Holiday Style Issue

Just add bubbly

Mix-and-match recipes you can make ahead for an elegant holiday cocktail party.

By Adam Ried
November 28, 2010

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Spice-Roasted Delicata Squash Moons Makes about 60 pieces

2 delicata squashes (uniformly shaped and about 7 inches long)

1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seed

1 teaspoon coriander seed

1/2 teaspoon cumin seed

1/2 teaspoon brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper

Set the oven rack in the middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Scrub but do not peel the squashes, trim ends and cut in half lengthwise, then seed and slice into 1/3-inch half-moons, and set aside.

In a small skillet over medium heat, toast the fennel, coriander, and cumin seeds, shaking the skillet occasionally, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Cool to room temperature, and in a spice grinder or mini-chopper, grind coarsely. In a small bowl, stir the ground fennel, coriander, and cumin with the brown sugar, paprika, cinnamon, and allspice to combine.

In a large bowl, toss the squash and oil to coat. Add salt and pepper to taste, add spice mixture, and toss again to distribute the seasonings. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil, spread the squash evenly in a single layer, and roast until well browned on the bottom, about 20 minutes. Remove the squash from the oven, cool to warm or room temperature, and serve.

MAKE AHEAD: Up to 1 day before your party. Can be refrigerated in an airtight container. Return to room temperature before serving.

Simple Rosemary and Garlic Marinated Olives Makes 2 cups

2 cups assorted cracked or pitted olives, drained and rinsed

2 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

3 large strips lemon zest

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons dry white wine

Pinch salt

In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 2 weeks.

MAKE AHEAD: From 1 day up to 2 weeks before your party. Return to room temperature before serving.

Salted Brown Butter and Almond Cookies Makes about 4 dozen

A pan with a light-colored interior makes it easier to see how dark the brown butter is becoming. A dark interior, like those most nonstick pans have, makes the color difficult to gauge.

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks

1 1/4 cups blanched slivered almonds, toasted and cooled

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or large-flake sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and cook, swirling pan often, until butter begins to brown and smell nutty, about 3 1/2 minutes. Immediately pour the brown butter into a heatproof bowl and refrigerate until solid and well chilled, about 1 1/2 hours.

Set the oven rack in the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick mat, and set aside. In a food processor, grind 1 cup of almonds to a fine meal, transfer to a bowl, and set aside. In the food processor, pulse the flour and 1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or sea salt to combine. Cut the brown butter into small chunks, scatter over the flour, and pulse to cut the butter into the flour until it takes on the texture of fine sand, about 12 3-second pulses. Add the confectioners’ sugar, ground almonds, and vanilla, and process until the dough forms small curds and clumps (it will not be totally cohesive). Add the remaining slivered almonds and pulse once or twice just to combine. Transfer dough to a bowl.

Using a rounded 1 teaspoon measure (or with fingers), form the cookies by scooping about 2 teaspoons of dough and squeezing gently. Set on the baking sheet, spacing the dough balls about 1/2 inch apart. When the sheet is full, sprinkle a couple flakes of fleur de sel or sea salt on each cookie and bake until set and the tops are just beginning to crack, about 13 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking time. Remove to a rack and cool for at least 1 hour (preferably longer) for cookies to firm up. Serve at room temperature.

MAKE AHEAD: Up to 3 days before your party (store in an airtight container at room temperature).

Walnut-Marinated Goat Cheese Makes about 3/4 pound

1 tablespoon grape seed or safflower oil

2 large shallots, thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon minced fresh thyme

Salt and pepper

2/3cup walnut oil, or more or less, as necessary

1 11-ounce log plain goat cheese, chilled and sliced into 3/8-inch rounds

1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and chopped

In a small skillet over medium-low heat, heat the grape seed or safflower oil until warm. Add the shallots and thyme and cook, stirring constantly, until softened, about 2 minutes. Off heat, add 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste, stir to mix, and cool to room temperature. Add the walnut oil and stir to mix well. In a wide-mouth 1-pint Mason jar (or similarly proportioned jar), place a couple of tablespoons of the oil mixture and tilt to coat the bottom.

Pack the jar, alternating layers of goat cheese pieces (sprinkle each layer lightly with salt and pepper) with walnuts and the shallots-and-thyme mixture from the skillet. Slowly pour in the walnut oil to cover the cheese and seasonings. Tightly seal the jar and shake it. Refrigerate for at least 3 days and up to 4 weeks, shaking the jar once every day or so to redistribute the oil and seasonings.

