Choose Your City
Change City

Hosting for the holidays

Some of our favorite culinary stars share their tips for a fun, stress-free dinner party.

Rachael Ray

Host of two Emmy Award-winning cooking shows

Her advice: “I love to miniaturize all party food,” says Ray. “People love things like sliders, mini sandwiches and deviled eggs. Creating bite-sized food makes it easier for people to try a bunch of different snacks you prepared, and it makes clean-up so much easier for the host. Nobody wants to clean a ton of dirty dishes after a party.”

Her bite-size app for this year? Bocconcini-stuffed meatballs with tomato-pesto sauce

Check out: Her new book, “Look and Cook”


Bocconcini Stuffed Meatballs with Tomato-pesto Sauce

Serves: 4


4 slices of stale white or farmhouse-style bread, torn into pieces
Milk, to moisten the bread

2 1/2 pounds ground beef, pork, and veal mix

3 garlic cloves, grated or minced

A generous handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped, plus ½ cup leaves

3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, 2 handfuls

1 egg

Salt and pepper

16 bocconcini (bite-size mini fresh mozzarella balls) or 1-pound ball cut into 16 cubes

2 tablespoons EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil), plus about ¼ cup

1 (28-ounce) can San Marzano plum tomatoes

1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1/4 cup vegetable or chicken stock


1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.

2. Place the torn bread in a small bowl, cover with milk, and soak for a few minutes. To a mixing bowl add the ground meats, 2 of the grated or minced garlic cloves, the chopped parsley, a handful of grated cheese, the egg, and salt and pepper. Squeeze the liquid out of the soaked bread and crumble it as you add it to the bowl. Mix to combine. Take a handful of meatball mix in your palm and flatten it, nestle a mozzarella bite into the center, and roll the meat around it, making 16 meatballs total, each about 2 to 3 ounces. Transfer the stuffed meatballs to a rimmed baking sheet as you roll them. Coat the balls in about 2 tablespoons of EVOO and roast for 18 to 20 minutes until they are firm and browned.

3. About 10 minutes before the meatballs are done, pour the canned tomatoes into a small skillet and mash them with a potato masher or wooden spoon. Season with salt and pepper and cook over medium to medium-high heat to thicken them a bit.

4. Pile the basil, lemon zest, ½ cup parsley leaves, stock, the remaining grated or minced garlic clove, and salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor. With the processor on, stream in about ¼ cup EVOO until a thick paste forms.

5. When ready to serve, fold the pesto into the thickened tomatoes. Ladle the sauce into shallow bowls and top with meatballs and sprinkle with Parmigiano cheese.

Daisy Martinez

Star of “Viva Daisy!” on the Food Network

Her advice: “I like to serve a little baked something with hot chocolate and coffee while opening our gifts on Christmas morning,” says Martinez. Her trick: “The night before, I pre-measure my dry ingredients for muffins in a plastic bag, then stir in my wet ingredients right before baking in the morning.”

What she’s serving: At her holiday party, guests will devour mini-morsel Mexican wedding cookies.

Check out: Her new cookbook, “Daisy’s Holiday Cooking”


Mini-Morsel MexicanWedding Cookies

Makes: (about) 60 cookies


1 3/4 cups
walnut pieces

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup tapioca starch (see Notes)

1 teaspoon good-quality ground cinnamon (see Notes)

1/4 teaspoon salt

12 ounces (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons Grade A dark amber maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup mini chocolate chips

2 cups confectioners’ sugar


1. Pulse the walnuts in a food processor until the consistency of coarse cornmeal. Do not overprocess, or they will turn oily and clumpy. (Spread the walnuts out on a baking sheet and put them in the freezer for 5 minutes before processing. Chilling helps make ground walnuts with a soft, fluffy texture.) Sift together the flour, tapioca starch, cinnamon, and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a mixing bowl using a handheld electric mixer) on medium speed, beat the butter and granulated sugar together until light in color and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Drizzle in the maple syrup and vanilla and beat until blended. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients one third at a time, beating just until each addition is blended in. Raise the mixer speed to medium and beat just until the dough is smooth. Add the ground walnuts and the chocolate chips and mix briefly, just until they’re distributed evenly through the dough.

