Plan to Entertain: The Holiday Season

If you are a regular here, you know that I have a mission to increase home entertaining nationally by 10%. Really. If you are new to my blog, now you know about my mission. Cynics kid me about the 10%. They ask, “Why 10%?” or, with a touch of sarcasm, “How will you know you have accomplished your mission?” My response is that I believe in setting expansive goals. President Obama would call them audacious. Ten percent is a nice round number and actually not so difficult to accomplish. If you normally entertain friends and family in your home once a year and I encourage and inspire you to do it twice a year, that’s a 100% increase in your home entertaining. So, help out! Entertain at home.

Make My Holiday Party Recipe Your Holiday Party Recipe
My recipe for holiday parties has three simple steps.
1. Invite people you love and enjoy being with. (Forget pay back and obligation.)
2. Think about having The Good Enough Holiday Party. Don’t set the bar unrealistically high for yourself. Over-reaching rarely has a happy ending. Either you end up saying, “No, that’s too hard” and skip home entertaining altogether. Or, you try something that’s way beyond your resources — psychic, time and/or money — and at your party’s end you are resentful and swear off future entertaining at home.
3. Whatever you do, spend the upfront time to plan and spread out your tasks over at least one week so you get your one relaxed hour before guests arrive. Plan to entertain this holiday season. Better. Easier.

Hanukkah’s Coming
Hanukkah begins Friday evening, December 11th and runs through Saturday evening, December 19th. That gives you two weekend windows to entertain friends and family with latkes. Plan ahead! If you make applesauce this weekend it will hold in your refrigerator up through that last candle in the menorah. Visit your local farm stand or farmer’s market if you can for a mix of fresh sweet and tart apples for your applesauce. (The Reading Terminal — where I am spending weekends with At Home — is loaded with varieties of local apples. Shop, visit and get a signed book…or two or three.) Latkes may be made in advance and frozen.

Traditional Potato Latkes & Applesauce
(from At Home by Steve Poses)
It’s a shame that potato pancakes tend to be made only for Hanukkah, the Jewish holiday that comes in December. The Hanukkah story celebrates the miracle of oil—there was reportedly just enough to burn one day in the temple, but it lasted for eight days. The fact that potato pancakes require prodigious amounts of oil to fry is surely a coincidence. The key to making them crispy is to squeeze out excess water from the grated onion and potato. Make the applesauce first so it’s ready for your hot latkes. The recipe will yield more than you will likely need for the latkes.

do ahead Applesauce may be made up to two weeks ahead and stored in the refrigerator. Latkes may be made up to three days ahead and stored, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator or frozen up to a month. Reheat in a 350° oven for 7-10 minutes, turning them over midway through.

Applesauce
1 cup apple cider
2 cinnamon sticks
21⁄2 pounds apples (for best results, use a mix of sweet and tart)
sugar to taste

Latkes
1 pound onion, peeled
11⁄2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon pepper
vegetable oil

1 Make the applesauce: In a large pot, add apple cider and cinnamon sticks and simmer slowly for 10 minutes, taking care not to boil the cider away.

2 Leaving skin on, core apples and cut them into chunks.
3 Add apples and sugar to pot. Increase heat to high and cover. After about 5 minutes, stir apples to move the top apples down into the liquid. Continue cooking until apples are soft and falling apart, about 10-15 minutes more.
4 Remove cinnamon sticks and reserve. Using a food mill or food processor, puree apples to desired texture. Add back cinnamon sticks to sauce. Chill. (Just be sure to remove cinnamon sticks before serving.)

5 Make the latkes: On the largest holes of a box grater, grate onion and potatoes. The large-holed grating disk on the food processor does a fine job too. Turn the mixture onto several layers of cheesecloth or an open kitchen towel. Gather the corners and squeeze the water from the mixture.
6 Combine eggs, flour, salt and pepper in large bowl. Add onions and potatoes and mix well.
7 Preheat oven to 200°. Line a baking sheet with two layers of paper towels and have another unlined baking sheet ready. Heat 1⁄2 cup oil in a sauté pan over moderately high heat until very hot but not smoking. Fill a 1⁄3 cup measure with the potato mixture. Drop it into the sauté pan and push it down with the flat side of the measuring cup so you have a pancake about 3 inches in diameter and 1⁄4-inch thick. Cook pancakes until brown and crisp on one side, about 2-3 minutes, and flip, taking care not to splatter the oil. Continue cooking for 1-2 minutes more. Add more oil as needed, making sure to get the oil hot before adding the pancake mixture. Adjust heat as needed so that the pancakes brown as they cook through without burning. As you get to the bottom of the mix it will be watery, so be sure to give it a stir. Transfer cooked pancakes to the prepared baking sheet to drain. Pat the top of the pancakes with another double layer of paper towels. Cook remaining batter in batches until all the pancakes are cooked, transferring cooked and drained pancakes to the unlined baking sheet.
8 Keep them warm in the oven until ready to serve. Serve with applesauce and/or sour cream.
yields 2 quarts applesauce and 1 dozen 3-inch pancakes

