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Kitchen Tips for Entertaining

Kitchen Tips for Entertaining
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  • Kitchen Tips for Entertaining

    Post #1 - February 6th, 2005, 7:57 pm
    Post #1 - February 6th, 2005, 7:57 pm Post #1 - February 6th, 2005, 7:57 pm
    Hi,

    When MAG recently posted on her New Year's Eve dinner, I zeroed in on her tips for seamless entertaining:

    MAG wrote:I made it about an hour before our first course and kept in a thermos on the back on my stove. The base was a cauliflower-potato puree that I also made prior to guests arriving and kept in a double boiler.


    Yesterday after my swim class, I chatted up a woman who is a retired caterer. I wanted her feedback on some food I was bringing to a party. The hostess wanted the minimal amount of finishing at her home, which was very understandable. I was bringing Blinchiki, which are crepes filled with meat, then folded into neat bundles and fried to color them. Normally, they would be served immediately with some sour cream.

    I wanted to keep them warm for the trip, I also wanted to retain their crispness. She said treat them like catered Reuben sandwiches, which take a long time to fry making it impossible to do just before serving 200 people. Instead, she fries up the sandwiches and refrigerates them, then just before serving reheats them at 350 degrees for 10 minutes in an oven. She said it is important they are warmed through, though piping hot is not wanted or desired.

    I did as she suggested, heated the Blinchiki for 10 minutes at 350 degrees for 10 minutes with no ill affects.

    I have more ideas along this line, which I will get to later, what ideas or tricks-of-the-trade can you offer for seemingly* seamless entertaining?

    Regards,
    Cathy

    *We know it's work we love, though our guests cannot figure out how we pull it off.
  • Post #2 - February 10th, 2005, 7:59 pm
    Post #2 - February 10th, 2005, 7:59 pm Post #2 - February 10th, 2005, 7:59 pm
    Hi,

    Yesterday, I was at a luncheon where the hostess had made flan and desserts of cassava, purple yam and coconut. All the desserts were not cooperating when it came time to unmold them.

    Recently there was a tip in Cook's Illustrated about someone unmolding a cake on the delinquent side, where some cake stuck to the pan. CI explained this is due to fat cooling and hardening. If you gently heated the bottom of the pan on a burner, then they will unmold.

    I borrowed this idea to unmold the flan, which has caramel on the bottom of the mold, and the cassava/yam desserts which are very sticky. I filled the sink with the hottest water, then settled the pans in there to gently warm and slightly liquify the fats and sugars. It worked like a charm.

    After unmolding the flan, there was still some caramel clinging to the pan. I returned the pan to the hot water where it continued to melt the caramel for pouring on the flan.

    My friend was greatly relieved to have her desserts rescued.
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #3 - February 11th, 2005, 12:35 am
    Post #3 - February 11th, 2005, 12:35 am Post #3 - February 11th, 2005, 12:35 am
    Cathy,

    Good thinking! I remember thsat article.

    Two additional ways to unmold stubborn pastries, flans, etc...

    1. Run hot water over a kitchen towel, squeeze dry, and wrap around the bottom and sides of the upside down pan and let the heat from the rag temper the pan.

    2. Turn it upside down and give it a quick blast from the propane torch.

    :twisted:
  • Post #4 - February 11th, 2005, 1:30 am
    Post #4 - February 11th, 2005, 1:30 am Post #4 - February 11th, 2005, 1:30 am
    My favorite entertaining tip:
    Prepping for a big party often involves many baking sheets of canapes, reheated stuff (reubens, blinchikis, crabcakes, whatever). There's never enough room for them all, and it's hard to stack them without crunching the food itself.

    Although my kids are quite grown up now (both over 6 feet at 14 and 16), we have kept a small stack of 2x2 Duplo Lego: two of those on each corner of a cookie sheet makes a great prop about 2" high. They're stable, dishwasher safe, and easy to store.
  • Post #5 - February 11th, 2005, 10:36 am
    Post #5 - February 11th, 2005, 10:36 am Post #5 - February 11th, 2005, 10:36 am
    I learned from a chef friend that you can prepare risotto ahead of time by cooking it 1/2 to 2/3 through, spreading it in a thin layer on a large cookie sheet lined with wax paper or parchment and refrigerating.

    When you're ready, heat up your stock, transfer the partially cooked risotto to an appropriate pan and add the remaining stock until you get the correct consistency.

