Easy open house party

Make a few choice recipes, then round them out with great buy-and-serve foods from around the West

Jessica Battilana

Without question, the holidays are the craziest time of year. But it's also when we most look forward to entertaining.

Gathering a big group of friends for a casual open house is one of the season's enduring pleasures.

Unlike a formal sit-down dinner party, an open house lets people come and go as their busy schedules allow.

The food is of the do-ahead variety, scaled to serve 25 but easily doubled or even tripled if you're having a big crowd. (For a truly large party, you might want to consider renting dishes and barware)

If your group is smaller, these recipes serve 10 for a sit-down dinner.

We supplemented our menu with excellent store-bought goodies, from smoked salmon and salami to cheeses and chocolates.

Incidentally, our recommendations for store-bought and mail-order edibles also make very good hostess and holiday presents.

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