Eat, drink and be the perfect New Year’s party host


This year, New Year’s Eve lands — plop! — right on the last night of Chanukah. So at sundown, when Jewish families around the nation sing “I Have a Little Dreidel,” it will be just a warm-up for “Auld Lang Syne” later that night. 

With families raising menorah candles while a shiny silver ball slowly descends in Times Square, it means there’s twice as much reason to end the year with a bang — and a party! 

The key to making your bash a success — no matter how many holidays you’re celebrating — is careful planning, according to Colin Cowie, an event planner and author of “Entertaining With Colin Cowie.” 

 “The simple solution to New Year’s Eve jitters is punctilious planning, having an impeccable checklist with every detail included, and having the right attitude,” he said. “Successful entertaining is about creating an atmosphere of gaiety. That means great music, spectacular cocktails and incredible food.” 

Set the pace of the party with music.

“It’s the tool that shapes the energy flow,” Cowie said. “At first it should be mellow and welcoming — instrumental, jazzy, bluesy.  As energy rises, complement the mood by something livelier. When people are eating, they’re more relaxed. Play mellifluous instrumentals so people can talk. After dessert is served, as it gets closer to midnight, energy rises again, and so should the music.”

Since you’re planning for a long night, serve dishes that are cold or room temperature, such as Brandied Cheese Roll, encrusted with nuts. Place it on top of grapevine leaves for a beautiful presentation for this treat, which should be made a few days in advance to let the flavors blend. For dessert, try the Apple Cobbler With Almond-Streusel Topping.

For drinks, give a special shout out to the colors blue, white and silver. Serve drinks such as Silver Champagne Cocktails, Blue Curacao Midnight Kiss, Blueberry Margaritas, Blue Curacao Martinis or Blackberry-Basil Mojitos — all poured and shimmering on a tray.  

Whatever you decide to serve, relax and set an even, moderate pace.

“Don’t rush through the evening like you’re galloping on a stallion, or worse, crawl around at a snail’s pace,” Cowie said. “Even if you’re running late and people have to pour their own drinks, they’ll be basking in wonderful music, and seductive smells flowing out of the kitchen, and won’t mind a bit.”

So, Happy Chanukah — and Happy New Year!

BLUE CURACAO MIDNIGHT KISS

From Beverly Levitt

– 1 ounce vodka 
– 1/4 ounce Blue Curacao
– 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
– 4 ounces chilled Champagne, or more, if needed

Mix vodka, Blue Curacao and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker with crushed ice. Strain into a Champagne flute. Top with enough Champagne to fill the flute. 

Makes 1 serving.

BRANDIED CHEESE ROLL

Adapted from “The New Elegant but Easy Cookbook” by Marian Burros and Lois Levine (Simon & Schuster)  

– 3/4 pound blue cheese, at room temperature
– 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
– 1 teaspoon minced shallots
– 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
– Salt and white pepper to taste
– 3 tablespoons brandy
– 2 cups finely chopped toasted walnuts, pecans or pistachio nuts
– 1 jar brine-packed grape leaves, soaked in water to soften
– 1/2 cup dried cranberries, blueberries or currants

Using an electric mixer, beat blue cheese and cream cheese together until creamy. Fold in shallots, thyme, salt and pepper and brandy; mix to combine thoroughly. 

Divide mixture in half. Place each half on a sheet of plastic wrap; form into 2 roughly shaped logs, 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter. Wrap tightly; refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Drain brine from grape leaves; soak in fresh water until softened, about an hour.

When cheese log is firm enough, roll each wrapped log back and forth on counter to shape into a more uniform log. Unwrap and roll in the nuts. Once again, wrap tightly, refrigerate for several hours. 

To serve, bring to room temperature. Spread grape leaves on a platter.  Place cheese logs on top. Garnish with additional nuts and dried fruits.  Serve with crackers. 

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

APPLE COBBLER WITH ALMOND-STREUSEL TOPPING

From “Adventures in Jewish Cooking” by Jeffrey Nathan

– Almond-Streusel Topping (see recipe below)
– 1/4 cup fresh lemon juicee 
– 5 pounds Golden Delicious apples
– 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
– 1/3 cup granulated sugar
– 3 tablespoons cornstarch
– 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
– 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
– 1 1/2 cups golden raisins, soaked in warm water for 20 minutes and drained
– 2 tablespoons brandy
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Prepare Almond-Streusel Topping, set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 F.  

Position rack in center of oven. Lightly grease with margarine a 15-by-10-inch baking dish that is at least 2 inches deep.  

Stir 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice in a large bowl of cold water. Peel and core apples; cut them into 1/2 inch-thick wedges, dropping the cut wedges into the lemon water.  

In a large bowl, mix the brown and granulated sugars, cornstarch, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Drain apples well; add to sugar mixture. Add raisins and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Stir in the brandy and vanilla. Transfer to baking dish.  

Using the large holes on a box grater, grate the Almond-Streusel Topping all over the filling, letting it fall randomly. Do not pack or the topping will not be delicately crunchy when baked.  Bake in preheated oven until topping is crisp and golden brown and the apples are tender, about 1 hour. Cool slightly, then serve warm.

Makes 12 servings.

ALMOND-STREUSEL TOPPING

– 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
– 1 1/4 cups margarine, cut into thin slices, at room temperature
– 1 cup vegetable shortening
– 4 ounces almond paste, crumbled
– 3 cups all-purpose flour
– 2 teaspoons pure almond extract

Combine sugar, margarine, vegetable shortening and almond paste in a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Blend until smooth. Add flour and almond extract; mix just until combined.  Form into a thick disk; wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until well chilled, about 4 hours or overnight.