It’s that time when friends drop by. Chef Tara, here at Sizzleworks, loves to greet her guests with a signature cocktail, made from ingredients you may easily keep on hand for just such occasions.
And, be sure to read on for chef carol’s tips for do-ahead entertaining, the first in a series of entertaining tutorials.
chef tara’s best ever champagne cocktail.75 ounces Ste. Germaine elderflower liqueur champagne or sparkling wine of choice twist of lemon or orange zest
In a champagne flute, add Ste. Germaine and top with your bubbly, then add twist. Simple and easy, but sure to please!
baked brie with roasted grapes
What better way to celebrate the harvest than with a dish made of grapes .. who knew roasting them would make them SOOOooo flavorful!1/2 pound seedless red table grapes, or Champagne grapes 4-5 tablespoons olive oil 2 tablespoons sugar (optional) one 6 to 8 ounce round of Brie finishing sea salt (I like the Chardonnay Smoked salt for this) toasted baguette slices or crackers
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a jellyroll pan with parchment paper.
Taking care to keep the bunch or bunches intact, carefully wash the grapes and drain them, removing any damaged grapes or foreign objects. Place the grapes on parchment-lined pan. Sprinkle with about half of the olive oil. Bake for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, place Brie in small ovenproof serving dish. At the 30 minute point of roasting the grapes, place the brie in the oven to warm and soften, about 8 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle the grapes lightly with sugar, and return to the oven until the brie is softened and ready to serve.
When cheese is done, remove from oven. Top with warm grapes; sprinkle with remaining olive oil and finishing sea salt. Serve immediately, surrounded with toasted baguette slices or crackers.
Serves 6 to 8.
tips from the do-ahead diva
When it comes to partying, I have thrown my share over the years, from 2 to 200 plus in my own home. So, I understand the stress that may ensue, and I am living proof that you can host a beautiful get together, open the front door with having your hair on fire, and enjoy your guests. Here is my first installment on entertaining. I like to think of it as a process, whether i’m planning cocktails, buffet, sit-down dinner, or just a casual meal, this is how I do it:
- Why have a party? Set a date.
- Guest list (list 1)
- Menu (in a grid format) (list 2)
- Recipe name, left-most column
- Where will you find this recipe again? book & page number, next column
- How many to prepare, and how many servings will this yield, next column (this is especially important when you are planning a cocktail party or buffet service)
- When to prepare. My goal is always to prepare as much in advance as possible.
- Serving dish — yes, I know this sounds annal, but you;ll thank me later when you are not planning to serve three different things on the same dish!
- Garnish — if it’s on the list, you may even remember to place fit on the food!
- Shopping lists (lists 3 & 4)
- One for make ahead foods and one for
- Fresh items & ice
- Don’t forget non-alcoholic beverages, paper products, flowers, candles, equipment.
Let’s talk about menu planning for a moment. Choose one dish to be the star, and the rest to be simpler, or supporting actors, as if in a movie. And tai into consideration how the food will be prepared —
- Does everything need to be heated in the oven at the last minute?
- Do you have the skills and equipment?
- How will food be served – plated, buffet?
- Will you need help, for prep or serving? Trade service with a friend, hire a neighborhood teenager, or get your children involved.
Make ahead, be SMART! RELAX, take a deep breath!
And when your guests arrive, greet them with a smile. Most of all, enjoy their company!