Roll the dough into a ball, flatten it into a disk, and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for at least 30 minutes before shaping the cookies. The dough can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.

2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line one or more baking sheets with parchment paper. Working with 1 tablespoon of the dough at a time, roll the dough between your palms into a 2-inch log, then shape the dough into a crescent. Line up the crescents about 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet(s). Bake just until the bottom edges start to turn golden, about 20 minutes.

3. Let the cookies cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet(s), then transfer the cookies to a cooling rack and let cool completely, about 20 minutes.

4. Put the confectioners’ sugar in a shallow bowl. Dip the cooled cookies one by one in the sugar to coat them completely. Tap off the excess sugar. Pile up the cookies on a serving plate if serving immediately or store them in an airtight container for up to 1 week.


Tapioca starch is available in some supermarkets and health food stores. It is also available online from Bob’s Red Mill, where it is called tapioca flour, at www.bobsredmill.com.

I remember the econo-size cans and jars of spices that lined the shelves of my grandmother’s spice cabinet. I go for smaller jars of the best-quality spices I can find.

For these cookies, I prefer China Tung Hing cassia cinnamon or Vietnamese extra-fancy cassia cinnamon, both available from Penzeys (www.penzeys.com). Whatever type you choose, make sure your cinnamon is fresh and sweet-smelling before you commit to making these cookies.

Variation: Flavor the confectioners’ sugar with 2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa
powder, making sure the two are very well mixed before coating the cooled cookies.

Madhur Jaffrey

Renowned cookbook author (six of her books have won the James Beard award)

Her advice: “For a crowd, think in terms of making lots of snacks — such as my spiced roasted cashews, seasoned radishes and chickpeas for nibbling — and serve them with drinks,” she says. “Then, for supper, serve a hot soup such as red pepper soup with ginger and fennel and slices of French bread, perhaps grilled with a little grated cheese. Keep it simple. Most things can be made ahead of time.”

Her choice for a party: Chickpeas for nibbling

Check out: Her latest book, “At Home with Madhur Jaffrey”


Chickpeas for Nibbling

Serves: 4 with drinks


One 15-ounce can of chickpeas (sometimes labeled 425g)

1 teaspoon ground cumin seeds

1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds

1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1/2-3/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon chickpea flour or plain white flour

1 1/2 tablespoons olive or canola oil, plus more for greasing the baking tray

1/4 teaspoon chaat masala (optional)


1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

2. Drain the chickpeas and then dry them off thoroughly with several changes of paper towels. Put them in a bowl and add the cumin, coriander, cayenne, and salt. Toss to mix. Add the chickpea or white flour and toss again. Add the oil and toss to mix well.

3. Grease a small baking tray (7" x 10" is ideal) and empty the chickpeas into it, spreading them out evenly. Bake 15 minutes. Stir the chickpeas around and bake another 10-15 minutes. Sprinkle the chaat masala over the top if desired and toss.

Chef Eric Ripert

Owner of New York’s Le Bernardin and Philadelphia’s 10 Arts

His advice: “For a fun and relaxing holiday party, keep things simple so that you can enjoy spending time with your friends and family,” he says. “The food can be casual, but presented well so that you can impress your guests. Make something you can cook in advance and that is interactive for your guests.” But the real game-changer: “Good wine and/or champagne, definitely!”

What he’s serving: Chef Ripert will be cooking his holiday tradition: roasted capon with mushroom-truffle stuffing.

