Bite-Size Comfort Food Is Exactly What Your Christmas Party Needs

Do you know what guests go crazy over when I'm hosting a party — even when I serve oysters, caviar and foie gras? The kiddie comfort food, like maca­roni and cheese. Especially when people are drinking — please! It's what they want.

Ultimately you want to put a smile on your guests' faces, and these recipes do it. They look so cute in their mini versions, and of course they're absolutely delicious!

Orzo Mac & Cheese

Serves 8

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 shallots, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 6 sage leaves, torn
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 1½ cups heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons truffle oil
  • 1 cup coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1¼ cups freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 16-ounce box orzo, cooked
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1¼ cups fresh breadcrumbs
  1. Preheat oven to 375º Fahrenheit. Heat the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and garlic and sauté for 2 minutes, then add the sage and wine; cook for 2 minutes more. Increase heat to medium-high and add the cream, stirring constantly, until it comes to a boil. Reduce heat to low for about 5 minutes, still stirring. Remove from heat.
  2. Stir in the lemon juice, nutmeg, truffle oil, cheddar cheese and 1 cup of the Parmesan. Mix with orzo; season with salt and pepper.
  3. Divide the mixture into eight 5-ounce ramekins. Mix breadcrumbs with remaining Parmesan and sprinkle over each, then bake until bubbling and lightly browned, about 20 minutes.

Taco Tartlets

Makes 24

Shells

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning mix
  • 2 tablespoons ice water
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Filling

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons mild hot sauce
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 tablespoons green scallions, sliced
  • 1 cup crushed Doritos
  1. Preheat oven to 425º Fahrenheit. In a bowl, mix beef, taco seasoning mix and ice water with hands. Press into bottoms and sides of a mini-muffin pan.
  2. In another bowl, mix all filling ingredients together. Place a spoonful of filling into each shell, mounding slightly. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese.
  3. Bake for 7 to 8 minutes, until meat is cooked through (if using a regular muffin pan, bake for 15 minutes). Remove tartlets from pan with the tip of a knife. Serve warm, or let cool and freeze for later use.

Lamb Sliders

Makes 30

  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • ½ cup chopped fresh mint
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • Canola oil spray
  • 2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses
  • 15 mini brioche buns, halved and toasted
  • 1 cup crumbled feta
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds
  1. In a bowl, mix together the lamb, mint, garlic, cumin, Parmesan, red pepper flakes and lime juice. Using a 1 tablespoon measuring spoon, form 30 sliders.
  2. Heat a grill pan to medium-high and spray it with canola oil. Grill sliders for 2 minutes per side, or until done.
  3. Brush cooked sliders with pomegranate molasses, place on brioche buns and garnish with feta and pomegranate seeds.

Cashew-Blackberry Toasts

  • Sourdough bread or French baguette
  • Cashew butter
  • Blackberry jam
  • Fresh blackberries, sliced into rounds
  1. Slice bread 1/4 inch thick, toast and spread with cashew butter while hot.
  2. Drizzle with jam and garnish with blackberry rounds.

Get Ready to Party With Some Persimmon Punch

 

Everything I like is in this punch! I had House Beautiful's 120th anniversary in mind when I created it. Persimmon has been an autumn favorite in America since the 1800s, and nothing says 'party!' like punch. Plus, it's easy because guests help themselves. Make it extra pretty by adding cranberry and rosemary-filled ice cubes, and top with dehydrated persimmon slices — they look like little flowers!

Permission Punch

Serves 6 to 8

  • 9 ounces dry gin, such as Ransom Spirits
  • 5 ounces persimmon syrup (see recipe below)
  • 6 ounces freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 bottle dry sparkling rosé

I like all ingredients very cold, so combine the gin, persimmon syrup and lime juice in a pitcher and place in the refrigerator; keep the bottle of sparkling rosé refrigerated separately. When ready to serve, pour everything into a punch bowl.

Permission Syrup

  • 2 cups cubed persimmon
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Place all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer until the liquid thickens slightly. Strain syrup into a jar. (The remaining persimmon is delicious — scoop it over ice cream, use as a jam or mix into whipped cream.)

 

Truffle and Scallop Pasta

When I cook this pasta for a dinner party, I know I have a winner - the secret is my light cream sauce. The best thing about it? It tastes even better the next day, if you can believe it. So I make the sauce in advance, then whip up the pasta and sear the scallops before serving. In the fall, I elevate the dish by adding shaved black truffles. It's so easy, and they make it extra delicious! Click Truffle and Scallop Pasta for the recipe.