By Steve Poses
Whether you’re a guest or host during this season of parties, you want to be gracious and flexible, easygoing and accommodating. Here’s my best holiday season advice for hosts and guests.
For Hosts: Find One Relaxed Hour
Careful planning that spreads tasks over time and good organization are key to successful and stress-less home entertaining. Develop a daily schedule leading up to your party and especially a schedule for the day of. Your schedule should include one relaxed hour for yourself prior to guests’ arrival. There are always last-minute things to do, but do try to schedule it no more than three hours before guests arrive. So if guest arrival is 7PM, plan to get your one relaxed hour between 4 and 5PM. And that one relaxed hour does not include getting dressed!
For Guests: Three Simple Rules
1. Don’t arrive early.
The early guest is the unwelcome guest. Hosts should always have one relaxed hour prior to guest arrival. In arriving early you disturb that hour and essentially demand that the host put down their oven mitts and pay attention to you. A carefully crafted schedule goes right out the window. Not cool.
2. Stay out of the kitchen.
Even the most experienced host needs to focus on the tasks at hand. In this case, the task at hand is the complex coordination of multiple dishes in and out of the oven—not entertaining guests who wander into the kitchen to chitchat. Unless you’re explicitly invited into the cook’s lair to help, find another place to hang out.
3. Don’t do things halfway.
If you’re bringing something for the host, bring all the components. For example, if you’re bringing flowers, bring them arranged in a vase. Bring food on the platter in which it will be served, if room temperature, or in the casserole in which it will be heated. And don’t bring something straight from your refrigerator that needs to be reheated. At least bring it to room temperature, or consider heating it and bringing it warm. Remember to retrieve your platter or casserole when you leave.
For more information: I’ve written extensively about party planning including sample schedules and templates. Visit my blog and find holiday-specific tips by searching for “Thanksgiving.” For the most comprehensive information about planning and organization as well as loads of great recipes and restaurant lore, purchase At Home by Steve Poses: A Caterer’s Guide to Cooking and Home Entertaining at Amazon.
Holiday Gift Giving – The Value of an Excellent Knife
Nothing is of greater value to the home cook than an excellent knife. Treated well and sharpened, an excellent knife will be a cook’s best friend for years – and worth the investment.
I buy all of my knives at Korin, a wonderful Japanese kitchen and tableware shop located in Tribeca. Korin is the go-to shop for chefs around the country. Fortunately, you don’t have to go to Tribeca: you can visit the shop online [korin.com]. (If you do visit Korin, consider dining at Little Park, a wonderful restaurant about two blocks south of Korin at 85 West Broadway where Hudson and West Broadway intersect. If it’s on the menu, order the Kohlrabi Salad – one of the best dishes I’ve had this year.)
Korin’s knives are made in Japan by companies that trace their craft back to the samarui. The blades tend to be thinner than knives made in the West. The basic knife is the Chef’s knife or Gyutou. A 9.4” length is ideal for the serious home cook. We recently bought our veteran cooks the Misono Molybdenum Gyutou ($132) – a likely upgrade for most home cooks. My first Korin knife was Misono’s top-of-the line UX10 Gyutou ($279). My personal favorite is the Masanobu VG line. The 9.4” Gyutou is $385. While the knives come sharp from the factory, Korin offers free additional sharpening.
Also check-out their sharpening stones and video. Using a sharpening stone takes some practice but there is no sense having a fine knife and not keeping it sharp. Korin also offers a by-mail knife sharpening service.
57 Warren Street just east of West Broadway
Brussels Sprouts Salad with Cranberries and Walnuts
You’ll need a sharp knife for this great holiday salad I recently demo-ed at The Franklin Institute.
For the salad
1 pound Brussels sprouts
1 small head of radicchio (optional), halved, cored and finely sliced
3-4 medium scallions, trimmed, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
½ medium red onion, peeled, cut into quarters and thinly sliced
1 Granny Smith apple, cut into ¼ inch dice
4 ounces walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
2 ounces dried cranberries
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Slice Brussels sprouts in half through the stem. Peel away any discolored leaves. With a sharp paring knife, make a little triangle cutting away the white stem that hold the leaves together. Set the Brussels sprouts with the flat cut side down and thinly slice and transfer to bowl. Once all the Brussels sprouts are sliced, sift through the cut sprouts with your fingers breaking up any large pieces.
2. Add radicchio, scallions, red onion, apple, walnuts and cranberries to Brussels sprouts.
3. Place honey in microwave safe bowl. Heat for 10-15 seconds until warm and thin. Add cider vinegar, olive oil and salt and pepper. Add to Brussels sprouts and toss well.