. You could even serve this dish with small glasses of vodka, neat and cold as an icy cloud. ERIC ASIMOV