Hosting a holiday meal for loved ones provides an exciting opportunity to bring family and friends together during a special time of year. First-time hosts may be a little nervous and put pressure on themselves to make the meal just right. But there are a few tricks of the trade novices can employ to calm their nerves and enjoy their first foray into holiday hosting.
Go with what you know. Experimenting in the kitchen can be fun, but such experimentation should be avoided when hosting for the holidays. When planning the menu for your holiday dinner, choose a main course that you have prepared in the past. Familiarity can calm your nerves, and you’re less likely to forget key ingredients when preparing a meal you have made several times in the past. If you want to experiment a little, do so with desserts that you can prepare and test for taste several days in advance. If the desserts don’t pan out, you will still have a few days to find an alternative.
Get a head start wherever possible. The day friends and family are coming to visit figures to be hectic. In addition to preparing the meal, hosts must also ready their homes so they can create a welcoming environment for their guests. Once you have chosen the menu, look for items that can be prepared in advance of the big day. Desserts can often be made several days in advance, as can certain side dishes. Do as much prep work for the main course the night before the meal as possible.
Double check your pantry. Even if you’re making a meal you have made a dozen times in the past, peruse your pantry to make sure you have every ingredient you’re going to need. If you’re used to making the meal for four people but will now be making the meal for 12 of them, make sure you have enough of each ingredient to make the meal in bulk. To make things easier, update your recipe to reflect the additional guests before going to the grocery store. Doing so guarantees you won’t run out of ingredients once you start preparing the meal.
Ask guests to bring nonessential items. Guests will likely offer to bring something to the holiday dinner, and there’s nothing wrong with accepting help. But don’t ask guests to bring items that are essential to the meal, as that can delay the meal if guests get stuck in traffic or show up late. Instead, ask guests to bring a bottle of wine, a small dessert or even some snacks guests can eat while waiting for the main course.
Ask about food allergies. While hosts don’t need to cater to every food allergy under the sun, ask each guest if there is any particular food or ingredient they absolutely must avoid. If enough guests admit they must avoid a particular dish, you then know not to prepare it. In addition, have plenty of vegetables on hand for guests who are vegan or vegetarian.