Entertaining

How To Throw An Elegant Halloween Dinner Party

Socialite Cornelia Guest weighs in on hosting a classy party for grown-ups.
IMAGE GETTY IMAGES
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Event planner extraordinaire Cornelia Guest shares her tips with T&C for how to throw the ultimate spooky soiree, including the most delicious autumn recipes to serve.

Photo by GETTY IMAGES.

Tip 1: Keep the menu short and sweet. 

I believe it's important to keep your dinner menu short and sweet! If you are entertaining a large group, keeping the menu tight at five or six courses is key to keeping everything organized; too many courses can crowd a menu and inevitably one of the dishes may fall short. A smaller menu allows you to make sure each dish is prepared to perfection!

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Photo by COURTESY.

Halloween Crudité

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds small-curd, low-fat cottage cheese
  • ½ cup chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon grated onion
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Crudités (carrots, broccoli, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, asparagus, cauliflowers)

Instructions:

Mix all ingredients together and season to taste. Chill until ready to use. Serve in a small hollowed-out pumpkin or gourd.

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Photo by GETTY IMAGES.

Tip 2: Have a vegetarian option ready. 

As everyone has different preferences and tastes, it's important to at least offer one vegetarian option, so that guests don't need to ask for alternatives. This won't be necessary if it's a small group, but for larger groups it avoids guests having to ask for different dishes that adhere to their dietary restrictions.

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Photo by COURTESY.

Pumpkin and Split Pea Soup

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons of Earth Balance Butter
  • 1 medium red onion, cut into ¼ inch dice
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Serrano chili, seeded and minced
  • 1-½ teaspoons of ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups of yellow split pea, soaked in water for 1 hour and drained
  • 8 ½ cups of water
  • 1 (15 ounces) can unsweetened pumpkin puree
  • ¾ pound fresh sugar pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and cut into ¼ inch dice
  • 1-½ tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
  • Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

Instructions

In a large pot, melt Earth Balance butter. Add onion, garlic, and chili and cook over moderately high heat until the onion is softened for about 4 minutes. Add cumin and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add split peas and water. Whisk in the pumpkin puree and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally until the split peas are tender. Stir in lemon juice. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

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Tip 3: Surprise with your silverware.

Photo by ANJELIKA GRETSKAIA / GETTY IMAGES.

For a beguiling place setting (with almost no effort) skip your usual silverware and offer gleaming black forks, knives, and spoons instead. It's a small touch, but one guaranteed to attract compliments.

SHOP NOW 24-piece Black Stainless Steel Cutlery Set, $29.99, amazon.com

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Tip 4: Incorporate things from your garden. 

Photo by COURTESY.

I always enjoy using different things found from my garden, so adding some fresh cut flowers to correspond with the Halloween color scheme adds a beautiful hint of elegance to your table. I love dahlias in a deep purple for a Halloween table, as they are incredibly full flowers that last a long time, and the color is spooky but not too heavy.

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Tip 5: Try serving spooky signature cocktails.

Photo by GETTY IMAGES.

Add elegant garnishes like skeleton cocktail picks.

SHOP NOW Set of 5, Skull-shaped Cocktail Pick, $9.99, amazon.com

Ingredients

  • 2 oz. Blackwell Rum
  • 3 oz. Fresh pineapple juice
  • 1 oz. cinnamon simple syrup
  • .5 oz. allspice dram
  • .5 oz. lime juice

Instructions

Combine all ingredients in a shaker and shake vigorously, and then strain into a martini glass. Garnish with lime.

*To make cinnamon syrup, add equal parts water and sugar and 4 cinnamon sticks to the saucepan and bring to boil. Simmer for 10 minutes or until sugar is dissolved. Strain cinnamon sticks.

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Tip 6: Don't just cover the room with run-of-the-mill pumpkins.

Photo by GETTY IMAGES.

Be creative with them! Or, if you're not the DIY type, consider purchasing pre-painted pumpkins.

SHOP NOW Set of 5 Assorted Sized White Artificial Pumpkins, $24.99, amazon.com

Tip 7: Design chic place settings for your guests.

Photo by GETTY IMAGES.

A spooky place card offers an elegant but party-friendly touch that guests can take home as a reminder of your gathering. 

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SHOP NOW Set of 10, Skeleton Placecards, $10, etsy.com

Tip 8: Go beyond black and orange.

Photo by GETTY IMAGES.

White and orange, purple and black, or black and white also pair nicely. Consider purchasing goblet-style glassware that can be used again after the holiday.

SHOP NOW Pineapple Style Wine Goblet Drinking Glass, $13.80, amazon.com

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Photo by COURTESY.

