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Actress and recent cookbook author Ali Larter shares her party philosophy: plenty of cocktails, a made-ahead main course and a big, gooey cake for dessert.
The first time I met Ali Larter was at last year's Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, at a dinner prepared by Los Angeles chef Michael Voltaggio. Ali and I agreed that our favorite course was the branzino with cauliflower branches. Later that night, she texted me a picture of her bedtime snack: a bag of salt-and-vinegar potato chips. I texted back a photo of mine: a canister of sour-cream-and-onion Pringles. We are culinary soul mates, I thought.
At the Voltaggio dinner, Ali had shown me a copy of her new cookbook, Kitchen Revelry, with a year's worth of entertaining recipes arranged by month. At first, I was skeptical of a cookbook from an actress who became an icon for wearing a whipped-cream bikini in the film Varsity Blues. But I liked the look of the book, with its holiday cheese fondues followed by January juice regimens. "When I'm cooking, I want people near me, so I keep the fondue warm on the stove; my friends sit on the counter and dig in," says Ali, who grew up cooking meat loaf and Philly cheesesteaks with her mom in New Jersey.
Ali recently made fondue for a New Year's Day party—a serious three-cheese one, spiked with sparkling wine and served with cornichons for dipping. "I never go out on holidays; it's the worst," she says. Instead, she invites friends over to her Hollywood Hills home where she's ready with pitchers of blood orange screwdrivers. "They're killer, whether or not you've got a hangover," she confides. To avoid last-minute party stress, she prepares a make-ahead main course of wine-braised chicken braciole, stuffed with spinach and raisins. Because the chicken isn't too heavy, she goes all-out on dessert: a big, gooey, utterly delicious German chocolate cake, packed with coconut and pecans. I'm going to make it on New Year's Day and text Ali a picture.
Ali Larter's New Year's Eve Party Menu:
Three-Cheese Fondue with Pickles
Champagne with a Twist
Blood Orange Screwdrivers
Chicken Braciole with Spinach
Winter Lettuces with Pomegranate Seeds
Buttery Buttermilk-Mashed Potatoes
German Chocolate Cake