    Instead of spending 30+ minutes at the stove, you spend > 10 and the risotto suffers not a bit. I've done this dozens of times and haven't had a clinker yet.


    Marc
  • Post #6 - September 28th, 2005, 10:26 am
    Post #6 - September 28th, 2005, 10:26 am Post #6 - September 28th, 2005, 10:26 am
    Over the weekend, I learned a tip for transporting hot food from Bruce, which I tried yesterday when bringing freshly smoked hot links to the Katrina dinner:

    Preheat your insulated cooler by pouring in a quantity of boiling water. In my case, I boiled 1. 5 gallons water and poured it into the cooler. Bruce advised to wait five minutes, then pour out the hot water, wipe it down and put in your food. For additional insulation, you may also wrap the food container with towels fresh from the dryer. Any empty spaces fill with crumpled paper.

    Using this method, I brought 20 pounds of smoked hot links on a 90 minute trip ready to serve piping hot. Bruce indicated this could hold for about 4 hours.

    This is not only a great idea when transporting food. It could also serve you well when having a party to store warmed foods until ready to serve.

    Thanks again Bruce!

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #7 - September 28th, 2005, 2:59 pm
    Post #7 - September 28th, 2005, 2:59 pm Post #7 - September 28th, 2005, 2:59 pm
    Corning makes an insulated flat carrier for their cake/casserole dishes. I have one that fits an 11x19x2 pan that is very useful for carrying all kinds of things to parties.

    I picked it up without having to buy another pan at the Corning outlet in the Kenosha outlet mall at 94 and Hwy 50.

    Not a transporting, but a coping-with-party-quantities trick:
    My kids have long outgrown Duplo-size Lego (the stuff that's about 3/4" per "dot") but we kept a big stack of the 2x2 square bricks. Two of them stacked in each corner of a sheet pan make great stands to stack pans of hors d'oevres awaiting the oven. They're dishwasher safe too.
    What is patriotism, but the love of good things we ate in our childhood?
    -- Lin Yutang
  • Post #8 - September 28th, 2005, 4:05 pm
    Post #8 - September 28th, 2005, 4:05 pm Post #8 - September 28th, 2005, 4:05 pm
    Here is another idea that I used in the old days.

    Throw 2-4 bricks into the bottom of the oven. Heat them up with the food.

    Take your large cooler. Line the bottom with a section of two of the local paper. Place the four hot bricks in there. Add another layer of newpaper and then the heated food.

    It makes for a heavy load but it keeps the food warmer.
  • Post #9 - September 28th, 2005, 5:00 pm
    Post #9 - September 28th, 2005, 5:00 pm Post #9 - September 28th, 2005, 5:00 pm
    I'd suggest that there's really no need for actual boiling water. While most heavy duty coolers can accomodate real boiling water not all coolers can and some may suffer as a result. I'd have to go downstairs and look at the thermo on my hot water heater but I know it's set somewhere around "pretty darned hot". Rather than boiling/moving/dumping a couple gallons of water I just put the cooler in the bathtub under the spigot and (after having "primed" the hot water) run hot tap water into the cooler.
  • Post #10 - November 13th, 2005, 4:29 pm
    Post #10 - November 13th, 2005, 4:29 pm Post #10 - November 13th, 2005, 4:29 pm
    Hi,

    My favorite tablecloth is a white damask largely because I can wash it in the laundry machine. It will be out next week for Thanksgiving. I never snap at people when they spill gravy or cranberry sauce. Why? Long ago discovered Spray'nWash product specifically for White Laundry. I have read on various boards that Chef's like this product to keep their whites white.

    White Laundry is a gel, which allows you to target stains straight on. Once everyone has left, I take the tablecloth outside to shake it out. I then go to the laundry room and do stain treatment as I tuck it into the washing machine. You want to avoid this stuff touching your clothing because it will ruin it. Set the washer to run, then wash your hands to remove any traces.

    The reason I am bringing this up is because I am having a hard time finding this product. I used to reliably get it at Woodman's. I find it is available online and buying a case for $19 + S&H is very tempting. While expensive I consider the savings not having the send tablecloths to the dry cleaners or toss them because they are irreversibly stained. Actually renting a tablecloth is often cheaper than the dry cleaners.

