Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Some entertaining advice. Or "the holidays don't have to suck the life out of you"

This is the time of year when people start baking and planning their holiday party menus. This year I'm a humbug! I'm so overwhelmed with Christmas knitting (see other blog) that I can't be bothered with anything else. Luckily we have a freezer full of leftovers so there is no need to cook most nights. I'm not a baker so my Christmas baking has always been minimal at best. I made some pumpkin biscotti the other day. It was good but the friend I got the recipe from put white chocolate chips in hers which made them taste quite a bit better but I didn't realize this so mine didn't have the chips. I have since added it to the written recipe. I like making biscotti, since they need to end up dried out and hard, it's a pretty easy recipe for a non-baker. And they are great to have on hand to dunk in warm drinks when guest stop by.

Last night Tim informs me that he wants for finally do a tapas type party for his team at work. We had talked about this last year but the team couldn't set a date so it fell off the Christmas schedule. This year they have a date set. Great. Tim says he is going to do all the cooking (which is better than last year when he wanted me to help even on the night of the event). He only needs my help to set the menu. We had solidified a menu last year but do you think I can find that now? No, of course not. So we have to sit down and do it again. And argue over it again. As an inexperienced caterer, Tim wants to do unrealistic things. So I have to burst his bubble to make sure he doesn't make the whole thing too labour intensive.

That's the problem when people entertain, they tend to make the whole event too labour intensive. My advice, do as much a head as possible, pick only one labour intensive item for the time of the event, and plan out everything in advance. Make a project plan like itinerary for the food prep during the event. What has to go in the oven at what time, what you can put out on plates while waiting for the oven stuff to get done. Plan what order you will serve things. Even plan what serving dishes will be used for what items.

Here is how I break it down. For each item I write out the following:
Preparations - ahead and at serving time
Cooking or chilling instructions and times
Serving instructions and serving ware.

Then I piece it together like a puzzle, not thinking of the dishes as a whole but as each task as an event that can be done when it best fits in the puzzle. You'll be surprised as how much you can do ahead of time. For example Tim wants to do a version of my layered salad on a stick. That's his theme, "Everything on a Stick". So he can put the cherry tomato, a small boccochini, a slice of proscuitto and a basil leaf on each skewer ahead of time on serving trays if he can fit them in the fridge. This can be done the day of the event (some things can be done a couple of days ahead of time). Then about 20 - 30 minutes before serving, he can drizzle the skewers with a olive oil balsamic drizzle. And they are good to go! So as soon as he gets to the event, he would drizzle these skewers and have them ready to go out as the first course while doing everything else he needs to do. I always try to have something either waiting for my guests as soon as they arrive or within minutes of their arrival. Best to get some food into those bellies as the drinks start to flow!

Planning how you are going to serve the food is actually more important than what you serve, in my opinion. If your guests are waiting around for food or it is overcooked, undercooked or turns out wrong, it's a bad thing. Do less but do it right. Less really is more!

Now back to knitting!

No comments: