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Food for Partying

Dips, finger food and potluck favorites for the holiday season ahead.

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By Melissa Clark

I was invited to a collaging party at a friend’s house recently. Crafting of any kind is pretty new to me, but I fell hard for the process of riffling through piles of magazines, old picture books, discarded catalogs and stacks of textured, printed papers. My contribution was a bunch of pressed autumn leaves and — no surprise — some snacks and beverages to sustain us while we snipped and chatted.

I mention this because December, which starts tomorrow, is the beginning of holiday party season, something many of us missed these last few years. No matter what festive gatherings are on your calendar — cookie decorating, tree trimming various potlucking — an enticing array of noshes, nibbles and libations will keep everyone in the best of spirits.

For that collaging party, I went retro and brought a vat of creamy tomato soup to sip from mugs (Ali Slagle’s Parmesan-laced version works perfectly), an onion quiche and a batch of brownielike pumpkin swirl bars.

But if you have a tree-trimming party or a standing-around-chatting-type shindig on the horizon, it’s finger food all the way. You could go deep on dips. We’ve got a bright and creamy lemony charred scallion dip, sort of like a cross between ranch dressing and sour cream and onion dip. For fancy parties, you could go full Gatsby with caviar dip. And let’s not forget that no one can (or should) resist melted cheese, be it a classic queso or its vegan cousin.

Is there a potluck on your schedule? Time for something more substantial but easy to carry. Thinking a little outside the box, how about a platter of jambon beurre sandwiches (ham and butter on baguette), sliced into two-inch pieces for easy handling? Or a tried-and-true casserole? Kay Chun’s manicotti (above) is easy to put together and pleasing for potluckers of all ages. And David Tanis’s leek and mushroom shepherd’s pie, a vegetarian take on the classic lamb-filled version, is comforting but unexpected.

Let’s not forget to hydrate! You could really impress people by bringing homemade apple cider. Or if that’s too ambitious, a pitcher of sweet or salty lemonade is too good to be relegated to summer.

You do need a subscription for the recipes. Subscribing supports our work and provide you with new inspiration week after week, year after year. Did you know that as a subscriber, you can now gift up to 10 recipes per month to anyone you want? I’m just getting into the rhythm of sending out gift links; my friends who have yet to subscribe are very grateful.

And you can check us out on YouTube, Instagram and TikTok, where you can see not only how to make a perfect old-fashioned (the recipe is here), but also learn how to properly twist citrus zest. I’m at [email protected], and if you want to send me a note, I’ll be thrilled to read it.

Getting back to collaging: Sometime in the fall of 1772, an Englishwoman named Mary Delany noticed that a piece of red paper on her nightstand was the same color as her potted geranium. With her sewing scissors, she cut geranium petals from the paper, and soon had an uncanny replica of the plant glued to a black background. Collage had been around for many centuries, but Delany helped make it an art.

She was 72 when she made her first collage, and by the time her eyesight began to fail she had created 985 scientifically accurate floral “mosaiks,” many of which you can see at the British Museum. Her name lives on in the rose named after her, which was previously called the Mortimer Sackler.

Sam’s back with you on Friday, and I’ll see you Monday.

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