Like many other Long Islanders this New Year's Eve, I won't be celebrating the size of my bonus or my bank balance. But that doesn't mean I won't be celebrating at all. To ring in the New Year in a fiscally responsible way, I'm inviting my friends to put on their best outfits from T.J. Maxx and join me for an elegant but inexpensive cocktail party.
Instead of shopping for caviar and Champagne at pricey specialty stores, I'll use staples like canned beans and eggs from the supermarket and sopressata from the local deli counter to create my hors d'oeuvres. I can buy a whole case of sparkling wine from Spain for the price of one bottle of Dom Pérignon. Shredded copies of old newspapers plucked from the recycling pile will make great confetti.
Here are some of the ingredients and recipes I'm counting on to make my New Year's Eve party a triumph of economy and good taste:
CHEAP CHEESE Artisanal cheese is all the rage, but at upward of $30 a pound it doesn't fit my entertaining budget this year. A 1-pound-plus wheel of Brie from Costco costs less than 8 bucks. When baked until melty it will be as satisfying as the most expensive imported Vacherin or Camembert. It's easy: Unwrap a warehouse club Brie and trim the rind away from one side. Return it to the bottom of its box, rind side down, place on a baking sheet, and bake in a 300-degree oven until just melted, about 30 minutes. Let your guests scoop the melted Brie, right from the box, onto slices of baguette.
A TASTE OF LUXURYTruffles may not be in the spending plan, but a tablespoon or two of truffle-flavored oil can add luxurious flavor to inexpensive appetizers. Try drizzling 2 tablespoons of truffle oil over 2 quarts of salted popcorn (sprinkle 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese on as well, if you'd like). Or drizzle 2 tablespoons of truffle oil over a pizza topped with sauteed button mushrooms and ricotta cheese.
GETTING CREATIVE WITH POTATOES AND BEANS These cheap dinnertime staples can also be used to make some great appetizers. Spanish-style potato croquetas cost pennies to make and always please. Cooked garbanzo beans, drained, roasted and tossed with salt and a mixture of spices (I like cumin, coriander and chili powder) are as tasty as salted cashews at a fraction of the price.
Mix with a splash of cranberry juice, pomegranate juice or fresh lemonade, and you can stretch one bottle to serve eight people.
CAVA AND CRANBERRY COCKTAILS
Stretch an already inexpensive bottle of sparkling wine with some cranberry juice.
2 cups cranberry juice cocktail
1 navel orange, cut into 8 wedges
1 liter bottle Spanish cava or other inexpensive sparkling wine
Orange slices for garnish
Pour 1/4 cup cranberry juice cocktail into each of 8 champagne flutes. Squeeze the juice from 1 orange wedge into each glass. Gently top off with 1/2 cup or so of cava. Garnish each glass with an orange slice if desired. Makes 8 cocktails.
Transform spicy deli salami into crispy morsels by baking it briefly.
1/2 pound thinly sliced sopressata
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange sopressata in a single layer on prepared baking sheets. Bake until crispy and a little bit shrunken, 10 to 15 minutes.
2. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days before serving. Makes 70 to 80 chips.
WASABI DEVILED EGGS WITH SALMON ROE
Salmon roe, available in the refrigerator case near the fish at most supermarkets and fish markets, is a cheap and festive alternative to caviar.
8 large eggs
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons wasabi powder
2 scallions, white and light green parts, finely chopped
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons salmon roe
1. Place eggs in a pan in a single layer and cover with 1 inch of water. Bring water to a boil over high heat, cover pan, remove from heat, and let stand 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer eggs to a bowl of ice water to chill for 5 minutes.
2. Peel eggs and halve lengthwise. Scoop yolks into small bowl and mash with fork until smooth. Stir in mayonnaise, wasabi powder and scallions. Season with salt.
3. Spoon yolk mixture back into whites. (At this point, eggs can be placed on a platter, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 1 day). Top each egg with 1/2 teaspoon salmon roe just before serving. Makes 16 pieces.
LEMONY WHITE BEAN DIP WITH PEPPERS AND PITA CHIPS
Look for day-old pita breads, sold at a discount.
6 (6-inch) pita breads, split and cut into 8 wedges each
Nonstick cooking spray
2 teaspoons paprika
2 (15-ounce) cans white beans, drained and rinsed
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 cup tightly packed fresh parsley leaves
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons water
2 red, yellow, and/or orange bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread pita wedges on baking sheets in single layer and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle with paprika and salt and bake until crisp and golden, about 15 minutes. Cool completely on baking sheets and store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.
2. Place beans, garlic, parsley, lemon juice, oil and water in work bowl of a food processor and process until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice, as necessary. Scrape the mixture into a small bowl and season with salt. Refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 1 day.
3. Let bean dip come to room temperature and serve with pita chips and sliced peppers. Makes 2 cups bean dip.