Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday…and here we are. You have barely recovered from this mayhem and are starting to gear up for Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Festivus and New Year’s Eve. Time is slipping away. Have you taken a moment to celebrate the season with family and/or friends? If not, here is your license to ride.
I was limited on space for a couple of years so I took great joy in going to others’ homes to imbibe and socialize. This year, I have a little more elbowroom to bring people together. However, it must be in a unique, food-centric way that is fun and festive, affordable for both the hostess and the guests, and crazy delicious.
Sometimes it takes a village to get the holiday spirit, and sometimes that village needs to congregate in one place to make that happen. I have three convivial suggestions for you this holiday season that will suit your palate, your wallet and maybe your time clock.
Let’s start with something slightly unconventional like my “Jingle Brunch” holiday gathering. Yes, single gal here who can whoop it up at all the evening blowouts, but with friends and family who are chasing little ones around the tree and passed out by 9 p.m., you have to get the adults while they are fresh!
The Jingle Brunch starts late morning until early afternoon. Of course, there’s a copious amounts of good coffee with cream (it is the holidays), teas and fresh squeezed juices, but there are also jalapeno Bloody Marys with an Old Bay rim, gingered bellinis and homemade eggnog (if you dare). On the menu is stuffed French toast, crab-deviled eggs with caviar, frittatas and a sausage smorgasbord that includes chicken, pork and beef sausages. The afternoon nap will soon become necessary for all!
Moving a little later in the day is what I am calling the “Never Stew Alone” holiday party, also known as the “Soup Circle.” It is the perfect way to have an informal, dare I say, impromptu holiday lunch gathering or early dinner. The ingredients are: at least three different types of soup or stew, lots of crusty bread, a big salad and plenty of complementary wines.
You can make the soups/stews yourself or work with a couple of your friends having each make one, taking care that at least one is vegetarian. Leave them in big pots on the lowest setting of the burners on your stove with a stack of bowls, ladles and spoons next to it. If you are feeling fancy, you can even have some fixins at the table for your guests to garnish their butternut squash soup (fried sage and bacon) or turkey chili (cheddar cheese and onions) or fish stew (parsley pesto crostini). There will be plenty of chatter around your hearth.
Finally, my coup de grace, for the evening-set and my foodie dinner party lovers, I present you with…the “PotPlan” holiday party! Yes, yes, we have heard of a potluck dinner where everyone brings something, their best dish, and they all sit down to eat three permutations of tuna casserole (I do love a tuna casserole though). Who needs luck when you can have a plan?! A PotPlan!
For me, a successful dinner party has eight components: cheese/snacks/nibbly bits, first course (soup/salad/amuse bouche), main protein dish (poultry, seafood, meat), three sides (two that are a vegetable, a vegetarian can compose a full plate), plenty of good wine and/or signature cocktail, and dessert.
As the host, aside from dressing the table and making everyone comfortable, you will be responsible for the main protein dish–the star of the meal. It is like the turkey during Thanksgiving. It sets the tone for everything else that accompanies it.
You will notify your confirmed guests of your main course. Then, assign the other seven components based on your guests’ strengths or let them duke it out on a first-come, first-served basis.
The single guy who doesn’t cook but can eat and pick a great cheese knows his role; the wine lover and burgeoning pastry chef couple will bring their talents to the table; and the vegetarian turns everyone out with her meatless first course. If you are having more than eight guests, ask them to share the responsibilities. The components are not equitable, but y’all are grown. You will figure it out.
And when the plan comes together…booyah! A great time will be had by all. You will see how one dish can set the tone and be translated into all of the other elements of what I guarantee will be a unique holiday dinner party.
Happy Holla…(you say)! Enjoy, get cooking and thanks for reading!
Questions at dinnertime? Chat with me at AskSCHOP, Monday through Friday, 6-8 p.m.
Kysha Harris is owner of SCHOP! SCHOP! is available for weekly service or for home entertaining. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? E-mail kysha@iSCHOP.com.