There’s no place like home for dinner
Daphne Oz, co-host of ABC’s food and talk show ‘The Chew,’ has come out with her second lifestyle cookbook, where she explains how to host fun, stress-free parties at the holidays – or any time of year
In her first book, The Dorm Room Diet (William Morrow, 2010), certified chef and integrative nutritionist Daphne Oz helped college students tackle dorm living. In her second book, Relish: An Adventure in Food, Style, and Everyday Fun (William Morrow, 2013), the daughter of author and TV personality Dr. Mehmet Oz shares her tips on delicious, healthy eating and how to relish and celebrate food, style and life.
Q: What are your top tips for making holiday meal hosting stress-free?
A: The biggest thing that stresses people out is thinking that everything needs to be piping hot when guests arrive. Figure out what foods can be served hot, cold or room temperature. One of the first things I learned doing “The Chew” is the battle strategy. Chef Mario Batali has the entire day planned in 15-minute intervals – what goes in and when. Have a hot something to greet your guests – I love chestnut soup in little espresso cups around the holidays. Then I have cold salad sitting on the table, so guests aren’t waiting forever to eat. I’ll serve a warm entrée – stews and braises are favorites in the fall and winter – and have side dishes that are good lukewarm, such as corn pudding.
I also set the table the night before – that saves time the next day. I try to limit sit-down dinners to no more than 12. And not every holiday meal has to be a big sit-down affair; I think people prefer a buffet table.
Q: How do you put your guests at ease?
A: Guests want to feel taken care of, but it also helps if you give them ways to feel at home. I let them fix their own drinks or greet new guests and take coats – something that puts them in the mentality of being at home. I like to make my signature cocktails or drinks, especially mulled wine in the winter, and let them help themselves.
Q: Let’s talk table decorations. How do you make your holiday tables special?
A: Around the holidays I love pine cones, branches, and other ways of bringing the outside indoors. I do lots of candles and fragrances – a combination of spicy candles with cinnamon in the kitchen, for example. The world around you is so beautiful around the holidays – I love a little shine and shimmer, like a bowl or cylinder of Christmas balls, or I put balls in glass votives. For decorations the big thing is not to go overboard. Do a bowl of pine cones and glitter them up with spray paint. Rethink traditional decorations and bring in as much nature as possible.
Q: You’re a guest at a holiday meal. What are some perfect hostess gifts?
A: I’m known for bringing a gift basket with a few simple things that feel personalized and mean something to me and my host. I’ll get a small galvanized bucket and fill it with immune-boosting vitamins, or some new favorite natural cosmetics. Luxury candles are nice, too. You can bring wine or food but don’t expect your host to put those out; they might not go with the meal being served.
Q: Someone brings her favorite holiday red Jell-O dish and it just doesn’t match your meal. What do you do?
A: You put your pretty hostess smile on and kindly put it in your kitchen. You’re under no obligation to leave it out with the food you worked so hard to present. If it’s your mother-in-law’s dish, maybe it’s not worth the headache, but if it’s your friend and her raspberry crumble bars don’t fit, it’s your party and you can do what you want.
Q: Have you ever had a holiday cooking disaster?
A: We always celebrate the big cooking holidays at my grandparents’ house and if there was ever a disaster, my mom or my grandmother would have pretended it was part of the plan. I can think of just one thing that happened; I grew up primarily vegetarian but we always served a turkey for guests. One year we went shopping late and couldn’t find a turkey anywhere in the state of Pennsylvania, so we served chicken. No one minded because the food was delicious and they were there to see friends and family.
My biggest tip to people who don’t host a lot is that you can plan for perfection all you want, but you just need to put on your party dress and lipstick and commit to being a guest at your own party. If you’re stressed out, that’s the cue your guests will pick up on. If you focus on love and sharing and your guests, they won’t notice that anything’s gone wrong.
© CTW Features
Daphne Oz’s Chestnut Soup
- 3 cups chopped chestnuts (canned or fresh) peeled
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 medium leek or 2 shallots (white and light-green parts only) rinsed and finely chopped
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
- 1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
- 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
- 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme plus more for garnish
- 6 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Kosher salt to taste
- 4 sprigs thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 sprigs fresh parsley
Make a bouquet garni by wrapping thyme, bay leaves and parsley in cheesecloth.
Melt butter and sauté leek, carrots, onions, and celery until translucent, covering to soften, approximately 15 minutes.
Deglaze the pan with wine.
Transfer to a large saucepan or soup pot (4-quart) and add vegetable or low-sodium chicken broth, bouquet garni, and cover; simmer for 25 minutes.
Remove bouquet garni.
Add cooked chestnuts and cover, allowing to soften for 10 minutes.
Stir in milk, salt, and pepper.
Allow to cool before pureeing in a blender in small batches and strain through a cheesecloth to remove any shells or large pieces.
Reheat pureed soup over medium heat before serving with a garnish of fresh thyme.
It’s a delicious drink for any holiday entertaining – especially over Christmas as a lighter (and egg-free) alternative to egg nog, but with some of the same familiar, warming holiday spice flavors. It can also be made with dairy-free milk, like almond coconut, if anyone in the family is interested in a vegan option.
- 3 cups whole milk
- 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg plus more for serving
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon plus more for serving
- 8 ounces (1 cup) light rum
- In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, vanilla, sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon over medium-low heat, stirring constantly to dissolve the sugar and being careful not to burn the milk. When the milk is scalded (there will be a thin skin on the sides of the pan), after about 5 minutes, remove from the heat and allow to cool to drinking temperature.
- To drink warm, divide the milk mixture into 4 heat-proof mugs and add 2 ounces (¼ cup) of the rum to each. To serve cold, fill 4 tall glasses with ice, add the rum, and top with the milk mixture, swirling to combine. Serve with freshly grated nutmeg and a dash of cinnamon.
In the winter, I crave spice, sweetness and the warmth of mulled red wine or cider. While it cooks on the stove, this sends a delicious, holiday aroma throughout the house – and of course, gives guests a warming drink to help themselves to as they arrive. I love to serve it in a mug with a cinnamon stick garnish. For those of you looking to skip the alcohol, apple cider works great in place of wine in this recipe! If you use cider and want to put the alcohol back in, serve the mugs with a shot of bourbon!
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 8 cinnamon sticks
- One 1-inch piece fresh peeled ginger, sliced into 4 rounds
- 6 cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 10 cardamom pods
- 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise and scraped
- Zest and juice from 1 orange
- 1 lemon, sliced into rounds
- Two 750 ml bottles red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, or Chianti work well) or apple cider
- In a large saucepan, combine the syrup, 2 of the cinnamon sticks, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, cardamom pods, vanilla bean, and orange zest and juice. Heat over medium heat to boiling, then immediately turn off the heat, cover, and set aside 10 minutes to steep. Add the lemon rounds and steep 2 minutes more. Add the wine and heat over medium-low heat until simmering, taking care not to boil.
- Strain and divide among 6 heat-proof mugs and garnish each with a cinnamon stick.
I love to serve these on a tray decorated with a sprinkling of cardamom pods – the aroma is intoxicating!