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Food

New Year's Eve Parties are EASY! The Food!

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Continuing party planning where we left off, we now turn our focus to the main event: the food.

MENU PLANNING

The type of food you serve will depend upon the level of elegance and the number of guests. Under 20 people, I can usually make frou-frou little canapes and doots. As the number climbs, it is best to head more in the direction of Superbowl food. With a small get-together, I can pipe cute designs onto miniature zucchinis. Once my guest list is over 50, it''s all about hot wings and meatballs.

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I like to serve finger food, but in a panic, you can always whip up a big pot of chili. They just need something delicious to soak up the alcohol. Believe me, so few people cook, guests are always grateful, and never seem to notice shortcuts.

How much should you prepare? I always cook too much. I would rather eat leftovers than run out of something. The general rule is to prepeare three of each hors d' oeuvre per person. But that will depend upon the variety of appetizers you serve.

Although seafood is glamorous, it doesn't keep well, stinks up the room, is a common food allergy, is a good source of food poisoning, and does not encourage romance. I recommend saving shrimp cocktail and smoked salmon spread for small parties and family get-togethers.

It is considerate to provide something for a variety of dietary needs, so I try to provide at least one dish for vegetarians, vegans, diabetics (low-carb), and people who are avoiding pork or kosher (It will not be perfect, since your meat is probably not kosher, and you are using the same dishes as nonkosher foods, but providing something with no pork or shellfish is at least helpful).

I find it is best to not serve more than one hors d' oeuvre that needs any attention during the party. For example, spanikopita, stuffed mushrooms or hot wings will need to be heated up and refilled throughout the night. Last-minute deep-frying is definitely a bad idea. Egg rolls, samosas and fritters are tough on the kitchen and host/hostess, unless you have a caterer or are hiding from someone at the party.

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For a party of 20 to 40, I suggest just one last-minute hot dish (wings, spanikopita), one hot dish you can ignore in a Crockpot (meatballs, cocktail weenies), 2 pre-made cold appetizers (cold quiches, little stuffed veggies, bread bowls filled with spinach dip, filled filo cups), and 2 appetizers that you don't have to prepare at all (Cheese tray, fruit platter, crudite, a variety of flavored nuts from Trader Joe's). If the party goes over 50 people, add one hot appetizer and one cold appetizers.

Make or purchase cookies or tartlets for dessert. People don't want too much sugar when they are drinking. This is a good item to designate to a helpful friend. Remember, if people ask if you need anything, tell them! Ask for another bottle of champagne, a bag of ice, or a plate of cookies. Heck, you can even make it a potluck.

SERVING LOGISTICS

Set up the appetizer table as far away from the bar as possible to avoid a crush of people. You can even set up two appetizer stations if you like.

Provide plates that are about 6-inches in diameter. A full-size dinner plate tends to encourage waste. Provide plenty of napkins and toothpicks, and most people will just stand around the table noshing.

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It is good to have some appetizers that can sit out all night, like nuts and cheese. Wrap the pre-made appetizers up in "serving sizes" of a dozen or two-dozen and store them in the refrigerator for quick refills. Choose a friend or two to keep the table refilled. Also, one person will need to be responsible for the hot appetizer, should you choose to go that route. Delegate.

Just make sure that the food is changed out every two hours. Throw leftovers out if you have to. Food poisoning is not worth it. Anything in a steamer tray or Crockpot should be OK. Watch for Crockpots drying out and getting crusty near the end of the party. Keep the serving table clear of used dishes and glasses. They are unappetizing to say the least.

Just remember to have fun and don;t stress too much. No one knows you burned the crab cakes and threw them away.

Recipe Ideas:

Crudite
Pinzimonio
Fruit plate
Cheese board
Bread bowl filled with spinach dip
Hummus with pita triangles
Homemade cucumber pickles

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Fried Plantains topped with Mango Salsa
Endive filled with corn salad
Cherry tomatoes stuffed with bacon and cream cheese
Miniature zucchini filled with goat cheese and pesto
Mini Quiches
Wild Mushroom Tartlets
Filo turnovers or roll-ups filled with spinach and feta
Puff pastry triangles or roll-ups filled with curried chicken, ground beef, spinach and feta, ground sausage, etc etc. Puff pastry is your friend. As is cream cheese.
Deviled Eggs

Hot Wings
Meatballs
Sliced chorizo, hot links, Polish sausages, etc. with dipping sauce
Little ham sandwiches
Little pulled pork sandwiches
Tea sandwiches

Cookies
Pecan tartlets
Key Lime Tartlets
Miniature pastries

Photo by Ecstaticist via Flickr