Beverly Hills Egg-Nog calls for “excellent-quality bourbon” and heavy cream. The recipe (Pages 84-85) is from “The Art of the Host: Recipes and Rules for Flawless Entertaining” by Alex Hitz (Rizzoli, $45). CONTRIBUTED BY IAIN BAGWELL
Photo: Iain Bagwell
Photo: Iain Bagwell

A head start for hosts: Recipes for a totally do-ahead holiday gathering

The holidays are a happy time. But they can be stressful, too, especially when it comes to entertaining and planning meals. Several new cookbooks take on those tasks by offering tips for hosting with recipes that simplify cooking for a crowd.

A current favorite is “The Art of the Host: Recipes and Rules for Flawless Entertaining” by Alex Hitz (Rizzoli, $45).

Hailed by The Wall Street Journal as “the very best host in the world,” Hitz grew up in Atlanta, where his love of cooking began in his mother’s kitchen. And he later co-owned the Patio by the River, the restaurant that became Canoe.

But his culinary journey took him from Le Cordon Bleu, Paris, and Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School to kitchens in New York City, France and Beverly Hills. Hitz’s first cookbook, “My Beverly Hills Kitchen: Classic Southern Cooking With a French Twist” (Knopf, $35), propelled him further into the life of a celebrity chef.

“The Art of the Host: Recipes and Rules for Flawless Entertaining” by Alex Hitz. CONTRIBUTED
Photo: Contributed

Nowadays, he’s best known as speaker, columnist, event designer, and traveling bon vivant who cooks and hosts some 40 weeks a year. In “The Art of the Host,” Hitz puts together menus and recipes for all kinds of occasions, including Thanksgiving, Christmas and Boxing Day.

Calling from the road recently, Hitz answered the question: How do you become the very best host in the world?

“My first cookbook garnered so much attention, and a lot of, lot of press, and that’s when The Wall Street Journal did that big story,” Hitz said, laughing and quickly adding, “The New York Post called me ‘the Ralph Lauren of food and wine.’ It was great. I couldn’t have written it better myself.

“But what I’ve found is that it’s the exact same thing for all the people I consider to be really great hosts all around the world. It is straightforward, simple, oftentimes very indulgent food. Something so delicious and simple and bursting with flavor that each bite is an occasion, and elegantly and casually presented.”

Alex Hitz, who grew up in Atlanta, was hailed by The Wall Street Journal as “the very best host in the world.” “The Art of the Host” offers recipes and rules for entertaining, and Hitz puts together menus for all kinds of occasions, including Thanksgiving and Christmas. CONTRIBUTED BY IAIN BAGWELL
Photo: Iain Bagwell

When it comes to tips, Hitz has two categories: Always and Never.

“I always use salted butter and table salt in my recipes, because they were written for it,” he says. “Number two is never stop smiling. Everything is going to go wrong sometimes, and it’s going to be OK if it goes wrong, if you don’t stop smiling.”

The recipes for “A Totally Do-Ahead But Super Swanky Christmas Eve Dinner” go back to Hitz’s childhood in Atlanta, when it was all about Christmas concerts, because his stepfather, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s Robert Shaw, “conducted at least 12 of them every December.”

“Everything in the book is do-ahead, which is essential,” Hitz said. “There’s so much stress around the holidays, so why not just do it ahead, and get it out of the way? Then you can enjoy the whole thing.”

“One Dish — Four Seasons: Food, Wine, and Sound — All Year Round” by Jordan Zucker. CONTRIBUTED
Photo: Contributed

Another recent favorite, written from a very different perspective, Jordan Zucker’s debut cookbook, “One Dish — Four Seasons: Food, Wine, and Sound — All Year Round” (Home Sauce Publications, $45), takes a base recipe and builds four different versions for winter, spring, summer and fall.

Zucker hosts “Girls Guide to Sports,” appeared on the Food Network’s “Grill It!” with Bobby Flay, and played a recurring character on the TV series “Scrubs.”

The lavish, coffee table-size cookbook is a breezy, can-do collaboration with Zucker’s home cook mom, Betti Zucker, and former sommelier dad, Jim Zucker, and each recipe has a suggested wine and music pairing.

Jordan Zucker hosts “Girls Guide to Sports” and appeared on the Food Network’s “Grill It!” with Bobby Flay. Her debut cookbook, “One Dish,” takes a base recipe and builds four different versions for winter, spring, summer and fall. CONTRIBUTED BY PETE LEE
Photo: Pete Lee

Most of the winter and fall recipes will work well for the holidays, and many can not only be made ahead, but often take less than an hour from prep time to table.

