This is the full content of our column which appeared in the Wednesday, December 5, 2012 edition of The Forum.
We are in the throes of the holidays, and that means the high season of entertaining has begun. This week, we’re focusing on the cocktail party with some great ideas to spice up your special event.
“When you’re planning a cocktail party, I keep things simple and fun to ensure the food and beverage will be a success,” Tony says. “But where do you start? Try to find recipes that can be prepared in advance, so that you’re not doing too much right before the party. And serve something new as a signature beverage – guests love this and it’s a great way to get the conversation flowing.”
It never hurts to have a story to share, too, so we’re going to take you on a little trip to Italy first to get things started.
“Al Secolo!” This is a common cheer to be heard among Sicilian Italians, and means something along the lines of “to the century” or may you “live for a century.” It is usually exclaimed as a toast, with glasses raised in celebration to commemorate a special event.
For my husband, Tony, his fondest memories of this expression take him back to hot summers in Sicily, where he spent several months during his youth visiting his extended family in the small town of Rosolini. Each visit would end with a grand feast, attended by family and friends, and the glasses would be raised (many times) throughout the evening with impassioned cries of “Al Secolo!”
Today, Tony continues this tradition both in our home and at Sarello’s, but presents the toast at the start of each evening, rather than at the end.
“When I’m hosting an event, whether it’s a cooking class or dinner party, I always acknowledge my guests with a toast at the start of the evening. A toast is special, a way to thank your guests for coming, to say, I’m so glad you’re here with me. The first thing I do when my guests arrive is greet them with a glass of Prosecco and teach them my family’s toast.”
Prosecco is an Italian sparkling white wine from the region of Veneto. Its classic flavor carries notes of citrus, almonds, honey, melon and pear, and you can find a nice variety to choose from in our local liquor stores. Clean and crisp with small bubbles, Prosecco varies from slightly dry to dry, and is always well-received.
“Prosecco is a friendly wine – not too big, not too small, it’s just right. Festive, fun and affordable, Prosecco can be enjoyed during any part of a meal. But, I love to serve it at the beginning. “
This makes it the perfect choice to serve with our featured food recipe, Blackened Sirloin with Horseradish Cream Sauce.
“I love this dish as an appetizer or hors d’oeuvres because it’s guaranteed to be a success with your guests – nearly everyone loves beef. And, it’s a great way to add some heartiness to the traditional cocktail fare.”
The secret to this recipe is in how you cook, and slice, the meat.
“Coating the steak with freshly ground pepper and searing it before roasting help create a blackened effect,” Tony says. “I cook the sirloin to a perfect medium rare, and then cut the steak as thin as possible – the thinner, the better. The medium-rare temperature preserves the flavor of the sirloin, and the thin slices help ensure that every bite is tender.”
This recipe can be made up to two days in advance
We serve our Blackened Sirloin with homemade Horseradish Cream Sauce, which can also be prepared ahead of time. This simple, yet amazingly delicious, condiment is always a crowd-pleaser and Tony often jokes that I serve beef only as an excuse to enjoy the horseradish cream sauce.
To serve, place the sliced sirloin on a platter and garnish with thinly sliced red onions and capers. Serve the horseradish sauce on the side. Click on the link below for the recipe.