Easy entertaining is possible with these tips and tricks.
Let’s face it entertaining can be stressful, especially if you love to cook. I used to make everything from scratch. While everyone else enjoyed themselves, I would be exhausted and barely able to stay awake during my own party. That was terrible. I remember hearing Ina Garten, the Godmother, say that you needed to buy some and make some to have a great party. I didn’t believe her at first, but she’s right a great party is one in which the host and the guests all have a wonderful time. It took some time but I have been able to edit myself. Trust me, it ain’t easy! but it is possible. So here is how I do it.
I spend the time between events trying new things, both new seasonal recipes and new grocery store, specialty, and restaurant items. This helps when it’s time to have a party because I have fresh memories about great things that I like. A few rules to live by:
1. Don’t fry, only buy fried chicken. Fried chicken and fish for that matter are best served hot. If you have a large, outdoor deep fryer feel free to fry chicken for your party, but if you do not then just order chicken from your favorite place. There are so many wonderful restaurants that specialize in chicken. Your family and friends won’t even care that you didn’t make the wings as long as they are good. And nowadays you can even get it delivered 20 minutes before your guests arrive so that it is fresh and hot.
2. Buy fruit and cheese pre cut. One of my favorite catering tricks is to take a store bought fruit tray and rearrange it onto a nice serving platter. I will add some cubed cheese and a wedge of brie cheese for a little extra oomph! I like to line the trays with lots of kale or lettuce to make the trays look more abundant without significantly increasing the cost.
3. Everyone loves chips and dip. I cannot really recall a party without some sort of dip. It can range from spinach dip to guacamole and salsa or crab dip. Everyone loves dip. Here is where you can get a ton of bang for your buck. If you find a great dip at your local market, buy it and serve it with interesting chips or crackers. I am a fan of flavored pita chips. If you make a great crab dip, then make it but buy a loaf of French bread and slice and warm before serving. Your guests will love the extra touch and you won’t be wiped out.
4. Buy inexpensive and interesting serving platters. if you haven’t noticed, I have a thing for serving platters. I tend to buy them at the end of the season when they are on deep discount. I love Pier 1 , The Christmas Tree Shop, and my personal happy place, Home Goods for unique, cute serving dishes at great prices. If storage is an issue, stick to higher quality white dishes that add a touch of elegance to your presentation without taking up a lot of precious space.
5. Make as much in advance as possible. There are some dishes that just get better with time like collard greens or dirty rice. Whenever possible make those dishes in advance. For big cooking holidays like Thanksgiving I start cooking up to two weeks early making and freezing stocks and vegetables. I am a big believer in par cooking as well which is basically cooking to a good stopping point and then starting the next day. Rhee Drummond has a excellent holiday series of make ahead recipes that are life changing.
Check out some of our recipes and let us know what you think about these tips for easy entertaining. How do you make entertaining work for you?