First Posted: 11/4/2008 2:49:25 PM | Last Updated: 11/4/2008 2:49:25 PM
Suddenly it's November again, and that means it’s time to start thinking about the holiday entertaining you want to do this year. This can be a stress-inducing season because there is always so much to think about and so many extra activities added to your calendar. If the thought of hosting a party causes you to feel that unpleasant sensation of dread and even a slight sense of fear, I say this is the year to approach the season with a new attitude.
For many years I have been teaching cooking classes on holiday entertaining, and the first advice I give my students is “strive to be a guest at your own party.” In other words, make it your goal to have as much fun giving the party as your guests have coming to it. As a matter of fact, with proper organization and preparation, being a host can be even more fun and satisfying than being the guest.
I would like to share with you some of my time-tested tips with the hope they will help you to have lots of fun hosting your parties this year.
Plan ahead. Make lists of everything you need. Include the recipes of the food you plan to make and a complete grocery list.
A time plan can be most helpful, and you should take into consideration everything from shopping to cooking and decorating.
Choose a menu with a variety of foods that can be prepared at different times. Make sure you have a good balance of hot and cold foods. Be realistic. This isn’t the time to try new, complicated recipes, but to use recipes that you know well or are at least find fun and easy to make.
Calculate as closely as possible the amount of food you will need for your number of guests. Nobody wants to run out of food at their party, but the problem most of us have is making too much. That requires excessive time and energy to prepare, not to mention dealing with all of those pesky leftovers.
Select dishes that don’t have to be kept freezing cold or piping hot, especially if you plan to serve buffet style.
Begin food preparation several days before the party and plan on making the foods that can be stored in the freezer first, then those that require only refrigeration, leaving only a couple of fresh items for the day of the party.
Get all of the chores outside of the cooking done a couple of days ahead. That includes setting the table, arranging the flowers and any other cleaning and decorating that needs to be done. The day of the party should be kept free to finish and garnish the food and leave plenty of private time for you to get yourself ready.
If you are having more than eight guests, be sure to get some help for serving and cleaning up. You may be able to enlist the services of a friend or a teenager in your neighborhood. It is also possible to hire a professional from an agency, caterer or restaurant.
A successful party doesn’t have to rely on mixed drinks, so you may not need a bartender. Guests can be invited to help themselves from open bottles of wine or from a festive drink mixture in a punch bowl.
Finally, relax! Remember your goal is to have fun. I promise, if you do, your guests will enjoy the party more too.
The party recipe I am sharing with you is a yummy warm cheese dip that could be called a “faux fondue.” It can be prepared ahead and heated just before serving. Keep in on a warmer so it stays hot. It can be a delicious treat for a small informal gathering or include in on the buffet for a larger party.
The flavors are best in this cheese dish when you use the recommended Comte and Emmenthaler cheeses, but any natural gruyere and Swiss cheese may be substituted.
Baked Cheese Dip
8 ounces Comte cheese, shredded
8 ounces Emmenthaler cheese, shredded
1 1/2 cups (real) mayonnaise
2 tablespoons dry white wine
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
Toasted French bread slices and (optional) crisp apple slices
Stir together the cheeses with the mayonnaise, wine, onion and seasonings in a mixing bowl. Pour into a 1 1/2 quart over-proof serving dish.
Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly
Marilyn Harris has a three-hour Saturday afternoon call-in radio show on Talk Radio 55WKRC, a bachelor’s degree in home economics with a food specialty and IACP credentials as a certified culinary professional. Marilyn has authored three cookbooks and has written a feature food column in local newspapers for years; her byline appears often in national magazines, both as a food and travel writer, and on numerous pamphlets and brochures. She can be contacted via e-mail at food@CinciPulse.com.