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Don’t Hire A Caterer: Holiday Party Edition

DON'T HIRE A CATERER: HOLIDAY PARTY EDITION

By Georgette Farkas

Georgette Farkas, is officially our Culinary Ambassador at Great Performances, but we’ve also crowned her our Hospitality Maven. Drawing upon her experiences working at leading restaurants and spearheading her eponymous Rotisserie Georgette, she brings a wealth of knowledge and experience. In addition to everything she does at GP across all teams, she also regularly entertains at home, creating incredible dishes that have that extra special touch that makes the food even more memorable and delicious.

In this series, Georgette shares some of her tried and true tricks for hosting a party at home and making it look — and feel — effortless. From time saving shortcuts and grocery store secrets to garnishing hacks and presentation magic, she’ll help you host a party that’ll make your guests feel extra special and that you’ll actually be able to enjoy.

At some point during the holidays you’ve thought about having a few friends over for drinks. You consider the effort and then roll over and go back to sleep. Yes, you could hire a caterer, but here are a few tips and even a recipe from the pros at Great Performances that will have you emailing invitations with confidence. Whether you make these items yourself or use our hints for dressing up purchased versions, they will elevate your entertaining game with style and flavor.

Can you get away with serving something as simple as dips and crudités? YES! With a few clever twists. Your homemade hummus is no doubt delicious. Yet whether you choose to make it yourself or to set out a store-bought version, add color and flavor for this fresh new take. Create two separate versions by dividing your hummus in half and mixing one batch with beet juice or puree and the other with a puree of fresh greens and herbs. For the beets, purchase beet juice or cook fresh beets, puree in a food processor and season with salt. Incorporate a little bit at a time into your hummus to achieve your desired flavor and color. We suggest approximately one part beets to three parts hummus. For the green version, choose any fresh leafy greens such as spinach, chard, or kale. If you have fresh herbs on hand, such as thyme, tarragon, basil, or parsley, by all means add these as well. Blanch the greens in boiling salted water, shock in ice water, wring them out removing as much water as well as possible, puree along with the herbs and add to the second batch of hummus. Again, use approximately one part greens to three parts hummus, adjusting to achieve your desired flavor and color.

As a dipping vegetable, consider daikon, an unexpected option in place of the typical carrots and celery. If you have access to out of the ordinary vegetables such as purple ninja radishes or watermelon radishes, these will add even more color and a peppery kick. Cut in thin slices and preserve in ice water until just before serving.  If thinly sliced enough, the daikon slices will curl a bit around the edges for a slightly frilly effect. Place your bowls of pink and/or green hummus in the center of a large serving tray surrounded with a hallo of daikon or radish rounds, for a striking and sophisticated effect.  

Use these same components, colored hummus and watermelon radish or daikon slices, to create an artful tray of hors d’oeuvre. Here’s where a simplified take on using a professional chef tool comes in handy. Enter the pastry bag! Only truth be told, no need for the professional version, as a plastic baggy will do. Fill the bag about halfway with colored hummus, pushing it down toward one corner. Wrap the remainder of the bag tightly to form a cone shape. Use scissors or knife to snip about a quarter inch off the bottom corner of the bag, and voila, you have a filled pastry bag. Use it to pipe about a teaspoon full of hummus neatly onto each radish slice. This calls for one last caterer’s “trick”, really just another way to add flavor, color and texture. We have an array full of pickled vegetables on hand here in our catering kitchen, not only to preserve them at their peak, but also to add artful finishing touches. My go-to is pickled red onion. Dice finely and add a tiny bit on top of the green hummus filled radish slice for a brilliant pop of pink, not to mention a welcome bit of acidity and crunch. A jar of pickled red onion will keep refrigerated for weeks. And once you have it handy, you’ll find yourself tossing it into salads and layering it in sandwiches and more.