the Menu: Interactive Entertaining for the Holidays

If Iron Chef isn’t your thing, we have two more fabulous entertaining ideas to elevate your holiday parties from the standard affair to simply sublime.

 

Photo source: Oprah.com

Wine + Grilled Cheese Party

For a twist on the classic “wine and cheese party,” host an upscale wine and grilled cheese sandwich party. By providing the variety of a buffet set-up, you’re sure to please each of your guests with the option to customize their dish. This type of party also requires minimal pre-party cooking and is mostly assembly work.

Best for: Adventurous diners who can handle their dairy

Party essentials: You can’t have grilled cheese sandwiches without some heat! Have on hand one or all of: a panini press, stovetop grill pan, a portable skillet and/or a toaster oven.

In advance of your guest’s arrival, set-up a bar on a wide space like a kitchen island or dining table with all your ingredients. Have your heating appliance/stove ready with all essential pans and kitchen utensils.

Along with wines and cheeses, here’s what else you’ll need for your buffet:

Breads

  • French bread/baguette
  • Rye, pumpernickel or caraway-seed
  • Challah or brioche
  • Raisin-nut bread

Flavourings

  • Pepper jelly and preserves
  • Nut butter, like almond butter
  • Mustards – Dijon, honey mustard
  • Herbed butter (to butter the bread)
  • Herbed pestos

Fillings

  • Fruit slices, like apple and pear
  • Onions – caramelized or thinly-sliced red
  • Fresh and sundried tomatoes
  • Cooked bacon
  • Smoked salmon
  • Fresh herbs – parsley, basil and dill
  • Thinly-sliced meats – smoked turkey, ham, Genoa salami, roast beef, prosciutto
  • Leafy greens – Arugula, butter lettuce
  • Sliced dill pickles, jalepenos, olives
  • Sliced avocado

Confused about pairing wines with cheese? Use this guide to help you navigate the cheese store and wine shop. Remember to include non-alcoholic beverages for your guests as well.

Tips to make great grilled cheese sandwiches: Courtesy of the hostess with the mostess, Martha Stewart. To round out the grilled cheese bar, add a few simple salads and soup as sides.

  • Use softened butter as it’s more spreadable. Butter the outside of the bread slices. This keeps the butter from burning.
  • To melt the cheeses quickly, grate the cheese (if possible) or use thinly-sliced cheese.
  • For stove-top cooking, cook the sandwiches covered over low to medium heat. This will help the cheese melt before the bread and butter get too brown.
  • If cheese hasn’t melted by the time the bread is golden, turn off heat, and let stand, covered, until cheese melts.

 

Breakfast for Dinner

Photo source: Jeffreyw via Flickr

Breakfast for dinner — I’m not talking about plain ol’ scrambled eggs and toast, but a sophisticated take on the all-day breakfast. It’s one of the easiest dinner parties you can throw, especially on a weeknight when you decide to invite over some guests for an impromptu gathering.

Best for: A weeknight get-together with girlfriends

Party essentials: Some breakfast pantry and freezer basics so you’re ready on a whim, and your last-minute grocery run on the commute home is kept short.

For a quick and easy breakfast-themed spread, make sure to keep your kitchen stocked with:

  • Pancake mix (store-bought or homemade pancake mix)
  • Maple syrup
  • Honey
  • Jams and preserves
  • Frozen berries
  • Sparkling wine
  • Tomato juice or Bloody Mary mix
  • Bacon
  • Your favourite cheeses
  • Fresh herbs (or concentrated herb pastes, found at most grocery stores in the produce section)

For the menu, stick to two to three items that you can cook quickly and all at once, like frittatas or baked eggs and bacon. While these dishes are cooking in the oven, you can assemble a batch of pancakes or french toast. Other great accompaniments are light salads (if preparing a more savoury spread) or a cereal bar. For drinks serve a classic Mimosa, Caesar or Bellini, as well as tea and coffee.

 

Next: Use these easy to prepare menu ideas so you can throw your own cooking competition, grilled cheese bar or breakfast for dinner feast.