The holidays are just around the corner and I am starting my planning early. I’m hosting Thanksgiving this year and can’t wait to start cooking. So as I was doing a bit of early prep – researching some menu ideas, I thought it would be great to share of few of my tips on hosting, cooking, and having fun doing it.
Have a Plan
I’m far from an expert on the subject, but being Russian traditions of hospitality are practically ingrained and of course there is nothing better than having family and friends gather around the table to share a nice meal. My fridge, freezer and pantry are always stocked, so even if my guests show up on short notice I’m always ready to throw something together. But for a big dinner I tend to prep and plan ahead. I don’t develop an exact menu, but certainly try to outline and get some ideas, so when I go shopping I have a plan but also flexibility.
Shortcut a Recipe
I love trying new dishes and ingredients, but tend to stay away from new recipes with too many unfamiliar ingredients (at least when hosting a party). I substitute when possible, or use a recipe as my inspiration. In fact, here’s a great post on the subject: How to Shortcut a Recipe by Dinner a Love Story creator, Jenny Rosenstrach.
Local & Seasonal
I use local and seasonal ingredients when possible. They add flavor and spark to dishes. That is why you want to have flexibility when planning your menu, so you can pick up whatever looks best in the market that day.
When I host a party I like the idea of centering my meal around one grand dish. Braising or roasting for example helps develop a lot of flavor and requires little direct attention, which leaves me with plenty of time for other dishes.
If I make dessert, I try to do so ahead; otherwise I know my guests would be more than happy to bring something sweet for the table. Speaking of which, don’t be afraid to ask for help. People are often happy to bring drinks, desserts, or even other dishes.
Stock up on drinks and refreshments, offer a bit of variety. You don’t need to have a full bar, but a few options is nice to have. Having a summer BBQ? Pick up a few unique microbrews for you and your friends to try, along with your favorites.
At the end the ultimate goal is for you to enjoy the experience. For example, I love cooking and hosting Thanksgiving at my house – it is a whole day affair. From breakfast to dinner, there is food, cooking, entertaining, and just spending time with family and friends. I set the mood – nice background music does wonders! Ultimately your mood will reflect in the food you cook and affect the flow of the party. So, when you host a party just relax and don’t forget to have fun!
Do you have any great tips? Please share - I’d love to hear from you!