It’s the most wonderful time of the year, when parties abound and all manner of merriment ensues. Many of us are fearless when it comes to entertaining a crowd, but for others, being tasked with hosting this year’s annual gathering of friends and family may sound more overwhelming than exciting.

But fear not! Hosting a wonderful holiday party doesn’t have to be stressful. We asked Emery Whalen and 2009 Louisiana Cookin’ Chef to Watch Brian Landry, the founders of QED Hospitality, for their advice on throwing the perfect holiday bash. Emery and Brian are the powerhouse duo behind The Pontchartrain Hotel’s Jack Rose, a restaurant dedicated to putting fun back into fine dining and the home of the Mile High Pie. 

Emery and Brian know that fantastic food and drink are central to all Louisiana festivities. So, they suggested focusing on these essentials: appetizers, desserts, and cocktails. All of their recipes can be prepped ahead of time, leaving you time to relax and enjoy being with your guests. By combining these eye-catching, delectable recipes and a bit of party math, you’ll be keeping spirits bright throughout your soirée!

Photography by Randy P. Schmidt.
Baked Alaska
Yields: 8-10 Servings
 
You can make this recipe as easy or as hard as you want. There are three components: vanilla ice cream, pound cake, and meringue. Easiest version: Buy the pound cake, ice cream, and meringue powder. Hardest version: Make the pound cake, ice cream, and a Swiss meringue all from scratch. Don’t forget to make room in your freezer in advance!
Ingredients
  • 5 egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon meringue powder*
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 pound frozen pound cake, cut into ½-inch-thick slices
  • 2 pints vanilla ice cream**
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites at medium-high speed until glossy and smooth. Beat in meringue powder. Gradually add sugar, beating until stiff peaks form.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange a layer of pound cake slices on prepared pan.
  3. Using a knife dipped in warm water, cut ice cream out of container, and place on top of pound cake slices. Cover ice cream with remaining pound cake slices. (You can tear slices into pieces to completely cover ice cream.)
  4. Using a spatula, spoon meringue on top of pound cake, completely covering dome with swirls and peaks. Freeze until ready to serve.
  5. Position oven rack to allow room for Baked Alaska, and preheat oven to broil.
  6. Broil until meringue is light golden brown. Using a knife dipped in warm water, slice cake, and serve.
Notes
*Cream of tartar may be substituted.

**We used Breyers.

Kitchen Tip: Separate eggs while they are still cold—it is way easier!

 

 

Photography by Randy P. Schmidt.
Ham & Pimiento Cheese-Stuffed Gougères
Yields: About 25
 
Gougères can be made way in advance, and the Ham Salad and Pimiento Cheese can be made the day before. These three recipes allow you and your guests to have fun mixing and matching. While the gougères are delicious on their own, you can stuff them yourself, or simply place them on a platter with dishes of Pimiento Cheese and Ham Salad and allow your guests to mix and match as they please! It’s always best to have something for your guests to busy their hands with upon arrival.
Ingredients
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, cubed
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 5 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1½ cups finely shredded white Cheddar cheese
  • Ham Salad (recipe follows)
  • Pimiento Cheese (recipe follows)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring milk, ½ cup water, butter, salt, and cayenne to a rapid boil over high heat. Add flour; reduce heat to medium-low, and immediately start stirring quickly with a wooden spoon. (The dough will come together and a light crust will form on the bottom of the pan; 1 to 2 minutes later, the dough will dry out and be very smooth.)
  3. Turn out dough into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Let stand for 1 minute. With mixer on medium speed, add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat until dough is thick and shiny. Add cheese, beating to combine. Using a 1-tablespoon scoop, scoop dough, and place 3 inches apart on prepared pans.*
  4. Place pans in oven, and immediately reduce oven temperature to 375°. Bake for 12 minutes. Rotate pans, and bake until golden and puffed, about 12 minutes more. Let cool slightly.
  5. Place Ham Salad and Pimiento Cheese in pastry bags fitted with ½-inch round tips. Using a paring knife, cut a small “X” in bottom of each warm gougère, and pipe in Ham Salad or Pimiento Cheese.
Notes
*If you want to be a super-host during the holidays, prepared at the drop of the hat to entertain, stop at this step, and place baking sheets in the freezer. Once gougères are frozen solid, pop in a heavy-duty resealable plastic bag, and freeze until your next surprise holiday guest swings by, hopefully giving you at least enough notice to preheat the oven.

