Friday, November 11, 2011

an entertaining state of mind

for some reason, this tableau has me all aglow thinking about entertaining. it's been so long since i've done it in my own home, and one of the things i most look forward to when we (finally) move to a new place (hopefully in the spring) is having a space that's more conducive to that. in the meantime, i'm collecting ideas and looking to forward to thanksgiving, always expertly executed at my parents' house. are you planning for thanksgiving yet? i have to share this totally wonderful interview with ina garten about thanksgiving specifically. she shares so many awesome tips that are great really for any entertaining situation - she just knows her stuff, doesn't she? take a gander. if you don't have the time, here are a few of the best tips she gives:

here's what she says about planning and prep: 

the planning is everything. deciding which dishes you're going to prepare can turn into the make-or-break decision five days later, when you actually serve the meal. so the first thing i'll do is make a list of what i'd like to make. and then i look at it and think, do i really need seven vegetables?[laughs] and i start crossing things off. 

i'll decide upon the appetizers and the dessert; i think about the colors, the flavors, and the textures. if i'm doing string beans, i'll want something pureed with them, because it has a completely different color and texture. and then i'll want something that's sort of chunky or roasted crisp; for instance, the brussels sprouts with lardons are completely different than the celery root — and-apple puree, which is completely different from the string beans and shallots. you want to make sure they all balance each other well. 

the next thing i do is think about how many dishes on that menu have to be made in the moment. and if anything has to be made right before serving dinner, i take it off the list or find a substitute. the third thing i do is a schedule of how i'm going to get the meal on the table. not thanksgiving day, but before i've gone shopping.

i'll do a schedule saying, "i want to serve dinner at six o'clock." i'll work backward. the turkey has to go into the oven and cook for two and a half hours, and it has to rest for half an hour. i'll write, "3:00: put the turkey in. 2:30: turn the oven on." and then i'll figure out: if i only have one oven, what am i going to do about it? can i make a gratin in the oven if i have a turkey in the oven? no, that's out. but i can make the string beans with shallots, because that's on top of the stove. and i can make a celery root — and-apple puree, because that's on top of the stove. so it's really important to figure out what your resources are and what you want to make before you go shopping, to figure out if you can do it.

on leftovers:

oh — i realize i have one other tip, one other thing i love to do for thanksgiving. it makes it a little more difficult, but as long as you're making one of something, you can make two. you can double it. if somebody comes to my house for thanksgiving, they're missing one of the great things about thanksgiving, which is leftovers. [so] i always make twice as much as i need, and then i pack up the leftovers so everybody gets to take some home…i remember at barefoot contessa [ina's former gourmet store in east hampton, ny], on friday we sold as much thanksgiving dinner as we did on thursday, because everybody who had gone to somebody else's house wanted turkey sandwiches with cranberry sauce the next day. so i always make sure that everybody has little bags with leftovers to take with them.

a couple other great little nuggets are that kosher turkey is always the best because it's already salted, and also that making the gravy a few weeks before the big day and freezing it saves time, space and a lot of last minute shuffling.

but really, you have to read the whole article, i just thought it was such a gem.

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