    If anyone comes across this product, to please advise.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #11 - November 13th, 2005, 5:56 pm
    Post #11 - November 13th, 2005, 5:56 pm Post #11 - November 13th, 2005, 5:56 pm
    Cathy, I can understand liking your damask because it's easy to wash. But that doesn't get it ironed! I have memories of standing at my mother's ironing board for half an hour or more, with sheets on the floor beneath the ironing board, and a bottle of spray starch at hand, trying to iron the big damask tablecloth. I now own my MIL's damask, but always seem to be pulling out the polyester instead.
  • Post #12 - November 13th, 2005, 6:08 pm
    Post #12 - November 13th, 2005, 6:08 pm Post #12 - November 13th, 2005, 6:08 pm
    Hi,

    This tablecloth is from Linens and Things --- all 132 or 144 inches of it. I maybe paid $65 for it. So probably it is polyester but very convenient and doesn't need ironing. After sitting on a hanger for most of the year, I might take a cool iron to it on the table itself.

    We also have some Irish linen, which I have used White Laundry on. It does have the additional step of using laundry starch and ironing. So they get done with the kitchen curtains from time to time. (I love laundry starch for keeping cotton crisp).

    Regards,

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #13 - November 13th, 2005, 6:17 pm
    Post #13 - November 13th, 2005, 6:17 pm Post #13 - November 13th, 2005, 6:17 pm
    My sister-in-law bought a stain resistant tablecloth from QVC last year. We poured wine and a couple of other things on it and no stains. I think it has a Teflon coating.
    Last edited by Bruce on January 2nd, 2006, 10:12 am, edited 1 time in total.
    Bruce
    Plenipotentiary
    bruce@bdbbq.com

    Raw meat should NOT have an ingredients list!!
  • Post #14 - January 1st, 2006, 8:24 pm
    Post #14 - January 1st, 2006, 8:24 pm Post #14 - January 1st, 2006, 8:24 pm
    Hi,

    Follow up report on Spray'n Wash White Laundry Bleach Gel.

    Before Thanksgiving I was on the edge of buying a lifetime quantity of White Laundry via the internet. Instead I bought a Clorox Bleach Pen, which has a bleach gel in a cute pen container allowing you to 'paint' the bleach on the stain. Nice delivery system though a steep price of around $4. for a mere 2 ounces of bleach gel.

    Just a few days for Christmas I was buying odds and ends to finish off Christmas dinner, when I passed the laundry aisle at Jewel. My intention was to buy another Clorox Bleach Pen for cleaning the tablecloth after the festivities. I scanned the Spray'n Wash shelf once more and my eyes locked on my beloved White Laundry Bleach Gel. (Believe me, stains are not easy to remove. You'd be in love with a stain remover if you found something that works.) For less than the cost of one Clorox Bleach Pen, I got 12 ounces of bleach gel!

    Naturally not expecting my luck to hold out forever, I bought two bottles of gel. I will probably buy another two on my next trip to sooth my neediness for this product.

    Now that the tablecloths are back in order, it's back to the food!

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #15 - February 22nd, 2006, 11:52 am
    Post #15 - February 22nd, 2006, 11:52 am Post #15 - February 22nd, 2006, 11:52 am
    Hi,

    There was an article in the very local paper around Christmas time regarding your plumbing and entertaining. The plumber commented how they are often called out on Thanksgiving, Christmas and during parties to deal with clogged plumbing. He advised our kitchen down spouts narrow over time with accumulated fats. He suggested in advance of a party to fill your kitchen sinks (assuming you have a double sink scenario) with the hottest water possible, then let them drain simultaneously. The volume of water draining will melt the fats and send them down the channel.

    For monthly maintenance, he suggested getting a bacterial cleaner to drop into your drain for overnight cleaning. Since I use enzymes as laundry pre-soaks for difficult stains, I recognized this was a workable solution. Today at the hardward store I bought 'Granular Bacterial Drain and Trap Cleaner,' whose label information paralleled the advice of the plumber.