With Zucker’s Vodka, Caraway and Dill Lox and Miso-Maple Cookies, and Hitz’s Beverly Hills Egg-Nog and Louise’s Seafood Pot Pie, you can put together an easy do-ahead holiday dinner, and still have time to celebrate.

RECIPES

These four recipes from “The Art of the Host” by Alex Hitz and “One Dish — Four Seasons” by Jordan Zucker can be made ahead and served to a crowd for a Christmas Eve buffet or just about any holiday gathering.

Beverly Hills Egg-Nog calls for “excellent-quality bourbon” and heavy cream. The recipe (Pages 84-85) is from “The Art of the Host: Recipes and Rules for Flawless Entertaining” by Alex Hitz (Rizzoli, $45). CONTRIBUTED BY IAIN BAGWELL
Photo: Iain Bagwell

Beverly Hills Egg-Nog

This classic eggnog calls for “excellent-quality bourbon” and heavy cream, making for a potent and decadent holiday libation.

Recipe: Beverly Hills Egg-Nog
  • 12 eggs, separated
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon plus a pinch salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 cups (1 quart) excellent-quality bourbon
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • Ground nutmeg and cinnamon for garnish
  • In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the egg yolks, sugar, 1 teaspoon of the salt, the vanilla, and bourbon, and beat them together on medium speed until they are light and fluffy, approximately 3 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a bowl, and stir in the heavy cream, but do not whip it.
  • Clean and dry the stand mixer’s bowl, and add the egg whites. Whip the egg whites on medium speed with the remaining pinch of salt until soft peaks form. Fold the egg whites carefully into the egg yolk mixture and refrigerate the eggnog covered for at least 4 hours and up to 3 days before serving it cold.Serves 12.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 627 calories (percent of calories from fat, 54), 8 grams protein, 44 grams carbohydrates, no fiber, 27 grams fat (15 grams saturated), 294 milligrams cholesterol, 282 milligrams sodium.

 — “The Art of the Host: Recipes and Rules for Flawless Entertaining” by Alex Hitz, Rizzoli New York, 2019

Louise’s Seafood Pot Pie is part of Alex Hitz’s totally do-ahead Christmas Eve dinner. The recipe (Pages 88-89) is from his book “The Art of the Host: Recipes and Rules for Flawless Entertaining” (Rizzoli, $45). CONTRIBUTED BY IAIN BAGWELL
Photo: Iain Bagwell

Louise’s Seafood Pot Pie

This rich and easy pass-along recipe can be made up to 3 days ahead and baked before serving. But it may be even better reheated the next day.

Recipe: Louise’s Seafood Pot Pie
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter, divided, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 3 pounds mixed shellfish such as finely diced shrimp, lobster, scallops, crabmeat or oysters
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1 1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoons ground black pepper, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups dry vermouth
  • 1 pound medium button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 2 large shallots, finely diced
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons dried tarragon
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 pound Gruyere cheese, grated
  • 1 (11-by-16-inch) sheet all-butter puff pastry
  • 1 egg
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
  • Melt 8 tablespoons of the butter in a large, heavy stockpot over medium-high heat. When the foaming has subsided, add the seafood, 3/4 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of the black pepper and saute the seafood approximately 4 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula until it is only partially cooked through. Add the vermouth, and continue to saute for another 3 minutes or so until the seafood is just cooked through but still very rare. Drain the seafood in a colander over a bowl, set aside the seafood, and return the liquid back to the stockpot. Add the mushrooms and shallots, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/8 teaspoon of the black pepper and let the mushrooms and shallots steep in the liquid approximately 5 to 7 minutes, until they are just cooked through, and then drain them into a colander over a bowl, set aside the vegetables, and return the liquid to the stockpot. Add the milk, 1 1/2 cups of the heavy cream, the white wine, dry mustard, tomato paste, tarragon and the remaining 1 1/4 teaspoons salt and 3/4 teaspoon black pepper, and whisk the mixture vigorously to break up the tomato paste. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and allow the sauce to simmer.
  • In a separate heavy skillet over medium-high heat, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter and the flour together to make a roux, and then add it to the milk-cream mixture, again whisking vigorously to break up any lumps, then bring it to a boil and remove from the heat. Whisk in the cheese a little at a time to make a smooth sauce. Add the cooked seafood and mushrooms to the prepared baking dish, pour the sauce over the seafood and mushrooms, and place the puff pastry on top, trimming the edges to make it neat. (The pot pie may be assembled up to this point, covered, and refrigerated for up to 3 days before bringing it to room temperature again before finishing the cooking.)
  • In a small bowl, beat the egg with the remaining 2 tablespoons heavy cream. Brush the puff pastry with the egg wash, place the baking dish on a sheet pan as there will be overflow from the cheese, and then place the pot pie in the oven. Bake it for 25 to 30 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and cooked through. Let the pot pie rest for at least 10 minutes before serving.Serves 12.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 678 calories (percent of calories from fat, 64), 38 grams protein, 20 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 46 grams fat (24 grams saturated), 240 milligrams cholesterol, 626 milligrams sodium.