Additional note about making latkes in advance: Make sure latkes get cooked through if you are making your latkes in advance. Uncooked potato will discolor. To make sure latkes are cooked through, make sure you cook over moderate heat so that the inside gets cooked before the outside gets over-cooked.

Thursday’s Daily News — A Dinner Party a la Poses
To tell the story of At Home, Daily News writer Beth D’Addono created a mini reality show by recruiting a willing, but mildly entertaining-phobic Cara Schneider to work with me. Together we designed a plan for a small dinner party. Over the next several weeks I was Cara’s coach. I could not have wanted a better student. I confess to being a bit nervous at the outset. Would these principles to make home entertaining better and easier work in real time and real life? Read the article to find out or watch the video.

Buy the Book — Live and In-Person
At Home by Steve Poses is not available in bookstores, but only online or “live and in-person.” Please stop by one of these places. I would love to inscribe a book to you and everyone on your holiday list who loves or aspires to entertain more — better and easier.

The Reading Terminal Market on Weekends
I will be at Reading Terminal Market weekends between now and the end of the year. Look for At Home’s table in Center Court across from Meze on Saturday’s and near Spataro’s Cheesesteaks — across from the pig — on Sundays.

Beth Cooper’s Coopermarket on Monday, December 14th
Beth opened Coopermarket in 1995 and since that time Coopermarket has been an everyday and special event Main Line source for wonderful prepared foods and catering. Beth’s first restaurant job was at The Commissary and she also cooked for me at the 16th Street Bar & Grill. Sara, Beth’s key assistant, worked for me at The Market of The Commissary where she single-handedly introduced Philadelphians to fine cheeses long before fine cheese became a food store staple. I will be visiting with Beth and Sara and signing At Home on Monday, December 14th from 3 to 6 PM.
Coopermarket is at 302 Levering Mill Road in Bala Cynwyd.

Weaver’s Way on Saturday, December 19th
I will be at Weaver’s Way in Mt. Airy on Saturday, December 19th from 11 AM to 2 PM. Weaver’s Way General Manager Glen Bergman is an old friend and former General Manager of The Commissary. Weaver’s Way’s Mt. Airy is located on 559 Carpenter Lane.

Thanks for visiting.

Steve

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5 Comments

Filed under At Home News, Entertaining at Home, Holidays, Recipes, Tips

5 responses to “Plan to Entertain: The Holiday Season

  1. Anne

    That recipe is for an extremely modest amount of latkes! It’s actually laughable. 🙂

  2. Thanks for the encouragement! I have a question though, I’ve tried and tried to learn how to make latkes from my mom, but mine always turn out to either fall apart or if I’m lucky and they stay together, they are very greasy instead of light and crispy like hers. I’m really careful to squeeze out the moisture beforehand, and my mom has watched me prepare the whole thing. She says I’m just unlucky, but I must be doing something wrong- do you have any tips for me?

    • athomebysteveposes

      Soggy latkes have three potential sources. The first, too much moisture in the potatoes, you have taken care of by squeezing out the water content. The second would be frying the latkes in oil that is not hot enough. make sure your oil is hot before adding the latkes and adjust the heat — up or down – such that the latkes are sizzling in the pan, but it is not so hot as to be smoking as this would cook the outside of the latkes before the inside got cooked. The third, if you are making ahead and reheating, is to put the cooked latkes on several layers of paper towel – plus some on top and press lightly to absorb oil and then reheat in 350 degree oven until they crisp, turning once while re-heating so both side crisp. Hope this helps. Happy Hanukkah. Steve

  3. Thank you! I never thought about trying to crisp them up in the oven before. And you are probably right about my oil temp I’m always too impatient. I’m going to give it another shot 🙂

  4. Pingback: Traditions: Latkes and Choucroute « At Home By Steve Poses Blog

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