A few easy standbys for the ubiquitous Christmas gathering
By Sophie Isbister, Life & Style Editor
This year, dazzle your friends and undermine your enemies by bringing seasonally appropriate yet easy to make appetizers to one of the dozens of Christmas potlucks you’ve probably been invited to. Don’t be the guy who shows up with a box of chocolates. Investing a minimal amount of effort in one of these easy and breezy food and drink recipes will pay dividends.
Baked brie. This dish is best at an event where you can commandeer a corner’s worth of oven space. When pulled fresh from the oven it fills the party with a melted-cheese-and-honey smell, and is guaranteed to be devoured while guests wait for turkey. It’s also dead easy to make: get a brie baker, or really any small, oven-safe pan or ceramic baking dish. Purchase a wheel of brie, plop it in the pan, and top with honey, cranberries, and almond slivers. Bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees and serve hot with fancy crackers.
Seven layer dip. More like seven layers of sinful deliciousness! This is a much-appreciated party favourite, and, if you’re trying to impress people who don’t eat meat or dairy, it can easily be made vegan. The layers are, in order: refried beans (pro-tip: mix with a dollop of sour cream and some chilli spice); sour cream (sub for vegan Tofutti “Better Than Sour Cream”); guacamole (buy it or look up your own recipe, lazy); salsa; shredded cheese (pro-tip: mix cheddar with Monterey Jack. Buy Daiya brand vegan cheese if going that route); black olives; and jalapeños. The last two layers are kind of a cop-out, and are often interchanged for similar toppings like chopped tomatoes or green onion. The hardest part is layering the liquidy sour cream, salsa, and guac without mixing them. I recommend painstaking, miniscule spoonfuls. Spend all night on it.
Bagels, cream cheese, and lox. This all-season appy works well at Christmas. Not only is it a culinary curveball, but it looks gourmet, can be inexpensive, and uses the red, green, and white colours of the season. You’ll need a bag of mini bagels, a tub of plain cream cheese, about 225 grams of smoked salmon slices (also called lox), and a handful of capers. Assemble the bagel halves on a serving dish and generously schmear each half with cream cheese. Top with a single layer of lox, and then sprinkle capers over the whole thing, and red onions if you’re into that. This can be made the night before for ultimate convenience.
Alcohol. If you’re feeling short on time but long on cash, you can always go the alcohol route which, believe me, is appreciated by all. The Other Press covered hot beverages a few issues ago (see “Some like it mulled”), and included some recipes for big-batch booze, like mulled wine. But if you want to do even less work, grab a big bottle of your favourite spiced rum, a few litres of my favourite egg nog (Avalon Dairy’s egg nog in the glass bottle), and some fresh nutmeg to grate overtop of it all. Then swing by and pick me up. I’ll be waiting.