 — “The Art of the Host: Recipes and Rules for Flawless Entertaining” by Alex Hitz, Rizzoli New York, 2019

Vodka, Caraway and Dill Lox doesn’t take much prep time, but it needs 24-36 hours to cure. The recipe is from “One Dish — Four Seasons: Food, Wine, and Sound — All Year Round” by Jordan Zucker (Home Sauce Publications, $45). CONTRIBUTED BY PETE LEE
Photo: Pete Lee

Vodka, Caraway and Dill Lox

This make-ahead holiday crowd-pleaser takes only 15 minutes to prep, but it needs 24-36 hours to cure, so plan ahead.

Recipe: Vodka, Caraway and Dill Lox
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup orange zest (from 1 to 2 oranges)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tablespoons caraway seeds
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 salmon fillet, skin-on, about 4 pounds
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • Combine the salt, sugar, zest, dill, caraway seeds and peppercorns in a medium bowl. Place a piece of foil down, big enough to wrap around the entire fillet. Top with a piece of parchment paper and then a piece of plastic wrap. Sprinkle a third of the dry cure in the middle to create a bed for the fish. Place the salmon skin side down on the bed. Pour the rest of the dry cure over the fish to fully submerge and cover it. It’ll look like a lot, because it is and it’s supposed to. Pour the vodka evenly over the entire thing. (It all swims more in the rub than in the booze.) Wrap the salmon tightly in each layer and transfer to a baking dish (or something else that will catch juice). Place a weight on the wrapped fish and put the entire situation in the fridge.
  • Refrigerate overnight and flip after 12 hours. After another 12 hours, give it a check. Remove the fish from the fridge, open it up, and poke it. It’s supposed to be firm around the edges but should still bounce back so there’s a thin crust around the fish and it isn’t dry all the way through. When this consistency has been achieved (usually in 24 to 36 hours, depending on how thick the fillet is and how much weight you have on it), rinse it off, pat dry, and thinly slice at an angle.Serves 12.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per serving: 178 calories (percent of calories from fat, 28), 30 grams protein, trace carbohydrates, trace fiber, 5 grams fat (1 gram saturated), 1,758 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber.

 — “One Dish — Four Seasons: Food, Wine, and Sound — All Year Round” by Jordan Zucker, Home Sauce Publications, 2019

Miso-Maple Cookies can be simple or decorated. The recipe is from Jordan Zucker’s “One Dish — Four Seasons: Food, Wine, and Sound — All Year Round” (Home Sauce Publications, $45). CONTRIBUTED BY PETE LEE
Photo: Pete Lee

Miso-Maple Cookies

These simple but scrumptious cookies take only about 30 minutes to make, and they’re perfect served with tea or coffee, or decorated for the holidays. Double the recipe to make two batches.

Recipe: Miso-Maple Cookies
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup miso shiro paste, also known as white miso, available at Whole Foods or Asian markets
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon full-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  • Using a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugars until smooth. Beat in the egg, miso shiro and maple syrup. Beat in the yogurt. Gradually beat in the dry ingredients.
  • Scoop out 1 heaping tablespoon of dough and place on a naked cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough, about 2 inches apart, until about 2 cookie sheets are filled. Slightly flatten the top of each cookie. Bake for 12 minutes, or until slightly golden and crackling. Transfer the baking sheets to a wire rack and let cool.Makes 20 cookies.

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per cookie: 202 calories (percent of calories from fat, 43), 3 grams protein, 26 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 10 grams fat (6 grams saturated), 36 milligrams cholesterol, 355 milligrams sodium.

 — “One Dish — Four Seasons: Food, Wine, and Sound — All Year Round” by Jordan Zucker, Home Sauce Publications, 2019

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