Tree-trimming party

As I mentioned yesterday, I decided to have a small tree-trimming gathering to keep us from wimping out on getting a tree. I would have loved to have had a huge party, but our cranky landlady lives directly below us and it’s not really an option. She delivered a blistering lecture the morning after our housewarming party (which admittedly was pretty big, but it ended by 11). Instead, we invited seven people over, two of whom are gluten intolerant. I didn’t want to do a full meal, just some snacks and a few sweet things, plus some seasonal tipples.

The menu:

  • A double batch of homemade onion dip (Halve, then thinly slice, seven onions. Salt and cook over low heat until very brown, add 1/2 tsp. cayenne and a hearty drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Mix the onions into 2 c. sour cream, half a package of cream cheese, and a few big spoonfuls of yogurt. The leftover bit, thinned with pasta cooking water, made a delicious sauce for last night’s dinner of sauteed vegetables and pasta)
  • Stuffed mushrooms with sausage, onions, mushroom stems, frozen spinach, and bits of cheese that needed using up.
  • The Wednesday Chef’s meatballs in tomato-chipotle sauce (scaled up to use a pound each of beef and pork; I used pre-ground spices and two big cans of whole tomatoes instead of fresh.) This was the first time I’d made these, but it won’t be the last. They were terrific. Next time I’ll grate the zucchini instead of chopping it though.
  • Smitten Kitchen’s cauliflower-feta fritters with finely grated parmesan in place of the flour. Bite-size, they looked remarkably like seared scallops. I hadn’t made these before either and they are officially my new favorite party food. They were really delicious–lemony and spicy and cauliflower-y–but crumbly and annoying to prepare, especially without the flour; next time I’ll add a mashed potato to the mix to help the mixture hold together. I did mix up some cumin yogurt to dip them in, but they really didn’t need anything. They were fantastic on their own.
  • A riff on Orangette’s chocolate building blocks made from a Trader Joe’s pound-plus dark chocolate bar and a bag of TJ’s nuts and fruits trail mix with almonds, walnuts, cashews, cranberries, blueberries, and a couple other things.
  • My mother’s recipe for peanut blossoms (peanut butter cookies with a Hershey’s kiss on top).
  • These figgy pudding cookies, which I sort of screwed up. The dough was a sticky mess, and even though I knew the recipe called for rolling it out, there was no way that was happening. (Turns out I was supposed to refrigerate the dough for a couple of hours, but I hadn’t left myself enough time to do that.) So I put some parchment on a pizza pan and patted it out as best I could, then baked it until it was browned, and cut it into bars. For the glaze, I just added a splash of brandy and some of the milk the figs had steeped in to 2/3 c. or so confectioner’s sugar. I don’t know if anyone else even tasted these, but I absolutely love them.
  • Orangette’s family recipe for eggnog.
  • Mulled wine (three bottles of Trader Joe’s $3 cabernet; an orange and a lemon, each halved and juiced then the hulls tossed in the pot; a goodly portion of whatever whole warm spices I could find in the cabinet: cinnamon, cloves, allspice, star anise, cardamom, coriander, peppercorns; a bit of maple syrup–everything added to a pot, brought to a simmer, then turned off and left to steep for two hours or so. I can confirm that it’s delicious even if you never get around to reheating it and everyone drinks it at room temperature.)
  • Prosecco with pomegranate

I didn’t take many pictures that night, but I did manage one of the table early on.

We even managed to take a break from topping off drinks and making everyone play Cards Against Humanity long enough to get the tree decorated. I love it so much, I can’t believe I’ve never bothered to get one before. It’s so pretty and it smells incredible, and especially considering that we just bought the cheapest full-size bodega tree we could find within walking distance, I think it looks amazing.

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