Holiday Cocktail Party

Michael Schlow, executive chef and owner of Radius and Via Matta restaurants in Boston, eases guests into the holiday weekend with a welcome-home bash.
menu
smiling man
 
extras
 
tips + how-tos
holiday napkins
white candles
cheese plate
turkey appetizers

tips + tricks

No one knows how to feed holiday guests like a chef. Here are Michael's ideas for minimum kitchen stress and maximum output.

Using fewer plates

That means less cleanup. Serve bites with colorful paper napkins.

Making platters matter

I don't do much in the way of added decorations, so I like my serving pieces to be special. I'll use everything from cool unrimmed plates to wooden cutting boards to showcase appetizers.

Accenting with candles

The more the merrier. I prefer unscented ones (unless a guest has smelly feet). They're an easy way to accent white plates or wooden serving pieces.

Spreading out the prep work

Shop early, then decide what can be made ahead and refrigerated. It'll get you in a festive mood leading up to the big day. On my menu, it's the "magic" carrots -- they hold for a week if they're submerged in the pickling liquid. Most stuffings also taste better if they sit overnight.

Taking sneaky shortcuts

My sneakiest shortcut is buying delicious artisanal products, like good cheeses or cured meats, to bulk up the buffet. Good hosting is about hospitality, not curing your own prosciutto.

Scoping out your surroundings

Have some family favorites on the menu, then find inspiration from the market. If a vegetable looks amazing or there's a good deal, think on the fly. Consider carrying a cookbook in the car for last-minute research.

Taking a chill

For me, ice always makes or breaks a good cocktail. Even if the base is flavorful, if the ice melts you'll be serving guests watery drinks. For large-batch cocktails, add ice glass by glass or keep the pitcher on ice.

Working the room

Don't forget: Plenty of dishes taste great at room temperature, so you don't have to turn out a bunch of hot dishes at once. Grilled vegetables, grainbased salads, and sliced meats and cheeses are good options.

Taking a test run

Nothing would be better than to have holiday dinner a few weeks early, so you can test your recipes ahead of time. If it's a complete failure, you still have time to call your mom.

 

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