How to host friends without the fuss
Follow our advice here, and you'll find that a midweek party can be easier to pull off than a weekend one ― which is good, because with all of the season's office gatherings, Christmas tree trimmings, and dinner dates taking up your schedule, it might be your only chance to host a fete of your own.
The key is to keep things simple: Make just a few dishes, buy some prepared foods to fill in the gaps, and offer wine and beer instead of a fully stocked bar (don't forget the sparkling wine).
If you have time on your hands, you can add our "two-for-one" hors d'oeuvres and our cranberry-mint infusion cocktail. With a party this easy, you can finally have a little peace with your joy.
3 days ahead:
• Shop for food.
• Make roasted red pepper-tomato soup.
2 days ahead:
• Make white bean dip.
• Cook onions for pear and blue-cheese pastry triangles, then cover and chill.
1 day ahead:
• Set the table. Set up the bar. Chill wines.
• Prepare and bake pear and blue-cheese pastry triangles.
• Make the rosemary olive oil for bean dip.
• Reheat roasted red pepper-tomato soup.
• Garnish dishes and serve.
• Use the white bean dip as the foundation for an abundant tray of store-bought snacks, including hummus and baba ghanoush, olive tapenade, carrot sticks, and other vegetables. Serve with breadsticks, pita chips, and a thinly sliced baguette.
• Hosting a bigger crowd? Buy extra puff pastry and get creative with toppings. Try sliced mushrooms and fontina cheese, or thinly sliced cooked red potatoes, thyme, and sea salt.
• If your guests tend to congregate in the kitchen, leave the roasted red pepper soup over a low flame on the stove and set cups, ladle, and toppings nearby (that's one fewer dish to wash).
• Forget about homemade desserts. Serve a store-bought tart or holiday cake, or encourage guests to bring Christmas cookies.
Roasted Red Pepper-Tomato Soup
• Make soup up to 3 days ahead.
• Store airtight in the refrigerator.
• Reheat before serving.
White Bean Dip with Rosemary Olive Oil
• Make dip up to 2 days ahead.
• Store dip in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
• Bring dip to room temperature before serving.
• Prepare the rosemary oil right before serving.
Pear and Blue-Cheese Pastry Triangles
• Cook the onions up to 2 days ahead.
• Store onions in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
• Slice pears, prepare puff pastry, and bake just before serving.
Classic Brut sparkling wine brings elegance to all the dishes on this menu. Alternatively, a dry, fruity rosé is an unexpected match.