I adore Christmastime. Especially in New York City. Lights twinkle more than usual, the streets smell like pine, ladies teeter through alleys in their best party heels and it’s okay for guys to wear ear muffs. Nothing says holiday merriment like a cocktail party, so despite our teeny living arrangements, The Wrights threw a party. Instead of going at it alone, however, we co-hosted with another couple; we called last weekend’s event “Two Parties, One Night,” and evening started with wine and cheese (and whiskey sours) at The Galloways and ended with beer, deviled eggs and dancing at The Wrights. It turned out to be a good setup, with a huge window of time for friends to stop by for a drink, and giving folks who were with us all night long a change of scenery and mood halfway through the evening.
I also loved it because by necessity (I was at the other party until just before ours started) I had to serve simple, easy food. It would have been impossible for me to prepare anything that required 1) more than removing plastic wrap and 2) sobriety. I settled on serving three things: deviled eggs, ham and brownies. Turns out, these are the Golden Trio of party foods. To my surprise, everything I put on the buffet—the 17 pound whole ham, 60 deviled eggs and 4 dozen brownies—was gone at 2am when the last of our guests were heading out the door. If you’re on the hunt for an easy, crowd-pleasing holiday menu, consider this Golden Trio your golden ticket.
Tips for your Golden Trio:
Deviled eggs will always be a hit, even if they’re mediocre. But jazz them up with a generous amount of Tabasco sauce and a pinch of crab meat and they’ll be gone in minutes. Deviled Eggs aren’t quite as delicious when they’re stiff and cold, so let them temper at room temperature for about 20 minutes before garnishing with crab and serving.
The browines—those babies were from the box. I’ve never understood from-scratch brownies; maybe it’s because chocolate has never been my jam, but homemade brownies are always too dense and rich for me. Plus, they’re triple the amount of work. Boxed brownies are always cakey and moist and they’ve got that amazing crackled crust. If you want to do something more, swirl a few tablespoons of equal parts cream cheese mixed with sour cream into the from-the-box batter for a delightful tangy kiss.
The Party Ham was the best idea I’ve had in years. I bought a spiral cut ham and decked it in homemade glaze. After a few hours in a 325 degree oven, the ham emerged with a glistening, crunchy crust, and ready to party. Arrange a loaf of rye bread, brioche rolls and onion rolls in a big basket, put out some spicy mustard, mayonnaise and pickles, and you’ll have people talking about how much they love ham sandwiches for weeks. (I got another email this morning from a guest inquiring about the glaze). And finally, as my handsome husband demonstrated last Sunday, making split pea soup with the leftover ham bone is something a 31-year old man who can’t cook, can do.
Party Ham Glaze
- 2/3 cup brown sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
- 1 cup apricot jam
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 tablespoon honey mustard
Warm the apricot jam in a small pot until it’s loose and begins to bubble. Stir in the brown sugar, pepper and honey mustard. Brush all over your ham before cooking and keep re-glazing every 20-30 minutes. I cooked a 17 pound, bone-in ham in a 325 degree oven for about 3 hours. When the ham is heated through and the glaze looks caramelized (about 2 1/2 hours) glaze again and finish by sprinkling with 2 tablespoons of brown sugar. Let cook 30 more minutes. Serve warm or cold with bread and condiments.