Holiday Cocktail Party
tips + how-tos
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.