Whether you're planning a massive spread for family and friends this holiday season or are just cooking for an intimate group, it can be a stressful undertaking, regardless of the number of guests. But don't worry too much, even celebrity chefs can struggle when coming up with the perfect menu.
Alex Guarnaschelli, executive chef at New York City’s Butter restaurant and TV personality, shares her tips for prepping the perfect holiday meal. She also dishes on the one thing that she struggles with when putting together a menu. Here's what she shared with Departures.
What's one common mistake people make when prepping a meal for the holidays?
"Menu planning is where a lot goes south. I always laugh when I sit down to write a menu when hungry? Not advisable. Your menu will be twice as ambitious and twice as long. Sit down, on a full stomach, and make a sensible menu that uses what equipment you have in a smart way. Some cold dishes, some hot dishes, some made in advance, and some made just before eating."
What is your favorite holiday dish, and why?
"I have a recipe called Potatoes Chantilly. It’s something my mom usually made at Christmas or Thanksgiving while I was growing up. You make mashed potatoes and then fold in whipped cream and finely grated Parmesan cheese. You then bake this in a soufflé dish until it puffs and turns golden brown. Intoxicating for all obvious reasons."
If you decided to eat out for the holidays, instead of cooking or going to a family member’s house, where would you go and why?
"Some years, we really like to take the day off? We splurge and go to Jean Georges on Central Park South in NYC. It’s a great French interpretation of an American Thanksgiving. Always has so much flavor and the ingredients so good. Of course, nothing beats a home-cooked meal."
What’s your favorite Christmas cookie?
"I’m really partial to Linzer tarts. An almond cookie sandwiched with raspberry jam in the center just says Christmas to me. I also love a dark chocolate rum ball. Loaded with vanilla and dark rum. My mother rolls them in chocolate sprinkles and then keeps them in a cookie tin filled with more sprinkles. Tasty."