Entertaining for the Holidays? Cookbook Author and Blogger Smitten Kitchen Has Some advice

the smitten kitchen cookbook deb perelman

Photo: Courtesy of Alfred A. Knopf

It's officially Thanksgiving week. Some of you may be furiously writing lists, ordering turkeys, and baking up a storm in advance of the familial onslaught. Others may be packing up the car and picking up a good bottle of red. What's universal is this: Thanksgiving kicks off the official "holiday season," which is rife with hosting opportunities for couples.

No experience? No problem. We sat down with none other than Deb Perelman of (newly-released!) The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook for her tips on no-stress entertaining for even the newest of newlyweds.

BRIDES: What do you recommend newlyweds that keep in mind when they're cooking at home?
Deb Perelman: They should be having fun! There's no right way to cook, I don't think. A lot of us tend to gravitate towards "chef-y" cookbooks, but it can be stressful to cook like that at home. I tend to favor more basic recipes--like getting down the method for flat-roasting a chicken. Then then one day when you're craving mushrooms, you can throw that in the bottom of the pan, too.

BRIDES: Building upon the basics is always a great thing, and learning how to do them well is so important. Are there any recipes in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook that you particularly recommend for newlyweds?
DP: Well, I definitely recommend the flat-roasted chicken if you like roast chicken--it's a great trick to have up your sleeve (Find it on page 173). It's also important to have a few salads you really like. I think the kale salad is perfect for this time of year, and the vinaigrette is also versatile (Find it on page 67). With chicken, potatoes and hearty greens, you'd have a nice, well-rounded meal.

BRIDES: How about dessert?
DP: My favorite repertoire-builder is my mom's apple cake. It's very simple to make, and doesn't use any fancy ingredients: just apples, oil, eggs, sugar and cinnamon. It's also really good on day two, day three, and day four--if it even makes it (Find it on page 239).

BRIDES: What are three essential pieces of kitchen equipment or serving pieces that you use over and over again when you're entertaining?
DP: Use your wedding registry to ask for those things that feel like more of a wedding gift. A 5-7 quart Dutch oven is a great thing to start your marriage with. You'll have it forever, and it won't break or burn. It's a little step up from something you'd normally have, but I really do feel strongly that you'll probably be giving it to your children and grandchildren.

I used to think it didn't matter what price you paid for a bread knife, but then I got a good one and realized it did. It's not just for bread, though. I use it for cutting cakes and brownies, even tomatoes. A quality serrated knife will get you far, and you can find ones in the $50-$100 range.

A beautiful serving or cake platter is an investment piece that might be on the table for every dinner party you host. White or silver, just something really pretty. Serving things family style is "in" right now for entertaining, and you're going to want a big platter that accommodates the roast, the potatoes AND the vegetables.

BRIDES: Can you recall a newlywed entertaining moment of your own? Either a failure or a success?
DP: Once we decided we were going to make a bunch of savory tarts. It's such a pain. You make all of these crusts and fillings, everything gets baked separately, everyone gets the tiniest piece and everyone goes home hungry (Find the perfect savory tarts for intimate gatherings on pages 95-100).

One of my favorites was a last-minute dinner with friends. I picked up potatoes, greens, a baguette and some mussels (Find it on page 156). It takes about 10 minutes to make the mussels, beginning to end, including rinsing them. Slice the baguette, make some oven fries and a big green salad. It's a quick menu to make with ingredients that you can pick up on your way home from work, and people are like "Wow, you made that?" And then tell them to bring over the wine—you're cooking dinner!

BRIDES: What's the takeaway?
DP: If you're in a tizzy in the kitchen, nobody is having fun because YOU set the tone. For example, I love making bread--but the time you're having a dinner party is not necessarily the time to test out your baguette-making skills. Like why would I add that to the list when I could go to a bakery and get a great one? The idea of having to make bread before you can even start cooking dinner is CRAZYTOWN. Now if that's your favorite thing on earth to do, then do it! But figure out what else you can outsource.

—Arielle Shipper

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