Easy Entertaining: Party-Platters
With the holidays fast approaching, opening your home to friends and family for a party is a common tradition. Serving great food is one of the requirements for hosting a successful event. But don’t think you have to spend hours in the kitchen.
One of the best ways to serve a crowd is to put together an interesting and delicious party-platter. Here’s a few tips on creating a memorable and delicious tray full of delicious snacks.
- Planning the party-platter: Start by selecting the serving tray you want to use. A wooden board is the perfect solution. It comes in many shapes and sizes. They are not very expensive and many choices can be found online or at your favorite “home-accessory” store. The wood allows a cheese knife to be used without harming the surface. Plus, it can hold everything you’re serving.
- Incorporate small ramekins or bowls on the platter to fill with messy food items, such as mustards, oils, olives, pickles, or dips.
- Where to buy items for the party-platter: I typically like to purchase cheeses, nuts and dry-cured meats from big-box food stores (like Costco or Sams) at a discount. And, I like to shop specialty groceries (Sprouts, Trader Joes, or local farmer’s markets) for unique jarred or canned items (mustards, marinated veggies, olives, pickles, anchovies, honey, jams, and jellies.)
- Texture and flavors are important. Choose a variety of cheeses including hard, soft and medium textured. Add something creamy, crumbly, mellow and sharp. Specialty cheeses with added fruit or herb flavors are fun options too. Or, take a somewhat bland cheese like goat or cream cheese, shape it into a ball or log, then roll it in a variety of toasted spices (this type of topping is known as a Dukkah). Leave some of the cheese in chunks, cutting others into bite-sized cubes or sliced pieces.
- Make it colorful. Consider the platter to be the centerpiece of your food spread. Think about colors by incorporating vibrant vegetables, fruits and condiments. Use raw and lightly steamed vegetables, fresh or dried fruit, and jarred or canned condiments like mustards, jams, olives, sauerkraut and other pickled items.
- Incorporate dips and spreads. This is a perfect option for those non-dairy eaters. Many recipes are available for making vegan dips (search online for recipes.) Consider spicy olive tapenade, slow-roasted tomatoes, or lemon artichoke hummus.
- Meats are another great addition. Dry-cured meats such as salami’s, prosciutto, ham, turkey and jerky add substance to the party-platter.
- Add crunch. A variety of crackers, toasted nuts, roasted almonds or pistachios make great additions to the party-platter. Plain nuts can easily be changed into tasty options by adding flavored salts, spices or sugars.
- Designing the party-platter: If you have access to citrus, olive or fig leaves, they make a great placemat to hold some of the food items. (Be certain not to use a leaf from a poisonous plant!) Or, save a few leaves or edible flowers as a garnish once the platter is completed.
- Use your sense of style to organize the foods you are displaying. Gather everything together before you start and arrange the biggest pieces on the serving platter first. Take your time to be artistic. Don’t hesitate to move things around . . . think of it as painting a picture.
- The trend in party-platters is to fill the tray to the brim, filling in any little space with fruit or nuts, olives, or even more cheeses.
- Once finished, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator.
- Serving the party-platter: Remove from the refrigerator at least one hour prior to serving to allow the foods to come to room temperature.
- Serve with several varietals of wines, both red and white, or lightly flavored sparkling waters.
- Best tips for creating a party-platter: Have fun and let your creativity shine.
- If this sounds like too much work, and you live in Greater Phoenix, contact me. As a Personal Chef, I offer three sizes of party-platters: small, medium and large customized to your favorite tastes and flavors.
- Enjoy your party!