Monthly Archives: December 2013

Party Pronto

Think it’s too late to gather some good friends and throw a New Year’s Eve party? Maybe not.

The older couple behind me in the Costco line the other day apparently was planning a party, and it didn’t look as though it would take more than an hour to organize.  Theirs was a veritable party-in-a-cart: A variety pack of frozen, bake-and-serve hors d’oeuvres; a tray of crudité, nicely arranged on a plastic platter, only in need of a bowl of dip, and a frozen lasagna. With the addition of some alcohol, ice and perhaps a salad and some Italian bread to go with the entree, they’d be ready to rock.

Another instant party approach was suggested by our cousin, a young working mother, who entertained her in-laws over the holidays. With kids to care for and a husband who couldn’t take time off from work to help, she said there was no way she could clean the house and do the cooking, too. So she turned to a favorite local Italian restaurant, which delivered dinner piping hot. Everyone enjoyed the meal and the company…including the hostess.

Let’s all resolve to indulge in some time-saving party helpers in 2014. I hope that it’s a hysteria-free year for you!

I’ll still be celebrating on Thursday. Look for me again on January 7.

Secrets to a Speedy Holiday Dinner

If you’re short on time (but not on money), rack of lamb makes a fine centerpiece for a special dinner. Last Tuesday, instead of having the whole day to cook, I unexpectedly spent the afternoon visiting a friend in the hospital. So it was fortunate that rack of lamb was the dish my husband had requested for dinner on Christmas Eve. I was able to serve an elegant meal within an hour of our arrival home that evening, thanks to the brief amount of cooking time that a lamb rack requires and to some strategic planning and preparation.

The night before, I purchased all the ingredients, and made sure to wash the parsley before bed, so that it would be ready for chopping in the morning. After breakfast, I made the persillade (a mixture of parsley, garlic, bread crumbs and olive oil), which would go on top of the lamb for a brief browning after the meat had been broiled for only about six minutes per side or until it was almost done. The whole process would take less than 20 minute.

Since my goal was to finish dinner in a flash, I also sauteed sliced mushrooms and chopped leek in olive oil, so I could quickly add them to the brown rice I would cook in chicken stock when I got home. And I whipped up a creamy lemon vinaigrette and toasted pignoli nuts to complete the salad that would start the meal: A combination of arugula, sliced pear and gorgonzola cheese. Finally, I stored a mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer, to be used for whipping heavy cream that would turn fresh raspberries into dessert.

All that was left to do that night was to cook the rice and combine it with the waiting vegetables; trim and roast the asparagus; broil the meat, and toss together the salad. By 7 pm, we were toasting the holiday and sitting down to a nice meal.

It’s Not a Competition

In the End, It’s Not about the Food” is the title of an article written by Canadian food journalist Corey Mintz in a pre-Thanksgiving issue of the New York Times. Of course, I have said as much in this column on more than one occasion, but I think you’ll benefit from what Mintz has to add. After all, as the author of a column called “Fed,” Mintz has hosted 201 dinner parties during the last few years!

Here’s the link:

My best wishes to all of you for a happy and hysteria-free Christmas!