Pimiento Cheese
Yields: 5 cups
 
Ingredients
  • ¼ pound cream cheese
  • ½ cup diced cherry peppers
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • ½ tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 2 dashes Tabasco sauce
  • 1 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh chives
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and cherry peppers at medium speed until softened. Add mayonnaise, sour cream, Worcestershire, white pepper, and Tabasco, and beat until well combined. Add Cheddar, and beat until a spread is formed. Add chives, and beat just until combined. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Ham Salad
Yields: 6 Cups
 
Ingredients
  • 1¼ cups cream cheese
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup Creole mustard
  • 2 tablespoons Crystal Hot Sauce
  • 1½ pounds smoked ham
  • ½ cup diced green onion
Instructions
  1. In the work bowl of a food processor, place cream cheese, mayonnaise, mustard, and hot sauce; pulse until combined. Add ham, and pulse until still slightly coarse. (It should not be a homogeneous purée.) Add green onion, and pulse just until combined. Refrigerate until ready to use.

 

 

Photography by Randy P. Schmidt.
Mile High Pie
Yields: 8-10 servings
 
Ingredients
  • 1 quart peppermint ice cream
  • 1 quart vanilla ice cream
  • 1 quart chocolate ice cream
  • 1 8-inch chocolate cookie piecrust
  • 8 large egg whites
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • Chocolate sauce, to serve
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, use a rubber spatula to mix peppermint ice cream until it reaches the consistency of soft-serve ice cream. Place peppermint ice cream in a medium stainless steel wine bucket, smoothing out ice cream as much as possible. Freeze until set, about 1 hour.
  2. In another large bowl, place vanilla ice cream; mix to soft-serve consistency, and layer on top of peppermint ice cream. Freeze until vanilla ice cream sets, about 1 hour. Repeat with chocolate ice cream, layering onto vanilla, and freeze until set, about 1 hour.
  3. Crumble cookie crust, and sprinkle generously on top of chocolate ice cream. Using the bottom of a glass, press cookie crumbles into chocolate ice cream, making sure it is dense enough to hold slice of pie. Freeze until ice cream is set, about 2 hours.
  4. Place a plate on the bottom of the wine bucket, and invert. Using your hands (or a small blowtorch), gently warm wine bucket, and shake gently to remove ice cream. If pie is resistant, place a skewer inside center of ice cream to help release it.
  5. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites, vanilla, and cream of tartar at medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, beating until egg whites are stiff and glossy and sugar is dissolved.
  6. Using a spatula, spread meringue over ice cream, or place in a pastry bag fitted with a star tip, and pipe onto ice cream. Using a small blowtorch, toast meringue. Slice and serve with a generous drizzle of chocolate sauce.

 

 

Photography by Randy P. Schmidt.
Sparkling Satsuma Pomegranate Punch
Yields: 16 servings
 
Be clever: Use punch. Don’t try to be a host and a bartender the night of your party. Mix up this holiday punch before your guests arrive, and let them serve themselves.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup Simple Syrup (recipe follows)
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed satsuma juice*, chilled
  • ½ cup pomegranate juice, chilled
  • 2 ounces Pama pomegranate liqueur
  • 2 (750-ml) bottles Cava, chilled
  • 3 satsumas, cut into rounds
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds
Instructions
  1. In a large punch bowl, stir together Simple Syrup, satsuma juice, and pomegranate juice. Stir in pomegranate liqueur. Slowly add Cava.
  2. Float satsuma slices and pomegranate seeds on top of punch. To serve, ladle punch over rocks glass filled with ice.
Notes
*Freshly squeezed tangerine or orange juice may be substituted.

Simple Syrup
Yields: 1 cup
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup water and sugar to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, and let cool completely.

 

Party Math:

Throwing a party is all fun and games until you run out of booze. Here’s some basic math to keep you on everyone’s nice list. There are also some pretty good drink calculator tools out there.

Assuming you are pouring four glasses per bottle of wine, estimate one bottle per hour for every two guests. One liter of liquor will typically produce 16 (2-ounce) cocktails. Assume two cocktails per guest per hour.

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