Hostess With the Mostess

28 Nov

I love to host. Until the time guests start to arrive, and I realize that I much prefer being a guest! There’s so much responsibility as a hostess, and it doesn’t really matter how prepared you think you are; there are always last minute preparations and things to cut up/cook/organize/clean in the kitchen.

But really, now that I’m all grown up with a real dining room and a full set of china and proper seating, I do like to whip out the hostess card now and again. And with Thanksgiving over and Christmas and Hanukkah around the corner, I wanted to share some of my tips for holiday hostessing:

  • Set your table the night before. Yes, I know this is a little OCD, but it’s nice to not have to worry about doing the deed the day of, when you’ve already got your hands full.
  • Make the Charlie Sheen Appetizer (Why’s it called that? Because when you serve it you’ll be “winning!“): French bread, sliced thin and shmeared with goat cheese, then toasted in the oven. Warm up some honey and drizzle it on the toasts after they come out. Finish with a sprinkle of fresh thyme. Foolproof, and people will think you’re genius. Make a big tray – they go fast. And let’s not tell our guests we called it the Charlie Sheen app… ok?
  • Candles. Nothing sets a mood like candlelight, no matter how lackluster or mismatched your dining room may be. Dim the lights and create a centerpiece with a variety of candles at different heights. Just make sure to use unscented! No one needs their nose assaulted with sandalwood while dining.
  • I bought a 12.5 lb prime rib roast (for 10 people) from Chappaqua Village Market. It was a rather large cut of fairly expensive meat. So what did I do? I did what any sane person would do: I doused it in salt, of course. Salt Encrusted Prime Rib will make you look like Julia freakin’ Child. Here’s what you do: Lay the roast bone side down in a roasting pan. In a large bowl, empty a box of kosher salt, half at a time, and add water to make a paste. Coat the top of the roast in a thick layer of salt. (Don’t coat the cut sides). Continue salting until the thing looks like a big ole’ snowball. Then put it in the oven at 500 degrees for 15 minutes to sear it. Turn the heat down to about 225-250 and cook for 5+ hrs until the meat has reached an internal temperature of 135-145 degrees, depending on whether you’d like it medium rare or closer to medium. Take the roast out of the oven and let it rest for 30 minutes (remember, it’s still cooking during this time). Then, peel off the salt crust and voila – you’ll have the most tender, flavorful roast your mouth has ever tasted. Serve it with horseradish sauce or au jus or just crumble some of the flavored salt from the crust and serve it table side.
  • Let someone else do dessert. If you’re handling dinner, there’s no reason you need to play Heroine Hostess. Either buy some pies from your local bakery or take your Mother-in-Law up on the offer to do the baking. It’s one (or 3) things off your chest and you’ll be grateful for it.
  • Make sure you have decaf coffee on hand. There’s nothing worse than the sound of silence after someone asks for decaf with their dessert, and you – caffeine junkie that you are – just stare blankly at them, wondering what this “decaf ” they speak of is.
  • Always use proper cloth napkins when having people over for dinner. They’re an easy and inexpensive way to make a dinner table feel warm and show your guests you’re happy to host them. I love buying linen and cotton napkins in fun patterns – check out Anthropologie for some really pretty ones.

Have any tried and true hostess secrets to share?


6 Responses to “Hostess With the Mostess”

  1. Yi Shun November 28, 2011 at 1:25 pm #

    My favorite tried-and-true tip: put a drink into your guests’ hands, first thing after you’ve taken their coats. Or is that too obvious?

  2. sheila November 28, 2011 at 2:37 pm #

    Prep, prep and more prep. I host 30 for Christmas dinner every year. With the chaos of the morning and, of course, the huge breakfast to be cleaned up afterwards, the more I have done in advance the better. Chop vegetables, potatoes, salad fixings and place them in ziploc bags ahead of time. Only assign appetizers to guests who have a chance of arriving on time – otherwise, dessert it is. Clean as you cook – no matter how eager your sister-in-law seems to do the dishes, less is better. And most important, make a list of what your making, how long it takes and what time it needs to go in the oven. It makes you look like a genius to have everything ready at the same time but it’s all in the planning. Happy hosting!

  3. sheri November 28, 2011 at 3:13 pm #

    I host a big “latke” party each year – and rather than have a bar stocked with every possible spirit and garnish (frying all those pancakes wipes me out!), I make a festive punch. I like switching it up each year – one year it’s frozen Red Roosters, another year Pomegranate-Champagne punch. And I agree with all of the comments above! Great post!

    • ogradysarah November 30, 2011 at 10:28 am #

      A latke party sounds like so much fun, Sheri! Latkes and liquor – what more do you need?!

  4. Erin Stancill December 8, 2011 at 4:36 pm #

    Sarah, these are some really great ideas (I am definitely going to try the CS appetizer!) and your table looks beautiful, but I’m kind of pissed that you never addressed Brian’s sweat equity question.


  1. Avoid HHD This Party Season « Westchester Life - December 8, 2011

    […] and one I hope will help you dodge disaster this holiday season. When all else fails, revert to the Charlie Sheen Appetizer and pray for the […]

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