Having a holiday party?

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Caramelized onions and bleu cheese in phyllo cup

For the perfect holiday home gathering, my best recommendation is to hire an experienced caterer. (I need the work. My twins are in their senior years at RIT and Nazareth College.) If you really want to do it yourself, these recipes and pointers will make your job easier.

Smoked salmon and caper spread

12 ounces thinly sliced cold-smoked salmon
1 ½ cups crème fraiche 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
16 drops Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons capers, rinsed, drained, patted dry and chopped
6 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh chives
1 seedless cucumber cut in ½-inch thick slices

In a food processor, combine the salmon, crème fraiche, cream cheese, lemon zest and juice, Tabasco, and black pepper; process until just blended. Transfer to a large bowl and fold in the capers and chives. Taste and add more lemon juice or black pepper as desired. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate in an airtight container for up to one day; remove 15 minutes before serving to soften. Top cucumbers with a dollop of the spread. Serves 16.

Caramelized onions and bleu cheese in phyllo cup

3 tablespoons butter
1 large Vidalia onion
2 tablespoons sugar
2-dozen mini phyllo cups
¼ cup crumbled bleu cheese

Preheat oven to 300° F. Melt butter in sauté pan on medium heat.  Peel and slice onion into thin strips. Add to sauté pan. Add sugar, cooking and stirring until onion is golden brown and sugar has caramelized. Let cool. Put 1 tablespoon of filling into phyllo cup. Crumble bleu cheese over the top. Cook until cheese has melted, about 10 minutes. Can be served warm or at room temperature. Makes 24 appetizers.

To Do...

Rent a coat rack to put near the front door if your entry closets aren’t large enough. It is easier than running upstairs to throw them on a bed. Plus, you won’t have to clean that bedroom.

Set up a bar area in a room near the front door or in the foyer if it is large enough. Human nature—people want to get a drink in their hands as soon as possible after arrival.

Set up the food in an area that is not near the bar or your guests will be clumped in that area for the entire event.

Appetizers are the best menu item for an in-home gathering.

Put a beginning and ending time on your invitation.

Clear furniture out of a room to open up space so that your guests aren’t dancing around the sofa.

Get a small occupied/vacant sign to hang on the doorknob of the bathroom.

Christopher Steubing ’81 (food service administration) has worked as a manager for Brook-Lea Country Club, Memories Restaurant and Wegmans Food Markets in the Rochester area. He owns a catering business called Gatherings and runs two banquet facilities, the Daisy Flour Mill and Senator’s Mansion. He also does off-site catering for dozens of organizations.