Check out: His fourth cookbook, “Avec Eric”


Roasted Capon with Mushroom-Truffle Stuffing

Makes: 6 servings


1 (6-pound) capon

1 cup fresh bread, cut into ½-inch cubes

1/3 cup milk

1 egg, lightly beaten

6 ounce chopped chicken liver

1/2 pound mixed mushrooms, cleaned and diced

1 ounce black truffles, diced

1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 tablespoons diced shallot

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves

1 tablespoon duck fat (you may substitute butter)

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

2 cups chicken stock


Kitchen String

Trussing Needle


1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

2. Rinse the capon and pat dry. Remove the wings and reserve.

3. Soak the bread in the milk. Squeeze out the excess milk from the bread and place in a large bowl. Add the eggs, chicken liver, mushrooms, truffles, garlic, shallot, parsley, thyme and duck fat. Season with salt and pepper. Season the cavity of the capon with salt and pepper and fill with the stuffing. Thread a trussing needle with a piece of kitchen string at least 18 inches long. Sew the opening in the capon closed using a crisscross pattern - enter the bird just above the breast and cross down to the opposite leg, pulling the string tight. Repeat with the other side of the bird. Finally, pierce the top of the breast and pass the needle through the bottom of the bird. The opening should be completely closed at this point. Tie the legs together. Season the bird on the outside with salt and pepper.

4. Place the wings in a roasting pan and place the capon on top of the wings. Roast for 90 minutes, or until the juices run clear when the leg is pierced and the stuffing reaches 150 degrees F. Remove the capon to a platter and let it rest at least 10 minutes.

5. Place the roasting pan over high heat and add the chicken stock to deglaze the pan, stirring the browned bits in the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil, and then remove from the heat. Strain into a small pot. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

6. To serve, carve the capon and slice the breast meat and leg meat. Serve 2 slices of each and a spoon of the stuffing. Spoon the sauce over the plate and pass the extra sauce at the table. Serve immediately.

Wolfgang Puck

Award-winning chef and restaurateur

His advice: “Make a timetable and [serve] things you can make in advance. For example, making soup, it’s very easy. You can make it and freeze it, or put it in the refrigerator for a day if it’s well-covered,” he says. “The same thing goes for a lot of side dishes. Even if it’s mashed potatoes, you can make them ahead, then put them in a dish with some bread crumbs and some parmigiana on top, and you bake it.”

His holiday meal suggestion: Roasted turkey

Check out: Puck has a new line of soups, stocks and broths.


Wolfgang Puck Roasted Turkey with Pomegranate Jus

Prep: 25 minutes

Cook: 4 hours

Stand: 10 minutes

Makes: 12 servings

Cost per recipe: $26.37

Cost per recipe serving: $2.20


1 / 2 cup butter (1 stick)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves

Dash ground black pepper

1 turkey (12- to 14-pounds)

1 / 4 cup olive oil

2 medium onions, sliced (about 1 cup)

3 medium carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1 1/2 cups)

4 stalks celery, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 3 cups)

4 cloves garlic

1 1 / 2 cups Wolfgang Puck® Free Range Chicken Stock

1 cup bottled or fresh pomegranate juice

1 cup pomegranate seeds (optional)


1. Stir the butter, rosemary and black pepper in a small bowl.

2. Remove the package of giblets and neck from the turkey
cavity. Rinse the turkey, giblets and neck with cold water and pat dry
with a paper towel. Loosen the skin carefully from the breast meat,
using your fingers. Spread the butter mixture under the skin. Rub the
turkey with the olive oil. Tie the ends of the drumsticks together.
Insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, not
touching the bone.

3. Place the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, giblets and
neck into a large roasting pan. Pour the stock over all. Place the
turkey, breast-side up, on the vegetable mixture.

4. Roast at 350°F. for 3 1/2 to 4 hours or until the meat
thermometer reads 180°F, basting occasionally with the pan drippings.
Pour additional stock into the pan as needed to prevent the vegetable
mixture from burning. Let the turkey stand for 10 minutes before

5. Pour the pan drippings into a 1-quart saucepan. Pour
off any fat. Stir in the pomegranate juice and heat over medium heat to a
boil. Reduce the heat to low. Cook for 20 minutes or until the sauce is
reduced to 1 1 / 2 cups, stirring occasionally. Serve the sauce with
the turkey. Sprinkle each serving with the pomegranate seeds, if

Food pick
Tea for the holidays

Still need a gift idea? We’re loving these chic, hand-crafted cooper tins filled with premium loose teas from India in flavors such as Serenity (peppermint, lemongrass, roobios, chamomile and vanilla). And, they come with an adorable spoon to ensure you get the perfect portion in each cup.

Consider AlsoFurther Articles