Keeping it simple is a good strategy for everyday cooking. But, when holidays come around, a great host really goes all out for family and friends. Serving a meal to remember means going the extra mile.
To that end, we've put together some ideas that are a feast for the eyes as well as the palate.
Don't be afraid to show off a bit when bringing the main course to the holiday table.
Carving a turkey or a big roast can be a somewhat messy operation. So, spare everyone the details and simply bring the impressive, fresh-from-the-oven roast to the table untouched.
After the ooos and aahhhs subside, whisk the roast back into the kitchen to slice it. Be prepared for more adoration once everyone gets a load of you bringing a brimming platter to the table.
A Roast with Style
A beautifully browned roast is an impressive thing unto itself. Here are a few options for making it even more special.
- French the bones so they extend beyond the eye of the roast and take on a wonderful color while cooking. To French the bones, place the roast on a cutting surface, fat side up. With the tip of a small knife, score the fat down to the bone in a straight line perpendicular to where the bones join the eye. Next, cut down the side of each rib to meet the scored line. Then, go back and remove all the meat between the bones and scrape the bones with the edge of your knife to remove any lingering bits of meat and fat.
- To add even more drama to the finished the roast, add paper frills on the end of each Frenched bone. Store-bought or homemade, these little paper covers conceal the tips of the bones and add an air of formality to the finished presentation.
- And if you want a real showstopper, opt for a crown roast of lamb, pork, or veal. In this form, 2 or 3 racks are sewn together end to end and formed into a circle. Once assembled, it truly resembles a magnificent crown with the center filled with your favorite stuffing.
Adding the word homemade in front of anything you plan to serve for a holiday meal adds a warm, nurturing sort of feeling. If you really want to go the extra mile, homemade stock and gravy are about as comforting a notion as you can get. Canned, jarred, and powdered-mix gravies can't even come close!
Basically, homemade gravy has no more than 3 or 4 ingredients: seasoned, concentrated stock and pan juices thickened by reduction or a roux made of butter or oil and flour.
Homemade gravy starts with homemade stock—or as close to it as you can get. Admittedly, making stock is a bit of a process if you do it entirely from scratch, but here are a couple of time-saving alternatives that will keep it homemade.
- If you are starting from scratch, start the stock first. It needs time to simmer away while you prepare the rest of the meal.
- While store-bought gravy is one thing, store-bought stock is another entirely. Some brick-pack and canned stocks are almost as good as homemade. Just make sure to get a low/no-sodium variety so it doesn't get too salty as it reduces. Use it instead of water to start your own stock with aromatic vegetables and seasonings. Also, add it to the bottom of your roasting pan.
- Reconstituting glace or demi-glace is also a terrific time-saving alternative. Any of the glaces in Lobel's Pantry can be brought to stock strength by adding a ratio of 5 or 7 parts water to 1 part glace or demi.
Black Tie and Tails
The very act of serving surf and turf for a holiday celebration could be considered going the extra mile. No doubt, a perfectly cooked steak paired with a cold-water lobster tail is the quintessential statement of elegant dining and gracious hosting. But wait, you can raise the pinnacle on a ne plus ultra party!
- Uncork a bottle of brut. A dry Champagne or sparkling wine's effervescence is the perfect counterpoint to the richness of a beautifully marbled steak and bites of lobster dipped in melted butter.
- Start off with a fine caviar that requires little more than buttered toast points as accompaniment, so it can be a very streamlined addition to your menu.
- Serving melted black truffle butter with surf and turf is the perfect complement to the open-water flavor of the lobster tail and the steak's beefiness.
- Give the lobster tail a lift by butterflying it. To butterfly a lobster tail, place the cooked tail on a cutting surface with the tail facing away from you. With a pair of sturdy kitchen shears wedged between shell and meat, cut a straight line to the base of the tail. Run your finger inside the shell to loosen the lobster meat, but leave the last portion attached to the tail. Carefully pry the sides of the shell apart and lift the lobster meat up, release the sides so they partially close, and rest the lobster meat on top of the shell.
- And if you want to show true dedication, follow the Lobel's master recipe for cooking the perfect steak indoors: Lobel's Guide to Cooking the Perfect Steak. Throwing a coat on in the middle of winter to grill the turf portion of the menu outside really qualifies as going the extra mile.
What steps do you take to give your holiday feast some extra "Wow!" What other ways do you add "Wow!" to your holidays celebrations?