Christmas 101: Celebrate the Holiday Season - From Christmas to New Year's

Overview

100 easy, fun recipes—with menus and timetables for stress-free entertaining—to put you in the holiday spirit!

Your tree is up and decorated, the carolers are singing, and there's just one thought on your mind: How am I going to get Christmas dinner on the table and still have enough energy to plan that New Year's bash?

Rick Rodgers, cooking teacher and author of the ...
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Overview

100 easy, fun recipes—with menus and timetables for stress-free entertaining—to put you in the holiday spirit!

Your tree is up and decorated, the carolers are singing, and there's just one thought on your mind: How am I going to get Christmas dinner on the table and still have enough energy to plan that New Year's bash?

Rick Rodgers, cooking teacher and author of the bestselling Thanksgiving 101, once again takes you by the hand to help you entertain (and still be entertaining) during this hectic season. Christmas 101 features 100 of Rick's never-fail recipes, from holiday classics such as egg nog, glazed ham, and gingerbread cookies, to contemporary ideas such as Shrimp Bisque with Confetti Vegetables, Prime Ribs, and Apple Shortcakes with Brandied Cream. And since the holiday season keeps going long after the last Christmas present is opened, there are plenty of New Year's ideas, from an intimate dinner for four to an open house buffet for the entire neighborhood.

Whether you're a novice preparing your first holiday dinner or an experienced cook seeking new ideas, Christmas 101 is all you'll need.

  • Learn everything you need to know about Christmas cookie making, with detailed instructions on baking, storing, and mailing
  • Create the flavors of the season, from spirited drinks like hot buttered rum and spiced punch to holiday goodies like special breads and homemade candies
  • Save time with soup-to-nuts menus and detailed timetables for holiday parties, from an all-dessert "Nutcracker Sweets" party to a tree trimming buffet

Christmas 101 has holiday entertaining all wrapped up,with enough festive recipes to keep you celebrating all year long.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780767903998
  • Publisher: Broadway Books
  • Publication date: 10/12/1999
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.54 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Making a List and Checking It Twice

Organization is a skill I developed as a caterer. The holiday season was our busiest time. We catered every kind of party from corporate cocktail bashes, to celebrity-studded open houses, to tree trimmings (once a hostess insisted that the children decorate cookies to hang on the tree--nice idea, but what a mess!), to elegant sit-down dinners. We often had two or three parties on the same day, so each one had to be organized to the last frilled toothpick. Lists saved the day.

No matter what kind of party you are giving, a series of lists will help you breeze through the process. Every time you mark a chore off the list, you will get a rewarding sense of accomplishment. And if you look at a list and feel overwhelmed, pick up the phone and get a friend to give you a hand! Here are the lists that I use again and again.

  • Guest List: If you are having a large holiday season party, send out invitations as early as possible, no later than three weeks beforehand. Very often, guests will receive multiple invitations for the same evening, so get your claim in first. The most popular dates seem to fall on the two weekends before Christmas. (The weekend before Christmas, many prospective guests are already traveling to visit their families.) We usually give our holiday party the week between Christmas and New Year's, or sometimes even up to Epiphany, on January 6. This avoids the usual holiday party snafu, and we get a lot more acceptances. If necessary, send maps to the party with the invitations so you don't have to spend time on the phone giving directions the afternoon of the event.

    Plan on making follow-up callsto get an accurate guest count. Lately, even with an RSVP, people just aren't very good about confirming invitations.

  • Grocery Lists: For every large party, be it a buffet, cocktail gathering, or dinner party, make at least three grocery lists and a beverage list. This way you're not stuck doing a huge amount of shopping at the last minute. Also, try to shop during off hours. Especially during the last couple of holiday season weekends, it is usually less crowded at the supermarket on Friday night at 10 p.m. than on early Saturday morning. When you write down your grocery items, organize them by category so you don't have to retrace your steps because you forgot something across the store.

    The first grocery list is for nonperishable items that can be purchased two to three weeks ahead of the party. This includes candles, coffee filters, guest towels and soap, camera film, paper towels, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, bathroom tissues, and other incidentals. Buy coffee and freeze it. As I will be doing a lot of baking, I buy flour, sugar (granulated, brown, and confectioners'), eggs, vanilla, ground cinnamon, active dry yeast, and other common baking ingredients to have on hand. This way, if I have some time and the mood strikes, I don't have to go running out for staples--I just preheat the oven and stir up some dough.

    The second grocery list is for a few days before the party and is more specific. Buy all the produce that will keep for a week (like onions, potatoes, garlic, lemons, and limes), dairy items (cheese, cream, and milk, and more butter and eggs if you need them), and canned goods. If necessary, order special ingredients like prime grade meat, fresh goose, seafood, or caviar. Call the bakery to reserve rolls, cookies, cakes, and pies (if you aren't baking them yourself).

    The last grocery list is for the day before the party. Now you will need to get the meats, seafood, produce items, and ice that you'll need. I usually buy my produce at a greengrocer--it's less crowded and the quality is higher than many supermarkets.

    Holiday recipes call for the very best ingredients. Baked goods, in particular, require high-quality candied fruits, nuts, and chocolate. If you need to mail-order ingredients, or make a detour to a specialty shop, write a separate list for them. For example, I have a favorite shop that makes wonderful hard candies and sells great candied fruit and another that provides me with perfect walnut halves--they're out of my way, but if I anticipate what I need, I can stop by when in their neighborhoods.