Pumpkin Ravioli

Ingredients

  • 10 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound fresh pumpkin, peeled and cut in 1-inch cubes
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh sage, plus 6 small leaves for garnish
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 6 sheets, approx. 6 x 12-inches, of fresh pasta
  • 1 egg, beaten lightly, for egg wash
  • 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour, for dusting
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 shallots, chopped

Instructions

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  1. Heat a heavy skillet over low heat and add 4 tbsp. of butter. When butter is foamy, add pumpkin and cook, stirring often, until it softens.
  2. Transfer pumpkin to a medium saucepan, add half of the heavy cream and half the herbs, cook over low heat for approximately 30 minutes, or until puree is thick and the liquid has evaporated. Stir occasionally. Crush any remaining lumps with a fork. Remove from heat and beat in 2 tbsp. of butter.
  3. Whisk in the beaten eggs. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool.
  4. Lay out 3 sheets of pasta. Using a pastry bag or teaspoon, place 8 equal mounds of pumpkin puree on each sheet dough, about 2 inches apart. Brush around each mound with egg wash. Cover mounded dough sheets with second of pasta and press around mounds to seal the dough. Using a 2-inch cookie cutter cut out the ravioli. Dust with flour and place the ravioli on it. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil while you make the sauce.
  5. To prepare the sauce: In a medium saucepan, reduce the stock with shallots to 1/2 cup. Add remaining heavy cream and reduce by half. Over low heat, whisk in remaining 4 tbsp. butter, a little at a time. Strain the sauce into a clean saucepan and add remaining sage and thyme. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Add ravioli to rapidly boiling water and cook for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon. Add ravioli to the sauce and bring just to a boil. Correct the seasonings.
  7. Divide the ravioli among preheated plates and spoon the sauce over them.
  8. Garnish the platter with mini spiders.
  9. Serve immediately.
Photo by DELISH.

Pumpkin Deviled Eggs

Give your go-to hors d'oeuvre a Halloween twist with a sprinkling of paprika and a dainty chive stem.

Get the recipe from Delish.

Photo by COURTESY.

Shepherd's Pie

Ingredients

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  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 3 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch rounds
  • 2 leeks, cut into 1/4-inch rounds
  • 1/2 pound red Swiss chard, thick ribs removed, leaves cut into 2-inch
  • pieces
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1-1/2 cups beef gravy
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2 1/2-inch rounds
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup milk, plus more if needed
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated horseradish
  • 2 slices country white bread, crusts removed, bread cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 ounces Parmesan, grated (1/2 cup)

Instructions

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  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat one tablespoon of oil. Add beef and cook until browned, about 8 minutes. Transfer beef to a bowl and set aside. In the same skillet, add remaining oil, carrots, and leeks and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in Swiss chard and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in peas, gravy, and reserved beef. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until heated through for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cover.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large pot over high heat, bring potatoes and enough salted water to cover to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until potatoes are tender for about 20 minutes. Drain potatoes and return to pot. Add 3 tablespoons butter and mash potatoes. Stir in milk and season with salt. If potatoes are too stiff, add up to 2 tablespoons more milk. Stir in horseradish.
  3. Transfer beef mixture to eight 4-inch ramekins or an 11-inch deep-dish pie plate. Spread mashed potatoes over beef mixture.
  4. In a food processor, pulse bread to crumbs. Sprinkle crumbs and Parmesan on potatoes. Dot with remaining butter. Bake until tops are lightly browned, about 45 minutes.
Photo by COUNTRY LIVING.

Barley Risotto with Butternut Squash

Get the recipe from Country Living.

Tip 9: Go for a different vibe. 

Photo by COURTESY.

Instead of opting for mini pumpkins, I like tiny crows, which can be bought at any novelty store. They give your table a spooky "Hitchcock" feel and are more unique than your average mini pumpkins.

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SHOP NOW Set of 6, Black Feathered Small Crows, $17.95, amazon.com

Photo by ANJELIKA GRETSKAIA / GETTY IMAGES.

Minimalism can be spooky too

While black and orange are the unofficial-official colors of the season, you don't have to completely revamp your decor to fit your party theme. Already love a white minimalist look? Embrace it with all of the season touches (pumpkins, candles, skeleton decor) but in your favorite shade. It will pull everything together in a frighteningly sophisticated fashion.

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Tip 10: Serve high-end Halloween treats in lieu of candy.

Photo by HALF BAKED HARVEST.

Like these Pumpkin Doughnuts With Hot Cocoa Glaze! Or if you'd prefer something pre-made, check out our suggestions here.

Get the recipe from Half Baked Harvest.

Photo by COURTESY.

Halloween Sugar cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • ¼ tablespoon salt
  • ½ tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons brandy
  • ½ tablespoon vanilla

Icing

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  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 egg white
  • Few drops of lemon juice

Instructions

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  1. In a mixer, beat together cream, butter, sugar, egg, brandy and vanilla. Add dry ingredients in small amounts to the mixer then wrap and chill the dough for at least 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and roll out 1/3 of the dough at a time. Roll about 1/8 inch thick and cut out with Halloween themed cookie cutters (skulls, cats, pumpkins, etc). Put shapes on buttered baking sheets and bake for 10 minutes. Cool on racks. Mix icing ingredients until smooth.
  2. Spread on cooled cookies and decorate with colored sugars (black, purple, orange, red, green) or you can pipe designs with pastry bags.
Photo by COURTESY.

Chocolate Mousse Eyeballs

Ingredients

  • 5 ounces of chocolate
  • 5 pitted dates
  • 1 teaspoon agave or maple syrup (more if you really like sweets)
  • ¼ cup shredded coconut
  • 1 tablespoon cacao powder
  • Cake icing in red/white/green

Instructions

Melt chocolate in a double boiler over medium-low heat. Put chocolate, dates and sweetener in a food processor and blend until smooth. Use a melon scoop to take out some of the mixture and shape it into a ball with your hands. Roll the ball in the coconut or cacao and repeat with the rest of the mixture. Use cake icing to decorate eyeballs.

For more from Cornelia Guest, check out CorneliaGuest.com

*This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com

*Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors

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