Last-Minute, Low-Budget Cocktail Party
Whether it’s New York culture or simply adult culture, have you noticed how over-scheduled everyone is? Usually, you can forget about “what about drinks this weekend?” to say nothing of, “wanna come over tonight to help me eat up the leftover coq au vin?” And when you get to the holiday season? Well, as they say, fuhgettaboutit.
But that’s the thing about last minute invites — maybe only your nearest and dearest will be able to make it, and really, during the time of year when you are perhaps most over-extended holiday craziness, isn’t that the best kind of party? Such was the case the past Saturday night when a few of my favorites wedged on to our super uncomfortable Danish sofa and nibbled on humble but hit-the-spot snacks of hardboiled eggs, pimento cheese on Triscuits, and mini pizzas.
Super Dirty Vodka Martinis
4 1/2 cups vodka
3/4 cup dry vermouth
1 cup olive juice
When serving martinis to a crowd without the help of a bartender, you can do why I did: mix up a pitcher, and serve drinks on the rocks. Not quite as elegant as up, but it gets the job done.
Brooke & Jaime‘s Pimento Cheese
makes a lot (I sent a friend home with a container of leftovers)
I grew up in Texas, where you can buy pimento cheese in the grocery store and make soft, squishy pimento cheese sandwiches on white bread once you get home. Brooke and Jaime’s recipe is as good as the stuff I remember (probably better, actually), but now I skip the Wonder bread and opt for Triscuits or bagel chips. And I concede that it’s not the most attractive appetizer on earth, but it tastes like heaven.
2 lbs red bell peppers
2 lbs sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup mayonnaise
8 oz cream cheese, brought to room temperature
Sriracha to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss the whole peppers with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place on a rimmed cookie sheet and cook until skin is blistered and flesh is tender (about 40 minutes), turning the peppers every 15 minutes or so, so their skins blacken evenly. Remove from oven and set aside.
When the peppers are cool enough to handle, peel off the skins. This is sort of fiddly business, and there are all sorts of tricks out there on how to make it easier, including placing the peppers in a bowl covered with plastic wrap so the skins steam themselves off. Tear the peppers open and remove the seeds, as well.
Place the peppers in a food processor and pulse to a smooth consistency. Pour purée into a large mixing bowl. Stir in 1 tablespoon of sriracha to start (if you like it kicky, you might need to add about 3 more tablespoons later), the grated cheese, softened cream cheese, and a pinch of sugar. Mix together — this takes some muscle — before stirring in mayo, salt, and pepper. Taste and decide if you need more hot sauce (you probably will).
Makes 12 halves
When it was time to make the deviled eggs for the party I realized — whoops — I’d used up all but a spoonful of the mayo for the pimento cheese. I compensated with extra dijon mustard, and serendipitously, these got quite a few compliments.
1 heaping tablespoon mayonnaise
2-3 tablespoons dijon mustard
Place the eggs in a saucepan and cover with water. Place over high heat, and when water begins comes to a boil, cover, and turn off the heat. Let sit for 10 minutes. Drain the eggs, and run cold water over them until they are cool, then crack and peel. Cut the hardboiled eggs in half with a sharp knife and scoop the yolks out into a bowl. Mix with mustard and mayo, adjusting the mayo/mustard ratio to your liking, mashing the yolks with a fork, and seasoning with salt and pepper. Scoop the yolk mixture back into the yolk home and serve.
One last thing: I have to tell you about the pizzas. I bought the very cheapest personal cheese pizzas and cooked two at a time in the oven until the cheese was melty and the crusts were golden. Then I cut them into dainty little squares, and seriously, I’m here to tell you: drunk people love frozen pizza.