There aren’t many more days before good ole St. Nick comes down your chimney or through your fire escape or is announced by your doorman. Take some moments to gather family, friends and neighbors together to eat, drink and be merry. And for those who can’t be merry, at least they can eat and drink. The plan doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive or solitary. 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, a holiday party in the evening to unwind is perfect since, if not ourselves, we all have friends and family who are chasing little ones around the tree and passed out by 9 p.m., so you have to get the adults while the sun is high!
The “Jingle Brunch” runs from late morning until early afternoon. Of course, there are 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 eggnog (avec or sans alcohol). On the menu are stuffed French toast, crab-deviled eggs with caviar, frittata 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 complimentary wines.
You can make the soups or 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 nearby. 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), 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); main protein dish (poultry, seafood, meat); three sides (two that are a vegetable so 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, Tiny Tim couldn’t predict a more joyous time. 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.
I am preparing for an end of year wrap-up and desperate for your Harlem culinary winners of the year. It can be a food, a dish, a restaurant or eatery or person. Please email, Facebook or tweet me with your nominations. Use #BestofHarlem2012.
Happy Holidays! Enjoy, get eating and thanks for reading!
Kysha Harris is a food writer, culinary producer, consultant and owner of SCHOP!, a personalized food service offering weekly and in home entertaining packages. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? Invitations! Email her at kysha@iSCHOP.com, follow her on Twitter @SCHOPgirl or Facebook www.facebook.com/SCHOPnyc or chat with her on Instant Messenger at AskSCHOP, Monday-Friday, 6-8 p.m. For even more recipes, tips and food musings, subscribe to her blog at www.talkingSCHOP.wordpress.com.