Progressive hosts can give a party and enjoy it too Sharing the Joy

December 05, 1993|By Marlene Sorosky | Marlene Sorosky,Contributing Writer

Entertaining during the holiday season is a paradox. Just when we have the most to do is when we have the least time to it. And just when we have the heaviest expenses is when we're lightest in the wallet. But giving up holiday entertaining and a chance to visit with friends is not the only answer.

The solution to these age-old dilemmas is a very '90s one -- band together with three or four friends with whom you can share the work, share the expense and share the joy. Be a co-host for a progressive holiday cocktail party.

As the travel agent/coordinator, ask the other hosts to choose the course they would like to serve, and either give them the recipes or let them use their own. For a four-host party, the first two houses each might serve hors d'oeuvres; the third, a hearty soup; and the last, dessert. Most homes are beautifully decorated for the holidays, so guests have the added bonus of enjoying different decorations with little additional work on the hosts' part.

Send invitations on decorative holiday stationery with the times, addresses and hosts for each course. Be sure to include maps or directions, if necessary. Keeping the party in the neighborhood is the ideal, but not always possible. No matter what the distance between ports of call, it's always a good idea to have designated drivers. Each destination should have an ample supply of non-alcoholic libations, as well as alcoholic ones. Punch, sparkling cider, club soda, orange or cranberry juice spritzers, and trendy bottled waters are very much in vogue these days.

On the first two legs of the trip offer hot and cold hors d'oeuvres and finger foods. Choose recipes that require a minimum of last-minute heating and assembly. After all, each host will be traveling too. Shrimp mousse with dill-pistachio pesto can be prepared the day before, unmolded, garnished and refrigerated several hours ahead. Just add crackers and/or sliced cucumbers before serving. A Christmas tree or bell-shaped mold makes an attractive presentation for the mousse.

Warm salsa dip is made with a mysterious ingredient that, so far, none of my guests has been able to discern. Pureed lima grands, also called butter beans, lend a delightful, nutritional dimension to a velvety salsa-based dip. Prepare it one or two days ahead and pop it in the microwave before serving.

When hors d'oeuvres are intended as dinner, you want some to be a bit more substantial, like sesame chicken brochettes with cranberry plum dipping sauce. The chicken can be marinated and frozen on the skewers up to one week before serving. Assemble them on baking sheets in the refrigerator, and you can bake and serve them in less than 10 minutes. Because the marinade and dipping sauce use many of the same ingredients, it's convenient to make them both at the same time. For an artful presentation, line a platter with whole cranberries and arrange the skewers on them.

By the third house, the travelers will be ready for a robust bowl of steaming soup, like country minestrone. It can be refrigerated or frozen ahead, and in a pot on the stove waiting to be reheated. Offer it with a loaf of warm, crusty bread.

A selection of elegant desserts, either homemade or store-bought, and coffee make a sumptuous end to this traveling feast. Don't be surprised if this event becomes a grand tour friends look forward to embarking upon every holiday season.


Shrimp mousse with dill-pistachio pesto

Prep time: 20 minutes. Chill time: 2 hours.

Makes 3 cups


1/2 medium onion, coarsely chopped

6 ounces regular or light cream cheese

3/4 pound cooked, shelled shrimp, blotted very dry (about 1 1/4 pounds with shell)

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 1/4 teaspoons Tabasco sauce

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste

2 to 4 ounces peeled cooked shrimp for garnish

dill sprigs for garnish

crackers, bread rounds and/or cucumber slices, for serving


3 cloves garlic, peeled

3/4 cup fresh dill sprigs, lightly packed

3/4 cup fresh parsley sprigs, lightly packed

3/4 cup natural unsalted shelled pistachios or pecans

5 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

To make shrimp layer: In a food processor with the metal blade, pulse onion into small pieces. Add cream cheese, shrimp, lemon peel and juice, Tabasco, mustard and salt and pulse until incorporated. Process until smooth. Remove to a bowl.

To make pesto: In a clean processor bowl with the metal blade, process garlic, dill and parsley until minced. Add pistachios and process until finely chopped. Add oil and salt and process into a paste.

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