The holiday season is full of family, friends, and good cheer, but this winter wonderland can also come with plenty of stress. To combat your holly-jolly jitters, we tapped the talented New York City chefs behind this year’s annual JBF Greens Holiday Party to get their tips on planning ahead, whipping up show-stopping eats, avoiding gift pitfalls, and more.
JBF: What is your go-to piece of lifesaving advice for holiday entertaining?
Allen Dabagh, Boutros, Brooklyn, NY: Plan, plan, plan. It’s important to plan everything out, and have as much prepared as possible before your holiday party. Since I come from a big family, we always have lots of help. Make sure you can assign very specific tasks to family members and friends—not just something vague like, “make the cake”—so that your plan doesn’t go awry. This always lets me enjoy the holidays instead of just being at the stove or rushing to get things done.
Garett McMahan, Celestine, Brooklyn, NY: My go-to advice would be to make good use of casserole dishes.
Becky Rosenthal, Becky's Bites NYC: Start backwards. Prepare desserts first, and make a game plan of sides and dishes that can be cooked simultaneously. It will save you so much time and stress! Also, if possible, make things ahead of time. That’ll give you time the day-of to decorate and enjoy your guests’ company!
Josh Bowen, John Brown Smokehouse, Queens, NY: Plenty of eggnog.
JBF: What is your favorite show-off, impressive dish when hosting holiday dinners?
JB: A good, shiny ham always does the trick.
AD: One of my favorite dishes to make during the holidays is a special porchetta recipe. It's always a beautiful centerpiece and everyone usually picks at the crispy skin before it hits the table. I stuff it with oranges, pomegranate, dried cherries, mint, parsley, cilantro, and a warm spice blend that just creates that perfect holiday flavor. Bonus: it makes the best leftover sandwiches the next day.
BR: My favorite special holiday recipe is Ina Garten’s rugelach. They do require a lot of time and effort, but they are so worth it.
GM: I'd have to say shucking oysters.
JBF: What's the worst present you've ever received?
BR: The worst present I ever received was a decorative wine bottle holder for my house. It was not my taste at all. I think gifting décor items can be tricky (unless you know the person really well!). Everyone has his or her own taste and style. A nice bottle of wine or dessert is always a good gift!
JB: Pretty much any CD my grandma bought me at Walmart. Who knew I liked Milli Vanilli and Shania Twain?
AD: I can't really remember the worst gift I ever received. When I was kid, I always thought clothes were boring—it was all about toys! But I learned to appreciate every gift as I got older, and I’m sure a few of the gifts I've given people might have fallen into the “worst gift” category! It’s definitely always better to focus on the thought—it does count! Now instead of toys, I prefer cookbooks.