Ideas For Holiday Entertaining

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Courtesy Wiley Publishing
Instead of serving a typical dip, try this scrumptious Smoked Salmon Cheesecake.

Having friends and family over for the holidays doesn’t have to be difficult. With these tips and a savory recipe from the all new “Entertaining Chapter” of the latest edition of the “Betty Crocker Cookbook,” (Wiley, 2011), experienced and novice hosts can pull off a festive party with ease.

Setting a Buffet Table

Buffets are a great option when the gathering is less formal or you’re short on table space.

  • Buffets can be set up on a variety of surfaces, including a center island or counter, dining room table, sideboard or folding table. Allow ample room for people to move around the serving area.
  • Arrange buffet items starting with the main course, followed by side dishes, salads, condiments and bread, with the flatware, glasses and napkins last.
  • Make cutlery bundles for easier carrying.
  • If people will be standing to eat, skip paper plates and use dishes or plastic plates. If you must use paper, make sure they are heavy-duty. Avoid serving foods that require cutting.

What to Serve

Cheese plates are a great idea for an easy and elegant buffet. When selecting cheese, aim for variety – try mixing textures (soft, semisoft, hard and very hard) and flavors (mellow and sharp). Plan on at least 2 ounces of cheese per person. Here are some delicious cheese plate combinations:

  • Flavored cheddar, like chipotle, queso blanco and pepper Jack. Serve with grapes, pickled chiles, dates, grape tomatoes.
  • Gruyère, Havarti and blue or Gorgonzola. Serve with apple and pear slices, dried apricots, olive assortment.
  • Chèvre (goat cheese), Colby, cream cheese. Serve with chives, crackers, breads, chutney.

Smoked Salmon Cheesecake

1 cup crushed butter-flavored crackers (about 24 crackers)
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup whipping cream
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups shredded Gouda cheese
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sliced green onions, divided
1 package (4.5 ounces) smoked salmon, flaked
2 tablespoons red caviar, optional
Pumpernickel crackers

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

In small bowl, stir butter-flavored crackers and butter until thoroughly mixed. Press evenly in bottom of 9-inch springform pan. Bake for 8 minutes, or until golden brown.

Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.

In large bowl, beat cream cheese with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add whipping cream, eggs and salt; beat until smooth. Stir in Gouda cheese, 1/4 cup green onions and salmon until mixed. Spoon evenly over crust.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until center is set. Run knife around edge of pan to loosen cheesecake. Cool completely at room temperature, about 1 hour. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, but no longer than 48 hours.

Remove side of pan. Place cheesecake on serving platter. Top with remaining green onions and caviar, if desired. Cut cheesecake into wedges and serve with crackers. Yields 36 servings.