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how to be snowed in, part 4: or, how to plan a menu for a cocktail party

I realize that many moons ago I said I’d planned a menu for a dinner party.  That was a bald-faced lie; I planned a menu for a cocktail party.  And, it turned out pretty good.  I had never cooked all day for a party before and I wanted to try it; the results were not on par with the effort put in, but they got a few “You cooked all this?” which is, let’s face it, what I was going for on some level.

My menu was:

  • Pork Belly Tea Sandwiches, converted to plain roast pork sandwiches, courtesy of the big red NY Times cookbook.
  • Asian Slaw, ditto above.
  • Variation on Spicy Orange Salad.
  • Crab Wontons from the Food Network Cookbook.
  • Fortune cookies, candied oranges, and chocolate Boy Scout popcorn.

So, how did I get to this menu?  Let me tell the story…

Whilst snowed in, I began to think about the “sips and apps” party me and my buddy were throwing on NYE.  He was in charge of sips (and MY GOD, did he come through.  We could drown a few people with the amount of liquor we have on hand) and I volunteered to make apps.  At first, I thought “cheese straws.”  Amanda Hesser says they’re easy to make and a crowd-pleaser.  But then, after I looked through the “starters” section of each of my zillion cookbooks, I found the crab wontons recipe.  And I thought to myself, Self, THAT is how you impress people.  So I hunted down vaguely Asian-sounding recipes to go with them.  The spicy orange salad is actually Moroccan, but it was a good complement to the other warm dishes.

The only really disappointing dish was the pork belly sandwiches.  I’m pretty sure this is because I didn’t use pork belly.  The wontons were yummy and fairly cheap to make (they sell lump crab like tuna–in cans!), no one thought the Asian Slaw was racist, and the orange salad got a compliment.  For a first serious stab at hostessing, I was happy.

I’m going to use all those make-ahead tips you can find in every freaking magazine and cookbook next time, though.  Because for gadsakes, nobody needs to be cooking all day.  If I were to do it over again, I would also choose less of a theme–though it was fun–because I’ve eaten slaw for a few days now and it’s kind of gross.  A theme might be better for a large party, rather than a nice-sized sips and apps party, which is what we had.


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