Oh, holiday entertaining, a daunting prospect in my mind. Why? Because I always get in over my head.
Despite my earnest efforts to prepare, I always come up short on time and have to start desperately cutting corners, like a ship’s crew frantically casting cargo overboard during a storm. Except instead of steamer trunks full of rations, I’m throwing out recipes and scrambling for excuses. Would pizza really be that tacky? Would it? I look fine in what I’m wearing…this is the west coast, everybody wears Lululemon to parties. If I thaw a Deep & Delicious ™ cake and smudge the icing with a butter knife in a ‘homemade’ kind of way, maybe it will look like I made it …*takes massive swig of the cooking wine*. Right?
Yet somehow it always comes together, for better or for worse. Here are a few little tips I’ve included on how to masquerade disarray when entertaining over the holidays. Maybe this year I’ll remember to follow my own advice. Wish me luck!
Set the table first.
I used to always leave this to last (as many do). But I’ve come to realize a beautifully set table covers a multitude of sins. First of all, it’s something for your guests to admire while you dash around finishing up the cooking. Make sure you put out wine glasses and a nice centrepiece. Secondly, it makes it seem like dinner is 'just about to happen’ - an illusion which will buy you at least an hour. Thirdly, it makes your guests feel anticipated and welcome, despite your hidden stress. Way to start the night out on the right foot!
Put out cheese and chocolate.
If guests are wising up to your 'set the table first’ ruse, they won’t have anything to complain about on the way home from the party if you’ve set out a cheese and/or chocolate plate. No need to go fancy and pipe your own canapés! Throw a few pieces of interesting cheese, crackers and some charcuterie onto a board with a knife. Leave out some nuts or chocolate. Make sure there’s wine within reach and everyone will be merry!
Have a Backup Plan.
This is open parachute territory - if something goes terribly, terribly wrong with your main course. Maybe you overcooked the turkey past the point of recognition. Maybe a well-meaning helper added a tablespoon of salt instead of a teaspoon. Perhaps there was a fire. What do you do?
1. Polenta! Always keep cornmeal and a can or two of crushed tomatoes in your cupboard. Most people already do anyway, right? Then, cook the polenta with some flavourful oil, make a simple tomato sauce, add some cheese from your cheeseboard and have a friend pick up some italian sausage on their way over.
2. Fondue! If you’re more the swiss sort and you have a set, cheese fondue also makes a great backup plan. Keep a stale baguette and kirsch on hand over the holidays. Hold back some Emmental and Gruyere from the cheese board if you sense things may go south in the kitchen. Either way, European fare saves the evening from disaster.
And you made it look so easy! - Dee