Party Time

Chanukah parties are just great — don’t you agree? They give you a chance to get really creative and even a bit unconventional. We can leave traditional meals for Rosh Hashanah and Pesach but Chanukah affords us the opportunity to go a little trendy with menu and décor. In light of that I like to use an exciting color scheme and some pretty decorations to spruce up my party. I think it adds to the festive air and makes it a bit more exhilarating for the kids (and adults) who talk about the party for days.

This Chanukah I chose the color of the year — orange! Actually, the color scheme came about when I found some orange cloth napkins in the clearance aisle of a home accessory store. I liked the color enough to play around with some ideas using the mercury glass platters, bowls and vases I had found a while back at another home store. It always pays to keep your eyes open for pretty items like these that will match a variety of colors. Along the way I added some orange-edged glass bowls.

If you are like me, you keep other ideas in your head — maybe you’ve seen some pretty party décor in a magazine or at a friend’s party. I had seen tulle pompoms in a wedding publication and decided they just had to be part of my Chanukah décor. So, off to the fabric store I went and brought home some orange and ivory tulle. They are fairly simple but really make a statement.

Next I purchased some art paper in a shiny orange and glued two sheets together so they were shiny on both sides. I cut dreidels in a variety of sizes and punched holes at the top and bottom. I strung them together with clear thread (available at any sewing supply store). You can hang your décor from the ceiling or from your light fixture as I did.

The menorah on the buffet began as most Chanukah decorations — blue. I just spread glue over the blue glitter and covered it with orange glitter — I wanted everything to coordinate.

To keep last-minute work to a minimum, I made some things in advance, like the rolls and breadsticks.

Here are the recipes:

Parmesan Breadsticks

  • 2 tsp. dry yeast
  • 2 cups warm water, divided
  • 1½ Tbs. honey
  • 5 Tbs. olive oil
  • 5¾ cups flour
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 tsp. kosher salt

In a medium bowl, combine yeast and ¼ cup warm water. Let proof for 5 minutes. If using instant yeast, you can omit the waiting time. In another bowl, combine the remaining water, honey and olive oil. Stir into the yeast. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, Parmesan cheese and salt. Make a well in the center and add the yeast mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon until the flour is completely incorporated. The mixture will be sticky.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Knead by hand for about 5 minutes until the dough is soft and elastic. Place dough in a large bowl brushed with olive oil. Brush top of dough with olive oil and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1½ hours.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Divide dough into 4 parts. Cover 3 batches with plastic and set aside. Cut each part into 16 pieces. Roll each piece, on a floured surface, into a 12” stick. Transfer sticks to 2 Silpat-lined sheet pans. Cover with plastic wrap and let proof for an additional 30 minutes. Repeat with remaining batches.

Brush each stick with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake until lightly browned, about 10 to 12 minutes. Store at room temperature in an airtight container for 2–3 days.

Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls

  • 2 Tbs. instant dry yeast
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup margarine (2 sticks)
  • 2 eggs
  • 8 cups flour
  • 1 Tbs. kosher salt
  • ½ cup oil for smearing
  • 1 egg mixed with 3 Tbs. water for egg wash
  • “Everything mix” topping for bread and rolls

In the bowl of an electric mixer, dissolve yeast in water and add sugar; stir briefly. Add orange juice, margarine and eggs. Add flour and salt. Knead well.

Place dough in a large greased bowl and cover with plastic or a damp dish towel. Allow to rise ½ hour.

Preheat oven to 375°. Divide dough into 4 and roll out one piece to a 15-inch circle. Smear dough with some oil and sprinkle with “everything mix” after brushing with egg wash. Cut each round into 16 wedges. Roll up each wedge croissant-style, and place on baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough. Serve warm or at room temperature.

You may also tie knots or simply form little round buns if you prefer that to croissant-style rolls. Brush rolls with egg wash.

This dough is very versatile and may be frozen raw for later fresh preparation or baked, frozen and reheated.

Next, I prepared some appetizers that could be frozen raw. I had phyllo triangles filled with spinach and feta cheese, some mini-quiches baked in wonton wrappers and a potato knish mixture in empanada dough circles. All were frozen raw then thawed about 2 hours before the party. I baked them after thawing for one hour and placed them on the platters. They were perfect at room temperature.

The key to being a good hostess is being a relaxed hostess. Choose dishes for the menu that do not all have to be served piping hot out of the oven all at the same time.

The only dish that actually required last-minute cooking were the latkes — we could not give up on those!