Between decking the halls and shopping the malls, preparing for a festive feast might seem like a stressful feat, but culinary expert, chef Chandra Riccetti, owner of The Bastion Restaurant, offers some menu planning suggestions along with a scrumptious side dish recipe that’s guaranteed to get the holiday festivities started off on a delicious note.
Chef Chandra Riccetti
The Bastion Restaurant
2100 Hemphill St.
Fort Worth, TX 76110
Chandra Riccetti’s passion for cooking has taken her to the far corners of the world ever since graduating from Paris’ renown Le Cordon Bleu cooking school. Over 25 years of professional cooking experience, including stints at several Michelin star restaurants and teaching culinary classes at California’s Le Cordon Bleu, has led Riccetti to where she is today, running a European-style private restaurant that provides spectacular dining events and some of the most sought-after culinary classes in the area. When it comes to preparing holiday meals, Riccetti believes that it should be as stress-free as possible and has one rule in her household—”whoever cooks does not clean up.”
Tip 1: Plan your menu
“Planning ahead ensures that you will have time to enjoy your family and friends and not be one of those hosts who ends up in the kitchen the entire dinner, while people pop in to visit,” says Riccetti. Start off by writing down a list of every dish you would like to serve, then go back and delete everything except your top five choices, she advises. Riccetti considers five courses the perfect number for a quintessential holiday feast.
Tip 2: Give new recipes a trial run
While you might be eager to try out a new recipe for the occasion, Riccetti advises to pass it through the taste test before you present it on your menu. Practice making it at least once in the weeks prior to the event. You wouldn’t want any unwelcome surprises at the dinner table.
Tip 3: Prepare what you can in advance
To make cooking and hosting easier, Riccetti suggests making as much as you can in advance so that on the actual day of your dinner, you can concentrate on one or two dishes and simply reheat the others, leaving you time to enjoy yourself as much as possible. Additionally, don’t forget to free up storage space in the refrigerator and freezer in the days leading up to your dinner.
Riccetti shares one of her favorite recipes for a roasted cauliflower Dauphinoise. It’s a French classic that she amps up with cauliflower in place of the potatoes. It’s a perfect make-ahead dish that’s warm, comforting and delicious.
Roasted Cauliflower Dauphinoise
- 8 cups cauliflower cut into 1-inch florets
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
Toss florets with olive oil and salt and spread in a layer on a baking sheet. Roast at 450 degrees F for 20-30 minutes, tossing every 10 minutes until tender. Set aside in a casserole dish.
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 tablespoons all purpose flour
- 1 quart half & half
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
- 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese
Melt butter in saucepan over medium-high heat, whisk in flour, stirring constantly for 3 minutes. Slowly add half & half, stirring constantly for 5-8 minutes until thickened. Remove from heat, stir in salt, pepper, nutmeg and cheese. Pour over cauliflower and toss to coat. If preparing in advance, let cool, then cover and refrigerate up to 3 days. When ready to serve, heat uncovered for 20 minutes at 350 degrees F until bubbly.
Ilene Jacobs is a freelance writer living in Dallas, Texas. Ilene enjoys writing about a variety of topics, ranging from food, fitness and travel, to kids, pets and senior care. You can find some of her work at Examiner.com.