My best friend and I are having holiday parties and have been discussing what to serve… Of course, my boyfriend is cooking and curing for our party, but my friend is a busy working mom with very little time to prepare. My advice to her was: platters! This is not a new concept; how many times have you seen a cheese platter at a party? I suggested the following to mix it up:
A charcuteries platter consisting of cured meats and pates with cornichons and a few interesting mustards; a cheese platter, comprising cow, sheep, goat, and a mix of hard and soft with maybe a jam or chutney and honey; a smoked fish platter with lemon slices, unsalted butter, creme fraiche, and caviar (if you want to go all out!); a vegetable platter of marinated olives, artichokes, peppers, etc.; a dried fruit and nut platter, including some candied fruit and chocolate- or caramel-covered nuts; a cookie and bar platter, either homemade or from a reputable bakery.
Make sure you provide plenty of good crusty bread. Platters are useful in many ways: they allow you to buy, rather than make, many items. It helps if you have good suppliers; my friend is in London, so she will no doubt have easy access to high-quality goods. But I encourage you to go to your farmers’ market, where you can try before you buy, and you will have interesting stories to tell at your party. I also recommend that you try small, private businesses that specialize, especially bakeries (this is the French way to shop). Another way in which platters will help you is in preparation time; all you have to do is arrange them in advance, and then you are free to attend your own party. In addition, platters do not require dishes, so clean-up is easy. Simply provide festive napkins and numerous knives and forks for serving. Also, guests will congregate around your table (push chairs back against walls), instead of in your kitchen!