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Baked Brie Jam Bites | How To Host A Holiday Open House
From early November to January, life seems to get a whole lot more hectic. Hosting a casual holiday open house is the perfect balance between a labor intensive sit-down dinner and a scatter-brained cocktail party. A holiday open house keeps things simple.
Once you’ve decided to host a holiday open house and you’ve chosen the perfect date on the calendar, send out your invitations — make it perfectly clear what time guests are welcome to drop by and whether kids are allowed. If you’re on a budget or don’t have time to send invitations in the mail, consider using an online service such as Paperless Post, Evites or creating an event on Facebook. An open window of arrival and departure time allows people to show up at the best time for them and leave without feeling as though they’re interrupting the festivities. Be sure to invite the people you’ve been attempting to make plans with for the past six months and never found time to!
After sending out your holiday open house invitations, choose your menu. Remember to keep things simple. I love making individual-sized appetizers (such as these phyllo baked brie bites) and picking up a few items from the store that are ready to eat. A holiday open house isn’t the time to cook up elaborate dishes. I always have the ingredients to make phyllo brie bites in the pantry or waiting in the refrigerator. If you stock your pantry correctly, hosting a holiday open house will be a breeze. Brie cheese, quality jam and some sort of pastry shells, such as phyllo or puff pastry, are a must have in any kitchen. I’ve found that a nice spicy jalapeño jam or red currant jam or jelly are the most titillating on your palate, though most any of your favorite jams, jellies or preserves will do the trick, and red raspberry is particularly perfect with a nice Pinot Noir.
Serving wine at a holiday open house is mandatory. Just as important as the food you serve or music you have playing throughout the event, wine has the potential to elevate an event from lackluster to spectacular. I always suggest serving at least three different types of wine so there is something for everyone: a red wine, such as Meiomi Pinot Noir, which pairs beautifully with the raspberry-filled baked brie bites; a classic Chardonnay like Clos du Bois that’s a winter flavor profile easy-drinking wine that shines when served alongside your favorite hors d'oeuvres; and a second white wine for people who dislike Chardonnay’s play on the palate—Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, a very special wine that is neither too sweet nor too dry and is the perfect accompaniment to simple appetizers and great conversation.
To best enhance the complex nuances of the wines, a host or hostess in the know will serve white wines chilled to a perfect 50–60 degrees, while red should be served at room temperature (60-70º). Financially accessible, easily-acquired wines are ideal for casual entertaining, encouraging guests to easily follow your lead and introduce their guests to these exciting varietals—a definite win-win!
On the day of your open house, finish putting out any decor and set up the buffet table with non-perishable items. Begin the event with an empty dishwasher. Load dirty dishware, silverware and wine glasses as needed as your party progresses. Consider using holiday-themed disposable plates and paper napkins, but don’t compromise when it comes to using glass stemware, as plastic can alter the aromas and flavors of your wines. Put on some festive music and a pot of mulling spices (here’s my favorite recipe: one whole orange, ½-cup cranberries, 2 cinnamon sticks, 1 star anise, 1 tablespoon whole cloves, and a little nutmeg simmered in plain water over a low heat) to make your home feel ultra-inviting.
Consider sending your guests home with a gift. How about printing out the recipe to these baked brie bites, or attach your grandmother’s sugar cookie recipe to a seasonal cookie cutter for each family to take home? Most importantly, as host or hostess, be present and enjoy every minute of your party!
Baked Brie Bites
- 2 packages (15 each) fillo pastry shells
- 30 1-inch cubes softened brie
- 1/4 cup jam, raspberry, currant, jalapeño are popular options
How to cook Baked Brie Bites
- Preheat oven to 350º
- Remove fillo pastry shells from packaging and spread evenly on a cooking sheet. Place a cube of brie inside each shell on the prepared baking sheet. Bake shells for 12 minutes, until just beginning to brown and the cheese is melted. Remove from oven.
- Drop 1 teaspoon of jam onto the center of the brie cheese. Return to oven and continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes, or until the cheese and jam are bubbling. Remove from oven, cool slightly before serving.