Chef Erich’s Top Ten Hacks for a Fun & Successful Holiday Meal
By Erich Eggers
Hosting a holiday meal at your house can be overwhelming and stressful. You need a game plan and a strategy if you want to wow your friends and family. With the holidays right around the corner, I wanted to share my favorite holiday hacks that I use consistently when I host at my house.
- Planning & Prepping: Planning is crucial in making your event easier and more fun. Plan out your entire event from start to finish. How many courses are you preparing? Know what you want to serve for drinks, appetizers, main course, and dessert. Do as much of the work beforehand as possible, including chopping vegetables, measuring and prepping spices/herbs, pre-making appetizers and desserts, and more. Make a signature cocktail that can be prepped in larger quantities before the event. I also know ahead of time who I am going to recruit to help me in the kitchen when it comes down to crunch time.
- Holy Trinity: I learned this little tip from my mother-in-law, Carol Dorgan. When she is prepping for the holiday meal, she will make enough of the holy trinity (onions, bell peppers & celery) for all of her dishes that require this versatile mixture. She will make this up to a week ahead of time, then she simply measures out what she needs.
- Gaaaahlic: I will admit, I cheat on this one. I use a lot of garlic in my recipes. Especially “my” garlic soup, or should I say, Emeril Lagasse’s garlic soup. Rather than getting garlic heads, I buy peeled garlic. It saves a tremendous amount of time.
- Wine: Many of the recipes I use call for wine in the ingredients. If I’m cooking with wine, I only use a wine that I would drink. So, in other words, I would not buy “cooking” wines. Yes, the cooking wines are less expensive, but they also taste less expensive.
- Spice of Life: Don’t forget to taste your food as you are making it. This allows you to make adjustments to the spice level of the food. It is amazing what a little salt at the end will do to really open up the flavors of the dish.
- Theme: When I am entertaining, I like to have a theme for my parties. If I am doing a creole meal, I go all the way. Starting with the cocktails and appetizers, progressing all the way through the meal and dessert. It helps to tie everything together.
- Everybody: When entertaining large groups of people, don’t be afraid to ask for help. At Thanksgiving, I will normally have 25-30 people over to our house. Typically, I do the entire meal with the help of my sister. Now that sounds pretty impressive right? Well, that is a small lie. Everybody who comes actually helps…and I mean, helps a lot. Many people are involved in the setup crew, making sure the house is ready for serving. There are the entertainers, they help entertain the children until dinner. There are multiple bar tenders, making sure no one is thirsty. Finally, there is the clean-up crew to put the house back to normal. It’s a complete team effort in making a holiday meal come together.
- Memories: Make your gatherings memorable by creating traditions. At Thanksgiving, I deep-fry two turkeys, and I smoke one. When we are putting the turkeys in the deep fryer, all the males gather around with their cocktail of choice in hand. It’s pretty impressive to see the turkeys hit the oil. Once this happens, everyone knows that dinner is 60 minutes away.
- Cheers: Always propose a toast at family dinners. This goes along with making your gatherings personal and memorable. This year we will have a very special toast to my father-in-law who passed away this year. Be creative in your toast and have fun.
- Last but not Least: Always remember…if you screw things up really bad, you can always order pizza.
Hope these holiday hacks can make your next holiday meal just a little bit easier! Visit our Facebook page for upcoming fun with Chef Erich! From Thanksgiving to Christmas, we will post weekly holiday cooking videos. These will feature yours truly live from our showroom kitchen. I’ll take you on some kitchen tutorials including the “Holy Trinity,” entertaining with themes, deep-frying turkeys, my favorite holiday cocktails, and maybe a funny holiday story (or two).
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