Making Holiday Food Look & Taste Great

Tips and Helps are always welcome when preparing holiday foods.  And holidays are really all about trying to impress your friends and loved ones with your kitchen creations.  And I want to share with you these awesome tips (with permission to use/reprint) from the group “Parties that Cook” and also the featured recipe in their website, Turkey Pot Pie Napoleon, is simply irresistible.

Your guests eat with their eyes so it is important to make the food look beautiful. Here are a few tips and tricks from Bibby Gignilliat, founder of San Francisco-based “Parties That Cook” to create show-stopping dishes for your holiday gathering:

1. Garnish the dish using contrasting color, texture and shape – For example, on our Sweet Potato Galettes (pancakes), we garnish with a dollop of sour cream, a small square of crispy bacon and a baby sage leaf. Or pipe a star of goat cheese onto a grilled polenta toast with roasted red bell pepper pesto. Garnish with a sprig of thyme.

2. Be creative in your presentation –For our Roasted Red Bell Pepper and Walnut Puree, nestle the triangular pita chips around the dip to create the look of a sun flower.

3. Serve the dish on white platters to highlight the food. A plate with a busy platter does not showcase the food. And vary the heights of the platters on your table to give depth and make it eye-catching.

4. Garnish with a light touch – Fresh herbs add a wonderful color to a finished dish but don’t hide the food. Be sure to garnish with ingredients that are in the dish.

5. Vary the base for presentation – For example, serve a chopped Ahi tuna tartar in wonton cups. The cups are made by toasting wonton wrappers in mini muffin tins until golden. Then once cooled, scoop the tartar into the cups. Other fun vessels are: hollowed fruits or vegetables, crostini (small toasted bread), endive leaves, circles of brioche or tortillas etc.

6. Use fresh, seasonal ingredients – creating a delicious dish is often the result of using the best ingredients. Use ingredients that are in season because they are grown locally vs. grown far away or flown in from another country.

7. Use ingredients that are festive and colorful. Garnish a Roasted Red Bell Pepper and Pomegranate Molasses dip using pomegranate seeds. For a colorful drink idea, serve a few cranberries in a glass of champagne.

Keeping the Stress (and Costs) in Check You Can Enjoy the Party!

1. Involve your guests in the cooking! The more involved your guests are at the party, the more memories created.

2. Celebrate with a festive cocktail and appetizer party instead of a sit-down dinner – then go a step farther and place appetizers on a buffet instead of paying for caterers/servers to pass the appetizers

3. Hire your kids to do the serving and clean up. Or hire a student at a local culinary school to cater the party

4. Serve a few high-end dishes like crab but offset the cost with a few less costly but still delicious dishes like a dip.

5. Buy your ingredients at a local farmer’s market where costs are often less and the ingredients are very fresh and plentiful.

6. When buying spices, nuts, dried fruit, dried mushrooms etc. purchase in the bulk section of your local market — you can by exactly what you need and you also often find fresher ingredients because they have a shorter shelf life.

7. Purchase your protein at Costco (or your local warehouse retailer). They have wonderful fresh meats and seafood at very reasonable prices. Or buy a whole roast like a filet and cut it into steaks (it is cheaper that way).

8. Serve beer, wine, sodas and then just one festive holiday specialty drink vs. a full bar.

9. Caterers often offer discounts for daytime events – so consider a seasonal luncheon or a brunch instead of an evening event.

10. Invite guests to bring their favorite holiday cookie to serve on a buffet instead of purchasing desserts.

11. Bake a home-made dessert a day in advance to compliment savory bites brought in by a caterer the day of the event.

12. Co-host the event with neighbors – not only does help limit your expenses – this is a great way to share the holiday spirit with friends.

About Parties That Cook

Parties That Cook stages deliciously fun cooking parties and corporate team building events in private homes and professional kitchens throughout Seattle, Chicago and the San Francisco Bay Area, including San Jose and Wine Country. Founder and Executive Chef Bibby Gignilliat pioneered the in-home cooking party concept in 1999, and extended the company’s hands-on, interactive culinary events to include a wide array of corporate team building events, cooking parties and cooking classes. For more information on Parties That Cook, please visit or call 1-888-907-2665.Book:

The Sumptuous Small Plates Deck: 30 Recipes for Deliciously Fun Entertaining by Bibby GignilliatHere’s the featured recipe of the month from the website

Roasted Turkey And Root Vegetable Pot Pie Napoleon



4 pounds turkey thighs, about 3 whole thighs (can substitute chicken thighs)

4 cups water

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup kosher salt

3 garlic cloves, smashed

1 1/4 teaspoons black peppercorns, cracked

2 sprigs rosemary, lightly bruised

4 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup chicken stock

Pot Pie Filling:

