Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Small Thanksgiving For 4-6 Guests

I love hosting holiday dinners for 4-6 people. A small group is the perfect size for relaxed fun. You don't have to break your back lifting a monster turkey in and out of the oven just to feed them, and having a few guests over makes for casual, intimate conversation that only gets better as the night gets going.

If you're hosting fellow adults, set up a bar area away from the kitchen where guests can serve themselves cocktails. Create a signature drink for the evening, like a cranberry spritzer garnished with fresh cranberries you slide on swizzle sticks. Offer a small selection of other mixed drinks and beers. Chill a bottle of champagne for a special toast before the meal begins (plus one more for when that runs out). Place several bowls of snacks like spiced nuts and seasoned pretzels as well as your favorite candies around the room to avoid serving passed hors d'oeuvres. When inviting guests, let them know both when cocktails start and when they'll actually be sitting down to the meal so they can plan accordingly and not arrive ravenously hungry.

Depending on your crowd you can serve up the old standards or try something new, like this Autumn Panzanella in lieu of stuffing. A large turkey breast will likely be all you need for your group, especially if you offer 2-4 sides. Many casserole sides can be assembled and refrigerated the night before and cooked the next day. Dress up the table by playing on a single fall color in all of its shades. Decorate with browns from chocolate to taupe, incorporating fall leaves and gourds. Or opt for metallics—spray tiny pumpkins and empty bottles (for vases) in silver and gold paint, light glittery candles, and find fabrics shot through with metallic threads or a bit of shine for table runners and napkins.

When planning a party for 4-6 people, give things a personal touch. Write out place cards that say "I'm thankful for…" including the reason why you're thankful for each guest. Bake a small individual pie for each person—let guests "order" their pie flavor in advance (limit the options to two) or make a few extra of each. You can freeze what isn't eaten or send them home as leftovers. Write out the recipes of what you're serving for guests who like to cook.

Favors are certainly not expected for Thanksgiving, but why not send guests home with packs of pretty thank-you cards to use later?

Photo by Ltshears via Wikicommons

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