entertainment

I Threw A Halloween Dinner Party To Put My Friends In A Spooky Mood, And It Was Festive As Heck

by Angela Andaloro

I’m from a group of friends who look for excuses to cook. Food is at the center of a lot of our favorite things to get together for, like Festivus, the Super Bowl, and, of course, Halloween. We’re basically just low-key folks looking for an excuse to make a themed-feast. When I presented them with the idea of a Halloween dinner party, I was met with mixed responses. Everyone was pretty clear about not wanting to dress up. It’s not that we don’t like it, but trying to have a costume ready on such short notice is stressful for those who put pride in their yearly attempt.

That left the focus on food in a big way. A pair of my friends graciously volunteered their apartment as the event space, so we got together a few spooky decorations and let some scary movies play in the background to set the ambiance. For six guests, we decided on two appetizers, two main courses, and two desserts. It only took three shopping trips (don’t judge me) before I was ready to get cooking.

For appetizers, I went with a super-adorable pumpkin-style cheese ball and deviled eggs, which were supposed to look like pumpkins. For the main course, there were jack-o’-lantern-style stuffed peppers and autumn ribs with a cranberry glaze. Dessert was pumpkin cheesecake dip and pumpkin pie wontons. It took just over three hours to bring the feast to fruition, and although cooking at that scale is rarely easy, it was well worth it.

Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

I went into the night a little frazzled. The day had gotten away from me, and I met up with my friends to begin cooking later than I wanted to. They reassured me that eating later would just add to the ambiance of the whole thing, so we got started. First up, we rubbed down the baby back ribs with sugar, mustard powder, chili powder, celery salt, cinnamon, kosher salt, and pepper as explained in Food 52’s recipe for Autumn Ribs With Cranberry Cider Glaze.

Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

Next, it was time to boil eggs. My favorite deviled eggs recipe is Truffled Deviled Eggs from Tide & Thyme, although I had to leave out the truffle oil to please the masses.

Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

Next, we roasted some garlic and threw it in the blender in preparation to make Roasted Garlic Chipotle Mayonnaise. I thought this would lend itself to delicious deviled eggs that present a little more orange than average.

Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

Then it was time to make the cranberry glaze, which coats the ribs until they caramelize in the final stage of cooking. Being someone who only consumes cranberry with vodka, I was admittedly skeptical. It also felt a little too Thanksgiving-like, but I trusted the process.

Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

Next up was our festive cheese ball! I followed the Perfect Fall Cheese Ball recipe from Genius Kitchen. We did run into a little snafu by accidentally adding an additional block of cream cheese, but luckily, we are a group of food lovers who don’t believe there is such a thing as too much cheese. We mixed everything together, wrapped it in cling wrap, and put it in the fridge to harden.

Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

Back to the eggs! I was bummed that despite fancying up the mayo, we didn’t get the orange color. I still love deviled eggs, so we decided to finish them. I always make a mess during the refilling portion. Luckily, one of my friends pulled off making a piping bag out of a zip-lock bag. I let him do the filling so I wouldn’t coat the entire apartment in egg yolk.

Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

It was time to check on the ribs, and they smelled AMAZING. We drizzled the cranberry cider glaze on the ribs and covered them, then popped them back in the oven to finish them off.

Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

It was time to check back in on the cheese ball. I really loved the idea of using the top of a pepper to give it a pumpkin feel. We coated the outside with cheddar-and-sour-cream chips, deviating a little from Genius Kitchen’s recipe. The cheese ball was still a little too soft to put all the pumpkin lines in, so it needed to chill a little while longer.

Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

It was time to work with the rest of the peppers. I had the most fun carving little jack-o-lantern faces into the peppers, which were inspired by Everyday Jenny’s Shredded Chicken and Rice Stuffed Peppers (Halloween Style). I used a paring knife for precision, but I was still so nervous about getting the faces just right. I tried a few different designs, and I couldn’t pick a favorite because they were all adorable.

Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

It was finally time to start eating! I set out the appetizers, and no joke, that cheese ball was half destroyed within 10 minutes of the picture being taken. I also went TO TOWN on those deviled eggs, in case you were wondering. Just because they were fail eggs didn’t mean they didn’t deserve love, too!

Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

After appetizers, it was time to fill the stuffed peppers. I used ground beef instead of shredded chicken, and white rice instead of Mexican rice since I’d made too much rice the night before. These guys needed just an hour in the oven.

Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

The peppers went in just as the ribs were coming out. A little peek under the foil showed that they weren’t quite caramelizing yet, so they had to go back in for a little longer (10 to 15 minutes by my estimation).

Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

The ribs settled until the peppers were ready. I pulled them out of the oven and was kind of wowed by the personality the little faces had! That one that was turned toward me was part aww and part terrifying — in all the best ways.

Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

Our friends were THRILLED when it was time for the main course. The house smelled all kinds of delicious. I was a little nervous for everyone to dig in, but I was immediately reassured when everyone started to devour both the ribs and the peppers. A taste test of my own confirmed that everything was scrumptious.

Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

Finally, it was time for dessert! I haven’t said much about the Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake Dip, the recipe for which I got from A Night Owl, but that’s because it was so easy to whip up. You just mix everything up and refrigerate until ready to serve! I picked this recipe because I was so intrigued by the use of the pumpkin spice creamer. I like recipes that use items unconventionally, and this one totally delivered.

Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

Last but most certainly not least, we have the Pumpkin Pie Wontons, courtesy of Tablespoon. I’ve never used wonton wrappers before, so I was a little intimidated.

Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

Putting them together was actually super easy! You simply brush the edges of the paper with an egg wash to seal them.

Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

While frying them, I learned the importance of pinching the corners tightly during assembly. We lost a few wontons to them exploding in the pan, but luckily, most of them made it just fine.

Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

Next was the messy (but beautiful) sprinkling with powdered sugar. I tend to think powdered sugar is both the best and worst thing that’s ever happened to desserts because it can get messy but is oh-so-yum!

Courtesy of Author for LittleThings

Everyone had more or less forgotten about dessert, but everyone’s eyes widened as I put it out. While I don’t have even a little bit of a sweet tooth, my friends most certainly do. We enjoyed these with some coffee and tea.

The Halloween dinner party was, by all accounts, a success. I’ve thrown many a Halloween party in my day, but one that doesn’t involve cleaning up after massive amounts of drunk friends and instead shifts the focus to food is definitely more up my alley. The only thing that would’ve made it better is if everyone had been ready to dress up. There’s always next year though, and I can’t wait.