Thanksgiving dinner. Christmas party. New Year’s brunch.
Each sounds exciting if someone invites you but maybe a bit intimidating if you’re the host.
If you are hosting the party, don’t panic. Whether the event is your first cocktail party or tenth consecutive Thanksgiving dinner, the secret to serving an unforgettable meal is advance planning.
Keep track of how many people plan to attend so you can set your budget--and plan your place settings. To help you plan the menu, ask guests to let you know it they have food allergies or if they follow a special diet. You can include this on the invitation as part of the R.S.V.P., or simply call well in advance.
Food is the centerpiece of most holiday events. Whether you’re making three dishes or 10, keep the menu simple. You’ll feel more confident and relaxed about the meal when you include tried and true recipes that work every time or signature dishes everyone loves. If you’re tempted to serve new recipes, test and taste them ahead of time before adding them to the menu. Complicated or exotic recipes often require more attention than you may be able to give on the day of the party. Here is a great sweet potato recipe to try.
Whenever possible, use ingredients that are in season. (See CHEFS In Season articles for more information.) These items should be easy to find and in good supply at local markets. Seasonal fruits, vegetables, herbs, fish, and seafood will be at peak flavor, making each dish taste even better.
Don’t dismiss dessert. It’s the last dish your guests will taste so make it memorable. Use a luscious seasonal fruit in your fabulous cobbler or a gourmet dark chocolate in your decadent Double-Up Chocolate Cheesecake.
Make freezer-friendly recipes like soups, stock, pie dough, bread dough, and cookies in advance. Be sure to allow adequate defrosting time in your cooking schedule. You can also assemble and refrigerate dishes like vegetable casseroles a day ahead and cook them the day of the party. Prepping ingredients in advance also saves time. Chop vegetables, wash and dry herbs and salad greens, and make fresh breadcrumbs the day before and store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to cook.
Check your pantry for cooking basics like olive oil, salt, pepper, stock, onions, garlic, canned tomatoes, and baking supplies. Add missing or low stock items to your shopping list.
Don’t be caught with a 2-quart casserole when your recipe makes three times that amount or warped cookie sheets that have seen better days. Check and test your cooking equipment early to ensure you have the right tools for each cooking task. Make sure knives are razor sharp and pots, pans, baking dishes, and appliances are clean and ready to go. If you find that you are missing a key cooking tool, kitchen utensil, or roasting pan, be sure to visit CHEFScatalog.com for all those Thanksgiving Essentials.
Last minute shopping can be hazardous to your menu and your budget. During the holidays, markets run out of popular seasonal food items sooner than you think. You can safely buy many items early, taking advantage of the best selection. Here’s a general schedule for your shopping trips.
Categories: Tips & Advice