Make-ahead menu gets the party started
Nov./Dec. 2014 California Bountiful magazine
Story by Barbara Arciero
Photos by Jennifer Morris
Five crowd-pleasing recipes from Orange County chef Aaron Anderson
Chef Aaron Anderson says running a restaurant is a little like hosting a dinner party every night.
"You've always got to be anticipating your guests' needs and, hopefully, exceeding their expectations," said Anderson, executive chef of Harlow's, a lively farm-to-table restaurant and bar in San Juan Capistrano.
That's sound advice for anyone planning a dinner party this holiday season, but Anderson cautions about taking the role of host or hostess too seriously: "You're doing it to have fun with your friends, so try to make the whole process fun."
That starts with building your menu around fresh, local ingredients—an easy task here in California.
"Fruits and vegetables that are in season will give any dish the best flavor," Anderson said. What's more, shopping at the neighborhood butcher shop or local farmers market "helps create a story. It gives you something to interact and talk with your guests about," he said.
Simplicity is another key to successful entertaining. "Stick to a few flavorful ingredients," Anderson suggested, "and choose food items that don't require a lot of preparation."
Finally, remember to select make-ahead recipes that can be prepared in advance, he said, "which keeps you from sweating in the kitchen while your guests are waiting in the dining room."