    The beverage list includes all drinks, alcoholic or not. If you live in a state that sells liquor in grocery stores, put it with the second list. Otherwise, don't forget to include nonalcoholic drinks and mixers on your first grocery list. And don't forget to add drink garnishes like cinnamon sticks or whole nutmegs.

  • Prep Lists: There are a lot of cooking chores that can be done well ahead of time. Look at your menu for potential freezable items. I am not a big "freezer person," but I do freeze a few quarts of homemade stock.

    Many cookie crusts need to be chilled for a few hours or overnight before rolling out. This can actually be a boon, as it allows a window of opportunity to bake other cookies that don't need prechilling.

    Be realistic about how much time it will take for you to make something. Only you know how fast you can roll out and decorate cookie dough. And schedule in cleaning time. It is much easier to clean as you go along than to wait until the dishes are piled so high you can't stand it anymore.

  • Utensil Lists: When I was a beginning cook, I was pretty enthusiastic and very often jumped into a recipe before checking to be sure if I had the right utensils or serving dishes. Sometimes the recipe turned out, and sometimes . . . not. The same thing happened when I designed an overly ambitious menu, and found myself trying to make a sauce in a skillet because all of the saucepans were already filled.

    Make a list of all the pots, pans, basters, roasting racks, coffeemakers, and baking dishes you'll need to make the food for your party. If you're baking cookies, take stock of your cookie cutters, decorating bags and tips, and cookie sheets (you can never have too many of these during the holiday baking season). I have tried to use pots and pans found in typical kitchens, but if a recipe calls for something out of the ordinary, it says so in the headnote. You may have to go to a kitchenware shop or a mail-order source for a couple of items, but then you will have them for future holiday celebrations.

  • Tableware List: At the top of the list is a healthy supply of large, self-sealing plastic bags to store cookies and other baked goods. When I throw a party, I use them to store food in the refrigerator instead of bowls, which take up too much refrigerator space.

    Check that you have all the serving dishes and utensils you need for your party. Many items are probably stored away, so take them out and wash them. To keep all of these bowls and platters straight, list what food goes in what dish. If silver has to be polished or linens washed and pressed, schedule those jobs well ahead of time.

    If you don't have enough china and silver, purchase high-quality disposable plates and utensils at a party-supply shop. Buy the good stuff--you really don't want your plate to collapse under the weight of the food. A few years ago, I bought inexpensive dishes and flatware at a restaurant supply shop, and they have paid for themselves many times over. Sure, you don't have to wash the disposable stuff, but my ecological conscience tells me that it's not so hard to wash plates and forks. And at a buffet, where you sometimes balance food on your lap, a disposable plate can't hold a candle to a sturdy glass or china one. In a pinch, I'll use plastic cups (or heatproof ones for hot drinks), but I still prefer my stash of cheap restaurant-quality glassware and coffee mugs. You can always borrow what you need from family or friends, or rent them. Most rental companies have a minimum charge during the holidays. It might seem excessive, but if you factor in convenience, it may not seem so expensive after all.

    For a multi-dish dinner party or buffet table, draw a "map" that shows where the serving dishes and centerpiece will go so as to be sure that everything will fit. If it doesn't, figure out where you will put the excess. At my house, I have found that I have more room if I put the plates on a sideboard, and the silverware (which has been rolled up inside the napkins) goes at the end of the buffet, so guests don't have to juggle it while filling their plates. If you are serving a crowd at a buffet, pull the table away from the wall, if necessary, so guests can serve themselves from both sides, and put two utensils in each bowl for faster service.

  • The Bill of Fare: Always write out the complete menu, including beverages, and tape it in a prominent space in the kitchen to be sure that everything is served. In the fray of a big party, it is easy to forget to put something out. For a large dinner party with dishes that require final preparations, I make a timetable (see Holiday Menu Planner on page 149). I even put down "Make coffee and tea" on the timetable as a reminder.

    I have also started a new tradition. A friend gave me some blank engraved menu cards. In addition to the scribbled menu in the kitchen, I now inscribe the complete menu in my best handwriting, and place it on a stand in the dining room. It's a nice touch, and my guests enjoy knowing the "official" names of the dishes. (My friend Charlie is handy with a computer, and when you go to his house for dinner, each place setting has an elegantly printed menu. Now, that's class!)

    When planning a menu, be realistic about what you can prepare and store. Don't become a victim of what I call "TV-itis." That's where someone who watches television cooking shows where the chefs prepare an elaborate dish thinks he or she can pull off the same dish with the same ease. What you don't see on these shows is the crews of helpers backstage chopping and mincing and cleaning up!

    A common dinner party problem is having too many side dishes that need to be heated in the oven. (Not everyone has a double oven.) To avoid an oven traffic jam, balance the baked side dishes with those that can be prepared on the stovetop. Also for a buffet, it's easy to prepare too many dishes that need refrigeration. If necessary, plan to borrow refrigerator space from a neighbor. (Occasionally, when the weather is cold, I turn my terrace into a walk-in refrigerator and chill some food outside, but that's not for all climates, and if there's a warm spell, I'm in trouble.) So be practical and design a menu that works for your kitchen and your cooking skills.
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