A No-Fuss New Year Eve's Dinner Party
Ring in the New Year with a celebratory dinner that is indulgent yet totally easy to make, has plenty of make-ahead moments, and is sure to dazzle guests. We think New Year's Eve is the best time to host a dinner party, as gathering at home with friends can be much more fun, relaxing, and altogether delicious than going out on this busy, often cold night. Whether you are throwing an intimate gathering or hosting a larger group, this menu can easily be adjusted to serve any number of guests. In addition to our manageable menu, here you'll find a simple strategy for planning and pulling off the dinner party, which means that both you and your guests are sure to have a fabulous time.
One of our favorite ways to start a party is a with a signature cocktail. It sets the tone and feels more special than serving wine and beer before the meal, though of course we have those options on hand for guests who prefer them. For this dinner, the festivities start with a classy Champagne cocktail that has a modern twist.
The cocktail is served alongside one of our easiest hot artichoke dips, and a Spanish spin on shrimp cocktail which is always a crowd pleaser. Dinner is a feast for the eyes with beautiful spice-crusted racks of lamb and colorful sides full of fresh seasonal flavors. For a sweet ending, we finish the menu with Chocolate Mousse Parfaits which seem fancy but are actually easy to put together ahead of time, and of course there is more Champagne.
The Guest List and Invitations
Email or mail invitations at least a month in advance since calendars fill up faster around the holidays. Ask guests to RSVP within a week. Convey the mood of the party in the invite, but don't specify a dress code.
Setting the Table (and the Tone)
Good news: For this party, there's nothing wrong with celebrating your everyday dishware. Festive party plates would work, too, and they'll help save you time when it comes to cleaning up. Remember that arranged seats set people at ease: Go with name cards when you want certain people to sit next to each other.
Drink: Champagne Fizz
No New Year's party is complete without Champagne and turning Champagne into an impressive cocktail is as easy as one-two-three: Soak crystalized ginger in Angostura bitters, add the soaked ginger to the bottom of a coupe glass or flute, and pour chilled Champagne over top. It's so simple, the ginger adds warm holiday season flavors and it is edible.
Make ahead: Don't forget to chill the Champagne!
Starter: Smoky Herbed Shrimp
Two pantry ingredients, smoked paprika and sherry vinegar, lend a Spanish flair to this shrimp cocktail. Serve the shrimp warm or at room temperature with a classic cocktail sauce. Consider making extra because shrimp cocktail always goes fast.
Make ahead: It takes just five minutes to prepare the shrimp, but they can also be made ahead and refrigerated.
Starter: Artichoke-and-Feta Dip
Alongside the irresistible shrimp cocktail serve one of our easiest hot dips which also happens to be an elegant take on a total crowd pleaser: artichoke dip. In this version, bake a block of fresh feta cheese surrounded by artichoke hearts, lemon peel, fresh oregano, and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. The flavors infuse into the cheese and make a delicious sauce. Serve with fresh baguette slices for scooping up the ingredients and sopping up the sauce.
Make ahead: Assemble the hot dip in a baking dish the night before and refrigerate. Bake the dip 40 minutes before guests arrive.
Main: Spice-Rubbed Rack of Lamb
Rack of lamb is the perfect entrée for dinner parties, it makes for an impressive centerpiece, everyone loves it, and it happens to be one of the quickest cooking roasts, so you don't have to worry about timing. An easy-to-make coriander and cumin seed crust on the lamb brings Middle Eastern flavors to this dish. For a crowd, double or triple the recipe.
Make ahead note: Sear the lamb and crust it in spices in advance of guests arriving, so you're free to enjoy a cocktail and greet guests. Have the lamb ready on a tray or in the skillet and place it in the oven about 30 minutes before dinner is going to be served. Don't forget the vital 10-minute rest before slicing.
Basmati rice goes fancy for New Year's Eve with Herbed Rice with Dates and Pomegranate, which features fresh herbs, crunchy nuts, dried fruits, and pomegranate seeds, all ingredients said to bring good luck in the new year. The sweet herbal flavor of this pilaf is the perfect complement to the spice-crusted lamb and the colorful salad.
A simple radicchio salad adds a zesty note to the meal with a special lemon vinaigrette that includes chopped lemon flesh rather than just lemon juice.
Make ahead: Measure all the rice mix-ins in advance. Steam the rice while the lamb roasts. Make the dressing in advance and toss the salad right before serving.
Dessert: Chocolate Mousse Parfaits
No celebration would be complete without a sweet treat to finish the meal. These luxurious chocolate mousse parfaits practically go from fridge to table. Have them ready in the refrigerator and when dessert time arrives top each parfait with whipped cream and crumble cookies over the top. Serve with extra cookies on the side and top off everyone's glasses with Champagne to cheer in the New Year.
Make ahead: Prepare the mousse the day before and portion into individual servings cups. Cover each with plastic and refrigerate until it's time for dessert