Holiday Cooking: What Worked Well, What Didn’t

There’s an interesting thread on the Chowhound Home Cooking board about what holiday cooking went well and what didn’t. All-in-all I had some good successes this year, most of which I attribute to continuing to improve my skills with regular cooking and learning from great teachers. Planning ahead is also key. My reply on the Chowhound board includes my summary of what went well at my big holiday party and what didn’t. Along the same lines, I recommend all of these recipes that I used for my open house as great small plates or finger-food party offerings:

  • Goat Cheese Crostini with Blood Orange and Black Pepper Marmalade
    Make the marmalade and goat cheese the day before, the crostini the morning of the party, and assemble just before guests arrive.
  • Squashed Cherry Tomato and Smashed Olive Bruscetta
    I turned this salad recipe from Jamie Oliver into a single-serving appetizer. It was just lovely.
  • Spicy Cheddar Palmiers
    Make these up to two weeks in advance and freeze. Thaw them a bit the morning of the party and slice. Bake them a few minutes before guests arrive so you can serve them warm. These are very spicy, which goes over well in Texas, but if your guests are sensitive to spice, cut back on the chili powder.
  • Cheese Straws
    I made these as palmiers instead of cheese straws and the result was great. These too can be made a couple of weeks in advance and frozen. Don’t be afraid of the puffed pastry. It is so easy to work with and the results are fantastic. Your guests will be so impressed.
  • Rosemary-Cheese Spritz Cookies
    These savory cookies will satisfy the cheese-lover in anyone. As the recipe says, be sure to use a cookie pattern that is relatively wide because the dough is somewhat lumpy and can get stuck in smaller patterns. Also, use grated cheese and not shredded and buy the best Parmesan you can afford as it’s the star ingredient.
  • Tiny Twice-Baked Potatoes
    These are a wonderful warm appetizer that most everyone will enjoy. It takes a while to hollow out a few dozen tiny potatoes and then stuff them again, so be sure to give yourself time the day before the party to prep these. They hold beautifully overnight. If possible, try to keep them warm during the party as they were better hot than at room temperature.
  • Asian Meatballs with Sesame Lime Dipping Sauce
    If you choose not to put the cilantro into this recipe as I did, be sure to include other strong flavors like scallion, lemongrass, or possibly ginger. A straight substitution of flat leaf parsley made these blander than I wanted. The sauce is great however, but make a double or triple batch so people have plenty available for dipping. For an appetizer I made each meatball with 2 Tbsp. of the meat mixture.
  • Endive with Pear and Roqefort
    This recipe offers an opportunity for a beautiful presentation. I modified the recipe to create single-serving endive leaves with the blue cheese, pear, and walnut mixture spooned into each individual leaf. To make this the morning before the party, I chopped the pears and stored them in some water mixed with lemon juice. Before the party I tossed the pears with the vinaigrette and they stayed beautiful throughout the party. I also used purchased Champagne vinaigrette to save time.
  • Olive and Sun-Dried Tomato Tapenade with Endive Leaves
    This is a wonderful winter vegetable offering in place of traditional veggies and dip. Use a combination of white and red endive for a pretty presentation. You can make the tapenade ahead of time but be sure to add a little more olive oil before service to keep it from being too dry.
  • Miniature Double Chocolate Cakes
    This recipe is so simple it’s unbelievable and the results are just delightful. These little mouthfuls of glorious chocolate are a fun addition too any dessert table or as a take-along for a potluck. The key to this recipe is to use the best chocolate you can lay your hands on. An additional drizzle of raspberry or cherry or even caramel sauce would be a nice addition, but these stand on their own with just a dusting of powdered sugar too.