We’re in the homestretch before the new year caps the 2011 party season. Office potlucks and impromptu festivities crowd the calendar—and at some point we have to decide what to bring to the next gathering.
Here are a few suggestions to get you started.
Though putting it all together is time intensive, the ingredients are a bargain. Gribenes are cracklings (think pork rinds) made from frying chicken skin in its own fat (schmaltz). Keller’s Farm Store sells fresh, natural livers and chicken skin by the pound.
Add a shot of Cognac to the livers while you’re sautéing for awesome flavor. You can also double the recipes and divvy up the pâté into several small, round molds. It’s worth the extra effort. A guest at one potluck said she loved the pâté, so I recommended another chicken dish to her. “Oh no,” she quickly added. “I’m a vegetarian, but the pâté was so good.”
A friend of mine likes to fill a party tray with cherry tomatoes stuffed with a mixture of goat cheese and some of her favorite herbs. Deviled eggs always disappear quickly. And I highly recommend Alain Ducasse’s recipe for gougères (bitly.
Think small. Make bread pudding in muffin papers and garnish the individual servings with fruit. Use savory flavors and you’ll have individual bread soufflés that can also work as a main dish. One advantage of the small cupcake servings is that you don’t have a half-eaten casserole drying out midway through your open house.
Cold cuts, pâtés, cheeses and fruit are easy to assemble last-minute, or they can be made ahead by your favorite deli. There are excellent dried sausages, both locally made and imported, at specialty stores. Try any Keller’s Farm Store or the Alpine Sausage Kitchen for their housemade charcuterie.
For Italian ready-made party foods, there’s Saratori’s di Tully pastry shop and Tully’s deli and market on San Mateo. The side-by-side stores offer traditional Italian cookies and a great selection of dried sausages and cheeses and gourmet treats. Johnny Camuglia helms the family business and is happy to put together a fabulous selection for you if you call ahead.
When it comes to cheese, I like The Old Windmill Dairy. Unmold a small container of creamy goat cheese on a tray with their “Sandia sunrise” smoked gouda and McIntosh cave-aged goat cheese. Serve it with a drizzle of sweet Vietnamese chile sauce and some water crackers. You can find Old Windmill at La Montañita Co-op, Sunflower, Whole Foods, John Brooks and other grocers.
For instant hors d’oeuvres, San Pedro Mart Middle East Restaurant sells a huge can of ready-to-eat stuffed grape leaves for around $8. I also pick up a package of dates for stuffing, wrapping or just eating whole.