Tis the season to look at your calendar and ponder how it became, seemingly overnight, a microcosm of our universe in its ordered chaos. After enduring several holiday seasons that left me dizzy-as-a-whirling-dervish come January (in no small part due to my STUNNINGLY foolish ideas to make sure everyone is properly accounted for via homemade peanut butter cups, or a 6-hr cajeta, or a hand painted wrapping theme…WELCOME TO BEING YOUR OWN DAMN KRAMPUS Y’ALL), I’ve spent the last couple of years painstakingly simplifying the season in the hopes of returning it to a place of joy, with time spent in calm appreciation of those around me. All that is basically a euphemism for “come at me with one more time constraint and I spend Christmas as Margot Tenenbaum in the tub”. Thus, my holiday party style has become one of being polite, but not a hero.
The best way to go about that is two-fold:
1. Don’t say yes to anything you have to “figure out”. Either it fits in your schedule or it doesn’t, pop-culture acronyms be damned. If you have to say no to someone who will be heartbroken at your lack of attendance, send them a bottle of something you know they’ll like with an open-ended lunch invite for the new year. This is the “don’t be a hero part”.
2. Don’t show up empty-handed, but do choose something completely simple to bring. This is the “be polite” part. If you can make that something an *unexpected* something, no one will see past the creativity to grasp how little time it took.
With recipes below, here are a few options I’ll be using this season:
Crostini with pâté, roasted grapes, and a charred-herb salsa:
This…this! It’s a favorite. You can buy the pâté at the store (I adore Fabrique Delices Duck Mousse with Port Wine if you can find it), roast off the grapes the morning of, and make the salsa up to 5 days in advance. The whole thing is perfect at room temperature, and assembly is as simple as a shmear, a plunk and a drizz.
Crostini with Pâté, Roasted Grapes and Charred Herb Oil
For the toast:
- 1/2pound red grapes
- 1package pâté
- 1loaf ciabatta, sliced and toasted
For the charred herb oil:
- 1/3cup grapeseed oil
- 7sage leaves
- 3parsley stalks, leaves stripped from stem
- 3thyme sprigs, leaves stripped from the stem
- 1tarragon stalk, leaves stripped from the stem
- Preheat the oven to 450*. Drizzle the grapes with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Roast for 20 minutes.
- While the grapes roast, add the herbs and grapeseed oil to a pan and set them to medium low heat. slowly simmer and char the herbs for 7-9 minutes, or until just darkened and crispy. transfer to a food proccessor and blitz for 3 seconds.
- Smear the toast with pâté, placea few grapes on top, and drizzle with herb oil.
Endive cups with walnut, bleu, tart cherry and pear:
All this app requires is a bit of knife work and a spoon, and can be made a day in advance, which, albeit not *easier*, is a much kinder gluten-free option than rifling through your produce drawer to hand Candace that half-eaten bag of dried up baby carrots before getting back to your good time.
- 1pear, diced
- 1/4cup blue cheese crumbles
- 1/4cup dried tart cherries, roughly chopped
- 1/4cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
- 1tablespoon olive oil
- 1teaspoon lemon
- 2heads endive, separated.
- 1/4cup parsley leaves, minced after being measured.
- Combine all ingredients but the endive.
- To keep the endive sitting properly on your platter, you can shave a bit of the back off using either a peeler or pairing knife.
- scoop 1 heaping tablespoon into the cup of each endive leaf.
Whether you endeavor to be the consummate hostess or the consummate guest, I hope these time-conscious options serve your purposes well. Happy Holidays!