3 large carrots, peeled and sliced on a diagonal, about 1 inch long and ½ inch thick

3 large parsnips, peeled and sliced on a diagonal, about 1 inch long and ½ inch thick

1 small sweet potato, about 2 cups, cut into 1 inch dice

1 pound small red potatoes, halved (quarters if they are big)

1 medium red onion, cut into large dice

1/2 cup peeled whole garlic cloves, smashed

1 Tablespoon fresh sage, chopped

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon dried rosemary

3 tablespoons brown sugar

2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Veloute Sauce:

1/3 cup unsalted butter

1/3 cup flour

5 cups vegetable or chicken stock

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

2 bay leaves

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 teaspoon s chopped sage

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

Pinch of nutmeg

See Golden Flaky Pie Crust with Fleur de Sel Recipe below


Preheat oven to 400°F.

Brine and Roast Turkey: Cut all of the thighs in half so one half has a bone and the other half is boneless. The bones will give the dish more flavor, and cutting it in half will allow the turkey to cook quicker. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine water, sugar, salt, garlic cloves, peppercorns, and rosemary sprig. Stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Add the turkey pieces and ensure meat is submerged. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate 1-1.5 hours. Remove turkey from the brine and pat dry with paper towels. Place the turkey pieces into a large dish and rub the butter all over the top and bottom of thighs. Pour in the chicken stock and bake for 30 minutes or until a thermometer placed into the thickest part of the meat registers at 165 degrees. Remove from oven and pour off any juices into a measuring cup and reserve for the sauce. Let the turkey cool until it can be handled. Discard the skin and shred the thighs into bite size pieces and set aside.

Roast Vegetables: Place all of these ingredients into a large bowl and mix well so everything is coated evenly with the spices and herbs. Pour out onto a sheet pan and place into the oven to roast for 25 minutes or until they are golden brown. Stir vegetables half way through cooking with a metal spatula. Meanwhile make sauce.

Make Veloute Sauce: In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over low heat (don’t let it burn) and add the flour. Raise the heat to medium and whisk the butter and flour together for about 2 minutes to form a white roux. Slowly pour the stock, the reserved pan juices and the cream into the roux while constantly whisking. Add the bay leaves. When the stock begins to simmer, turn down the heat to low and cook until the sauce thickens, stirring now with a wooden spoon to get into the corners of the pot. A thin skin may form; just skim it away with your spoon. Depending on your stovetop, the sauce may take 5 – 10 minutes to get to your desired consistency. Season the sauce with the salt, pepper, sage, lemon juice and a pinch of nutmeg. Remove about 2 cups of the sauce to a smaller saucepan to use when plating. To the large pot of sauce, add the roasted turkey and the roasted vegetables. Stir gently as to not mash the vegetables.

Assemble Napoleons: Place a plain *round of crust* onto the plate. Top with a generous spoonful of the pot pie filling. Place the decorative *crust round* on top. Ladle more sauce on the plate as needed and top with the salad greens. Serves 8

Golden Flaky Pie Crust with Fleur de Sel



5 cups all purpose flour + more for bench flour

2 ½ teaspoons kosher

5 ( 1 ¼ pounds) sticks unsalted butter, cut into ¼ inch pieces and chilled

About ½ cup ice water

Nonstick baking spray

3 eggs, lightly beaten

Coarse fleur de sel as garnish

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Make Crust: In a large bowl, combine the flour and the salt. Add the cold butter and toss to coat with the flour. Using your hands or a pastry cutter, work the butter into the flour, incorporating any pieces of butter that have fallen to the bottom of the bowl. Work the dough in this way until you have pieces that are no larger than a pea. Drizzle half of the ice water over the top, and using a fork, mix the dough until it just holds together when pinched. Add more ice water a tablespoon at a time until this consistency is achieved. Bring the dough mass into a ball and flatten into a disk. Cut the disk in 4 equal parts. Form each part into a disk, wrap with plastic and refrigerate until ready to roll.

Roll Dough: Lightly flour the work surface and rolling pin. Roll a disk of dough out until it is about an 1/8 inch thick (keep the other rounds cold in the refrigerator). Using a 4 inch round or fluted ring cutter, cut the dough into 5 rounds. Lay the rounds onto a sprayed sheet pan and continue with the rest of the dough. Once you have 20 rounds make decorative leaves or vines to garnish half of the dough rounds for the top crust of the napoleon. Place the dough into the refrigerator or freezer until ready to bake.

Bake dough: Brush the dough with the beaten egg. Add the garnishing leaves and or vines to half of the rounds and brush with more egg wash. Sprinkle the rounds with some coarse fleur de sel. Bake all of the dough until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Gently remove the flaky dough from the sheet pan as it will be delicate. Serves 8




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