    While his advise works for the fatty clogs, you really need a plumber when you shove peelings from 10 pounds of potatoes down the disposal on Thanksgiving morning. :wink:

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #16 - April 16th, 2006, 9:38 pm
    Post #16 - April 16th, 2006, 9:38 pm Post #16 - April 16th, 2006, 9:38 pm
    Hi,

    We have several punch bowls. For years, we always needed to clean them before any use because they would collect dust. This came to a stop once we stored them with clear plastic wrap covering the opening. We go one stop better by nesting the punch cups inside, then covering with wrap. When we pull them out now, all we do is a light dusting on the exterior and they are ready for action.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #17 - April 17th, 2006, 7:44 pm
    Post #17 - April 17th, 2006, 7:44 pm Post #17 - April 17th, 2006, 7:44 pm
    Cathy2 wrote:We have several punch bowls. For years, we always needed to clean them before any use because they would collect dust. This came to a stop once we stored them with clear plastic wrap covering the opening. We go one stop better by nesting the punch cups inside, then covering with wrap. When we pull them out now, all we do is a light dusting on the exterior and they are ready for action.

    I try to keep seldom used items like this inside a plastic bag. Then you don't even have to dust the outside.

    However, if you're storing silver, wrap it fabric first because the plastic can damage it. If you add one of those no tarnish strips, you won't have to polish it.
  • Post #18 - August 21st, 2006, 10:23 pm
    Post #18 - August 21st, 2006, 10:23 pm Post #18 - August 21st, 2006, 10:23 pm
    HI,

    How to keep cold food cold when transporting it ...

    A few years ago we had a Chef who regularly did television presentations present a talk at Culinary Historians. Her preferred method of keeping food cold was to fill gallon-plus sized zip-loc bags with ice to mold around her food as needed. The bags didn't leak (well, most of the time), then later the ice ice could be used for drinks when no longer needed for keeping food cool and the zip loc bags reuseable for another day.

    While it probably should go without saying: she chilled her food before packing them into coolers.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #19 - August 22nd, 2006, 1:36 am
    Post #19 - August 22nd, 2006, 1:36 am Post #19 - August 22nd, 2006, 1:36 am
    My entertaining trick, which I'm sure isn't exclusively "mine", is to keep the beverages simple. Rather than trying to have a full bar on hand, I focus on making one fun cocktail that matches the "theme" of the party or is seasonal. Sangria is always a hit and is so easy and cheap. Augment it with some soda and maybe some beer and you're good to go with much less expense and time spent at the liquor store. Each of my parties now is remembered for the drink I served: the "sangria party", the "mojito party", etc.
  • Post #20 - December 6th, 2006, 7:41 pm
    Post #20 - December 6th, 2006, 7:41 pm Post #20 - December 6th, 2006, 7:41 pm
    HI,

    I was reading Consumer Reports recently looking for tips on cleaning rugs. They shattered a bit of conventional wisdom I had willingly adopted a long time ago: serving white wines and colorless sodas when entertaining.

    Consumer's Reports has the luxury of time to see how things evolve over time. They poured white wine and colorless sodas on white carpet, then watched over time what might happen. Months later they noticed the spill locations darkened over time because the sugars had oxidized. They reasoned it was better to use red wine and colored sodas because you would observe the stain and treat it immediately. Whereas the colorless liquids couldn't be identified though over time they came back to haunt you.

    For treating grease-less stains, Consumer Reports endorsed Oxy-Clean Action for treating before a general cleaning.

    ***

    Years ago when my nieces were tiny, we had a Christmas party. Before the party, I pulled the girls aside to have a pre-party chat. I told them if they had an accident spilling drink or food, to please, please tell me right away. I promised not to get mad, though I needed to find the stains early to take care of them.

    During the party, the girls go running by with large white streaks on their party dresses. I followed them to find out the source, when I inquired the youngest cheerfully explained, "Don't worry Cathy, it's just paint!" Talk about a heart stopping moment. I asked a few more questions, then found out it was the whipping cream from the eggnog. A minor pain to clean, though nothing like paint!

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #21 - November 20th, 2009, 5:07 pm
    Post #21 - November 20th, 2009, 5:07 pm Post #21 - November 20th, 2009, 5:07 pm
    Hi,

    For holiday dinners with a lot of last minute work to do. I will start cooking potatoes an hour before they will likely be served. Instead of draining the potatoes in the sink, I use a Chinese wire scoop to drain and move the potatoes into my KitchenAid bowl. The potatoes are mashed and seasoned. I will leave the *paddle in the mixing bowl, dismount from the mixer and cover the top with foil. I put the bowl back in the potato water set to simmer to keep the potatoes warm. The potatoes will taste fresh for about two hours, though by then they have already been served and eaten.

    *If the potatoes look like they need a little more beating before serving, the paddle is already there ready to hook up. It saves having to clean a crusted over paddle in the last minute flurry.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast

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