To serve, bring the cheese almost to room temperature and transfer it to a serving dish with most of the walnuts and just a bit of the oil.

MAKE AHEAD: 3 days up to 4 weeks before your party (store in the refrigerator). Serve very slightly chilled.

Mulled Cider-Glazed Bacon Makes about 32 pieces

Be sure to use a rimmed baking sheet to contain the rendered fat from the bacon (lining it with foil eases cleanup). It’s OK for the bacon slices to nudge against each other in order to fit the entire pound on the rack. Last, resist any temptation to use thick-cut bacon – it won’t crisp properly.

2 cups apple cider, preferably unfiltered

2 3-inch cinnamon sticks

6 whole cloves

1 teaspoon peppercorns, cracked

1 teaspoon allspice berries, lightly pounded

Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

1 1/2 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed

1 pound bacon

To a medium saucepan, add the cider, cinnamon sticks, cloves, peppercorns, and allspice berries, then set pan over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, and cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until the liquid is reduced to about 1/3 cup, about 30 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the whole spices, then add the nutmeg and brown sugar, and stir to combine.

Meanwhile, adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with foil and set a large wire rack into the foil-lined pan. Arrange bacon slices on rack and roast until bacon slices render some of their fat and shrink significantly, about 15 minutes.

Carefully remove bacon from oven, lightly swab and brush slices with about half the cider mixture, return to the oven, and continue roasting until cider mixture adheres to bacon and appears glossy, about 15 minutes longer, carefully turning over the slices and swabbing the second side with remaining cider mixture halfway through roasting time (gently reheat cider mixture to liquefy, if necessary). Carefully remove bacon from oven, transfer to a sheet of wax paper, and cool briefly. Cut the slices in half crosswise and serve warm or at room temperature.

MAKE AHEAD: Up to 3 days before your party (store covered in refrigerator and bring to room temperature before serving).

Savory Cheddar and Sage Crackers Makes about 6 dozen

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

Salt and pepper

3 tablespoons minced fresh sage

6 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 1/2 cups finely grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese (about 5 ounces)

1/3 cup milk

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flour, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and sage to combine. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture in the food processor, and pulse to cut the butter into the flour until it takes on the texture of fine sand, about 12 3-second pulses. Add the cheese and pulse to combine. With the motor running, add the milk through the feed tube and process just until the dough comes together (about 30 seconds – do not over-process). Transfer the dough to a work surface, divide it in half, and roll each half into a log measuring roughly 6 inches long and 2 inches wide. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and refrigerate until very firm, at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.

Set the oven rack in the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment or a nonstick mat and set aside. Working with 1 dough log at a time, rest the dough at room temperature for about 3 minutes. Working quickly, slice the dough into 1/4-inch-thick rounds, arrange them about 1/2 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet, and bake until the edges are just golden and the center is firm, about 14 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer the crackers to a wire rack, cool completely, and serve.

MAKE AHEAD: Up to 1 day before your party (store in an airtight container at room temperature).

Creamy Lima Bean Puree and Pecorino Romano Crostini Makes 2 cups puree

Two cups puree is enough for about 48 crostini. Make your own (slice a thin loaf and toast) or buy the prepackaged kind.

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound frozen baby lima beans, cooked and cooled

1 shallot, minced

2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Salt and pepper

About 4 dozen crostini

About 4 dozen slender ribbons pecorino Romano cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler, to top crostini

In a measuring cup, combine the lemon juice, oil, and 3 tablespoons hot water, and set aside.

In a food processor, puree the lima beans, shallot, oregano, parsley, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste until smooth, about 30 seconds, then scrape the sides of the bowl. With the feed tube open and the motor running, add the lemon-oil mixture in a slow, steady stream; continue to process for 1 full minute, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl if necessary. Scrape the mixture into a small bowl, cover, and let stand at room temperature for flavors to develop, about 30 minutes.

An hour before serving, spread 2 teaspoons lima puree on each of the crostini, then top with a ribbon of cheese.

MAKE AHEAD: Prepare the puree up to 2 days in advance (store covered in the refrigerator), but shave the cheese and assemble no more than 1 hour before your party.

Adam Ried writes the Globe Magazine’s Cooking column. Send comments to `