Gail Simmons is sharing a lifetime's worth of cooking techniques and insight in her new cookbook Bringing It Home: Favorite Recipes from a Life of Adventurous Eating. It's a perfect book to pick up if you're looking for holiday recipes, which you can pair with these key party hosting strategies from the Top Chef judge for an event you'll actually get to enjoy along with your guests:
1. Get organized.
"I think the most important thing regardless of what you're making is just to be organized," she tells The Feast. "So it's about advanced planning. You don't need fancy equipment necessarily. I don't believe that you need to go out and buy a bunch of new things to host a dinner party unless you really have nothing. But use your space and be organized about it. So the best way for me to throw a dinner party is to plan what I'm making in advance and start a few days beforehand, especially for a big holiday meal with a lot of family and friends, by making sure that I ask for help when I need it. So maybe someone else handles the wine, someone else brings the salad, and another person brings dessert, so that you don't have to spend hours in the kitchen when everyone else is celebrating and eating together."
2. Complete one course in advance.
"I also like to arrange, if I can, for a big meal, that one of the courses can be completely done in advance," she says. "For example, if it's a holiday meal coming up, a big Thanksgiving meal or Christmas or Hanukkah meal, let's say, I like to do something for winter that's like a soup or a stew. And stews and soups are always better two or three days in advance. So I would make my soup one or two days beforehand [and] put it in the fridge so it's completely ready. So all I have to do the night of is bring it back, put it back on the stove and warm it up. And that course is taken care of completely, and then it's just about putting it into the dishes. You never have to worry about you being stuck in the kitchen."
3. Don't go crazy with dessert.
"Same with dessert," she continues. "95 percent of the desserts I make are made in advance so that when you've finished the meal you're not rushing back into the kitchen to make a soufflé. I'm all for making soufflés... but do it for two people when you can get the timing just right. So it's just about planning accordingly and knowing your audience, asking for help and doing things that make sense in your space. If you have a small kitchen don't try to be rolling out dough that requires a 12-foot countertop."
4. Think locally and seasonally.
"Adjust your food to where you are and think about seasons and think about making it easy on yourself," she tells The Feast. "Because I think people's memories of great meals are, of course, when the food is great, but if it's casual and comfortable and you're comfortable and it's served in a way where you're not rushed and worried about burning things and you're able to connect with your guests. That's what makes a dinner party really fun."
5. Keep it simple
"There are definitely ways to be easier on yourself and be smart about the dishes that you make, especially around the holidays when there's so much pressure," she says. "Because then you can really focus no having fun yourself and it doesn't need to be complicated to be delicious and beautiful!"
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