Here is a Blog post from one of our favorite SBDC clients, Chef Alice Colin. Chef Alice wants to pass on some tips to make your holiday entertaining a little less stressful !
If you’ll be entertaining over the holiday season I am going to make your life a little easier. No, I’m not coming over to cater your event, but am going to pass on invaluable tricks of the trade learned over the years. I wish you all a healthy and happy new year!
Start by creating a menu. Think about colors, textures and plating of items. Do an inventory of your larder (aka pantry) to see what you have on hand. Always make lists: any food allergies or dietary restrictions, shopping, detailed prep from a week ahead, down to an hour ahead.
Create a time line when everything needs to go into the oven or reheated, especially if you have just one oven. Prepare as many items ahead as possible. Reheat food by flashing in a preheated oven set at 450 degrees F. The high temperature quickly reheats food. Start with food as close to room temperature while still being serve-safe. Cover with foil to prevent drying out. Cooking times will vary; finger foods 2-3 minutes, denser items like a baked pasta may take up to 15 minutes.
Set out all of your serving platters and bowls along with the serving utensil. Stick a post it note or piece of masking tape on each indicating the dish for which it will be used.
If you have a dishwasher, make sure it is empty. Loading as you go will prevent a kitchen full of dirty dishes and you won’t have to wash dishes with guests in the house.
If you have guests who like to help out in the kitchen, have a plan of what they can do in advance. I need to get more comfortable doing that. Assign a willing guest (not Uncle Boozer) to provide beverages as guests arrive, which will make them feel welcomed right away. If you are serving a large crowd, pitchers of Sangria or Margaritas (offer one pitcher without alcohol) are easy, popular and budget-friendly.
Set your table, decorations and music well in advance. Select lively music during the cocktail hour, and softer music for dining. No one wants to dine listening to The Black Eyed Peas.
Keep hot food hot by storing in a 125°F oven until you’re ready to serve. Set out room-temperature foods first; non-dairy dips and spreads like hummus, spicy black bean dip or tapenade with assorted dippers. Include a gluten-free chip or cracker to serve with the dips. For crudite, think beyond the usual carrot and celery sticks, and try jicama, red bell pepper or fennel. Blanch and shock hard vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli; it will be not only be easier to chew, but the color will be more vibrant. Your guests will notice and appreciate it.
When it comes to serving hors d’oeuvres, “don’t show all your cards at once.” Items such as shrimp or meatballs are always popular and will be the first to disappear, thus present them an hour or so into your party as a pass around.
Please feel free to email me with any questions or requests for easy party recipes. I’m always happy to share!
Happy Holidays !
Chef Alice Colin