It’s the time of year when we gather with our friends and family to spread holiday spirit and good cheer. Because of the special rarity of this time of year, there is often an added pressure to make it as special as it can possibly be. This adds a certain amount of stress to the holiday season, but it doesn’t necessarily have to! By keeping a level head and being prepared for the situation, planning a holiday meal can be an exceptionally fun holiday activity. Read on for how you can make the best holiday meal for you and your family.
Prepare your food correctly
Any meal, no matter how good, will be ruined if everyone gets sick after eating it. Avoid this whole ordeal by taking proper precautions with meats and raw vegetables (and any other food that calls for it). Proper food preparation will greatly improve the flavor and decrease the risk of food poisoning. For this reason, make sure any produce is well-washed. Also, make sure that certain types of raw foods don’t mix where you shouldn’t. As a general rule, buying food as fresh as possible before cooking the meal will also help.
There are many little guidelines to follow for establishing proper health codes, especially when it comes to cooking a ham, turkey, or any sort of large, meaty entree. Making sure that your meat reaches a high internal temperature is very important (use a cooking thermometer for this).
Have a personal touch
Put something in your meal that makes it specific to your family and friends. A personal touch will make everyone feel even more connected with each other. This differentiates your holiday dinner from others in a way that is intimate with your loved ones, and puts the meal very much in line with what the holiday is about. There are many different ways that this can be accomplished, almost as many as there are different kinds of families.
A simple way to accomplish this is to put out some family photos. However, if you want to go the extra mile, you can play a game that is well-liked among your family. One very creative way that we’ve seen is to get soda or water bottles with customized labels. You can send in your own design to certain companies, or have them do a design, that is based around the event. This makes for a fun way to do drinks, but also provides a great memento that can be kept after the dinner is over.
Have a balance of flavors
When cooking a delectable holiday meal, it’s important to provide a proper balance of flavors and textures. Make sure that you have a variety of sweet and savory foods to extend the pallet of the meal further. This gives the meal a larger scope, and makes it feel more complete. Also try to give a good mixture of textures. Mix creamy, soft foods with a balance of tender food that is pleasant to chew. This is a longtime culinary practice designed to give the mouth a wider range of sensations. This helps provide a starker contrast with the flavor, since multiple senses are at work with texture.
Pick a theme
Make your holiday meal feel like a complete package. Whether you are going for a meal that feels like a classic Norman Rockwell painting, or something a little more modern in its sensibilities, have a distinct theme that you can stick to. This can help provide a basis for making other decisions about the meal.
Some fun holiday party themes we have seen are Dr. Seuss “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, Gingerbread houses, Christmas Carol singing, and of course the classic ugly sweater party. Whatever theme you pick, make sure to think about whether or not this is something that everyone will enjoy. Can other fun situations arise from your theme? Ultimately, the point of the theme is to make the social situations flow easily, so don’t forget to be relaxed about how people interact with your theme, as well. Don’t try to over control something that is meant to be about family and good times.
Have an interesting entree
There’s nothing wrong with going with a traditional Christmas ham. However, try to put your own spin on something. Maybe it is that you marinate that ham in apricot preserves before cooking it (a delicious treat), or maybe your spin is just that you make the best freaking ham ever. The point is just that you need something like that. Perhaps you eschew the traditional Christmas meals for something a little more different, such as Coq Au Vin, a fanciful French-styled chicken dish. You could even go super traditional, but highly unique, with a Dickens-style roast goose, or a classy seafood meal. The point is to make something that is all your own, rather than something that everyone else may be doing.
“Look” is super important
In the culinary arts, the aesthetic of a meal is almost as important as the taste. Our minds are already preparing our body for a delicious meal when it sees an array of visually appealing food. This sort of programming makes people appreciate a meal even more. Use a variety of vibrant colors to create contrast on the table. This goes into both the look of the food, as well as the decor. Be thoughtful about things like tablecloths, plates, silverware, and centerpieces. Make sure that all of these things are working together, aesthetically. This goes back to being specific about your theme. Decor becomes a simple follow-through when you already know what you want.
Know your audience
Try to make something for everyone. Know what people like and play to the different tastes in order to make a diverse meal. This goes back to having a variety of flavors at the table. Try to put yourself in other people’s shoes with the meal. If you are making all of your decisions with only you in mind, then you might as well eat alone. Planning for the different people that will be there will make people feel welcome. For health-conscious people, make sure that there are things that will fulfill their tastes. Also be conscious of whether or not people eat gluten, have diabetes, or are vegan/vegetarian. Make a meal that pleases everyone, and it’s sure to be a hit.
Let’s discuss: Do you have any other tip that can make your holiday meal a hit?