Ring in the New Year with a casual, smashing dinner.

Cheers to a Gorgeous New Year's Eve
Credit: Ralph Anderson / Styling by Buffy Hargett / Food Styling by Rebecca Kracke Gordon

Take your cue for hosting a small dinner party from Cybil and Broderick Talley of Atlanta. Cybil worked on our Foods staff for about three years before marrying and moving to Georgia.

Their plan for a New Year's Eve gathering is casual with a touch of fancy--featuring beef tenderloin on the menu and low-fuss decorating. To pull off any party, Cybil and Broderick make these suggestions. Know each recipe well--read it several times, or prepare it once beforehand. Set the table, and clean the house the day before. Make a to-do list and schedule for party day. Ask the first guests to pour wine and take food to the table. Finally, adds Broderick, "Put on some music that fits the party. Do that before guests arrive to get you in the mood. Jazz is perfect for bringing in the New Year."

Simply Fabulous Menu:
Serves 6 to 8

Featured Recipes:

Tips for Tenderloins
Our Test Kitchens professionals realize that at a regular price of $20 or more per pound, beef tenderloin is a pricey investment for dinner. So buy it on sale up to one month before the party, and freeze it. (A great price is $10 to $15 per pound.) To freeze, triple-wrap tenderloin in plastic wrap, and then overwrap it in heavy-duty aluminum foil. To thaw, remove foil and two layers of plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about 24 hours.

As with any large cut of meat, let stand at room temperature 30 minutes for even cooking. Cooking beef tenderloin is a three-step process. First, the meat is broiled to sear the outside for appearance, flavor, and to help seal in the juices. Second, the oven temperature is reduced to 375° to slowly cook this lean cut of meat and avoid overcooking. Finally, the meat needs to stand 10 minutes. As meat cooks, the juices tend to move toward the center. Standing time allows the juices to redistribute throughout, making each piece juicy.

Simple, Pretty Decorations
Go with the less-is-more philosophy this year when setting the table. Here's how.

  • Mix shades of white, cream, and taupe for an elegant place setting. Add one accent color that complements your home's scheme. Soft shades of green, coral, red, and purple are good choices to liven up neutrals.
  • The hot flower arrangement for this year's festivities is a glass vase filled with one or two basic flowers, such as euphorbia and star-of-Bethlehem. Strip leaves off flower stems below the water line for a professional look.
  • Dress up practical table setting items, rather than adding more decorative objects. Bundle flatware in napkins, and tie with organza ribbon. Arrange in a wide-mouth vase or chunky pillar candle holder when serving buffet style.

"Cheers to a Gorgeous New Year's Eve" is from the November 2005 issue of Southern Living.