Tis the season to look at your calendar and ponder how it became, seemingly overnight, a microcosm of our universe in its ordered chaos. After enduring several holiday seasons that left me dizzy-as-a-whirling-dervish come January (in no small part due to my STUNNINGLY foolish ideas to make sure everyone is properly accounted for via homemade peanut butter cups, or a 6-hr cajeta, or a hand painted wrapping theme…WELCOME TO BEING YOUR OWN DAMN KRAMPUS Y’ALL), I’ve spent the last couple of years painstakingly simplifying the season in the hopes of returning it to a place of joy, with time spent in calm appreciation of those around me. All that is basically a euphemism for “come at me with one more time constraint and I spend Christmas as Margot Tenenbaum in the tub”. Thus, my holiday party style has become one of being polite, but not a hero.
The best way to go about that is two-fold:
1. Don’t say yes to anything you have to “figure out”. Either it fits in your schedule or it doesn’t, pop-culture acronyms be damned. If you have to say no to someone who will be heartbroken at your lack of attendance, send them a bottle of something you know they’ll like with an open-ended lunch invite for the new year. This is the “don’t be a hero part”.
2. Don’t show up empty-handed, but do choose something completely simple to bring. This is the “be polite” part. If you can make that something an *unexpected* something, no one will see past the creativity to grasp how little time it took.
With recipes below, here are a few options I’ll be using this season:
Crostini with pâté, roasted grapes, and a charred-herb salsa:
This…this! It’s a favorite. You can buy the pâté at the store (I adore Fabrique Delices Duck Mousse with Port Wine if you can find it), roast off the grapes the morning of, and make the salsa up to 5 days in advance. The whole thing is perfect at room temperature, and assembly is as simple as a shmear, a plunk and a drizz.
Endive cups with walnut, bleu, tart cherry and pear:
All this app requires is a bit of knife work and a spoon, and can be made a day in advance, which, albeit not *easier*, is a much kinder gluten-free option than rifling through your produce drawer to hand Candace that half-eaten bag of dried up baby carrots before getting back to your good time.
Shaved carrot salad with hazelnuts and black garlic dressing:
If you’re going to a dinner, this is the EASIEST. Do you know how to peel a carrot? Great. Keep on peeling until they’re a tangle of ribbons that resembles the wrapping supplies you threw in the closet with exasperation and blissfully forgot about for a year. You can shave the carrots a day ahead, the dressing can be made a week in advance, it’s gf, df, veegs, and gives reason for the lingering zoodle trend to finally succumb to its rightful culinary dirt nap.
Whether you endeavor to be the consummate hostess or the consummate guest, I hope these time-conscious options serve your purposes well. Happy Holidays!
*It’s worth noting that I cooked, assembled, styled and shot all of these in under two hours, so believe me when I say that whipping just one of these up is a breeze!