photography by MARLBORO MAN
Hosting a dinner party is no easy feat. We know. Couple it with the holiday season and things can get fairly stressful, in no time at all. From planning out the menu to making the dishes (and keeping everyone content), there are no shortage of tasks to complete before the big night. So we enlisted the help of seasoned hostess and home chef Ree Drummond - also known as The Pioneer Woman - for a few helpful tips and tricks on making the holidays as stress-free as possible. First time hosts, take notes.
Make-ahead dishes are key when hosting, but when it comes to the holidays, which ones can be made ahead and still taste fresh?
I've made mashed potatoes days before Christmas, for years and years! I add butter, cream, and cream cheese to the potatoes and then spread them into a casserole dish. This mixture can be refrigerated for up to two days, and then baked right before the meal. It always turns out creamy and perfect, as a result of the butter and cream!
Name a dish that always has a spot on your Christmas table.
We have to have mashed potatoes - that's a must. In recent years, I've become obsessed with roasted brussels sprouts, which hardly anyone in my family likes, so that just means more for me!
What is your go-to dish to make during the holiday season?
Whew I have a lot of favorites, where do I begin! There is one that holds a special place in my heart, Soul Sweet ‘Taters. My mother and aunt used to make it every Christmas during my childhood. It’s technically a side dish, but if the world was a logical place, it would fall under the category of desserts. It's sweet, crunchy, and positively decadent!
What is one thing most people often overlook when hosting?
Don't forget the true meaning of the holiday season - to slow down and reflect on the things you are thankful for. We have a tradition at our Christmas table that involves everyone going around and naming one thing they're thankful for that year. It varies from year to year and person to person, but it tangibly reminds us all about what the day is all about. My niece used to say "Horses!!!" every year, but now that she's a teenager, her answers are slightly more sentimental. It's a fun transition to witness.
What is one thing you would rather buy than make from scratch.
I think the best and smartest things to buy are dinner rolls! Making dough from scratch and timing the rising and baking can add a whole layer of complication that isn't welcomed on the big day. The best store-bought rolls I've found are frozen dinner rolls. They're basically little balls of pre-made dough, and you just need to thaw them, let them rise, and then bake them. I put them in iron skillets to rise and bake, which gives them a nice homemade feel, then I brush them with melted butter and sprinkle them with rosemary and sea salt after they're baked. Divine!
What advice can you give to the first-time holiday host?
Have fun! Make it an experience for the whole family and get people involved. Being a host is all about opening your home. And most of all, do not stress! People won't remember whether all the food or decor was 100% perfect. What they'll remember is how they felt in your home, in your presence. Set the tone!