Monday, November 23, 2009

The Best Guest

I love being the hostess. But what I love even more is being hostess to a great guest, you know the kind everyone loves to have in their home. The gal who tells good jokes. The guy who makes everyone smile. The couple who gently takes your screaming 3 month child in their arms and kindly offers its parents a chair and a drink. Good guests are hard to come by, and once found are treasured like nothing else I know.

While I am an excellent hostess, I have had to study to become a good guest and in doing so have found that I have ultimately attracted better company to my own table. Maybe it is just a coincidence but I like to think it is good karma that as my guest skills have improved, so have my own hostessing fortunes.

The best guest never:
  • Argues with the host or the other guests.
  • Smokes in the house.
  • Drinks red wine when there is white furniture nearby.
  • Brings their pet.
The best guest always:
  • Arrives on time. Never 15 minutes early, when I am mental with last minute details and still in my bathrobe. Never more than 30 minutes late, after things have started and then complains that there are no more appetizers.
  • Puts everyone at ease. A great guest comes right in and makes you feel at home in your own home. They can put others at ease, diffuse difficult situations, and fill pregnant pauses with comfortable conversation.
  • Offers to help. I love it when someone comes over and offers to help put things out or even better clean up. They always get my love and respect, and lots of extra dessert.
  • Brings a small gift for the host/hostess. It is just common courtesy, and does not have to be a painful exercise.
Regarding that last point, the key to a good gift is being thoughtful. Don't bring a great bottle of wine to an alcoholic's home. No flowers for asthmatics or the highly allergic. Rethink that ham for the vegetarian. You get the gist.

Once you know the no-no's, think small, homemade, and fun. Here are some of my favorite recipes for the successful guest - enjoy and have a great holiday.

Spiced, Candied Pecans
1/2 cup of light corn syrup
1 tsp of cayenne, chipotle, or ancho chili powder
1 lb shelled pecans
Sea salt
Turbino sugar

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place parchment paper or foil on a large, rimmed pan.
  2. Place corn syrup and chili powder in a large bowl and mix. Let stand for 5 minutes.
  3. Add pecans to the bowl and mix.
  4. Spread the pecans evenly on the parchment paper or foil. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and turbino sugar.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes. Cool and serve or place them in a decorative jar with ribbon.

Note: Please note that this recipe needs to be refrigerated for 3 days before serving.

2 1 lb fillets of salmon
1 tbsp black pepper
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 bunch of dill

  1. Place the salmon fillets side by side. One each fillet, place 1/2 the pepper, salt, and sugar.
  2. Place the dill on one fillet and top with the other.
  3. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Place in a rimmed pan and weight the salmon with a heavy object (I like to use a Le Creuset pot top). Place in the refrigerator.
  4. Chill for 3 days, turning the salmon over nightly.
  5. Slice thinly and serve the salmon. For parties, place on a nice platter with small boiled potatoes and Greek yogurt.
1 lb of dried chick peas or 2 cans of chickpeas
1/2 cup of tahini (you can find it in the supermarket, usually near the peanut butter)
1 lemon, juiced
2 cloves of garlic
Sea salt
Black pepper

  1. If using dried beans, soak them overnight. Rinse beans and place in food processor.
  2. Add tahini, lemon juice, and garlic. Pulse food processor 20 times, or until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. If you like, try any or all of following additions to the food processor: 1/4 cup of roasted red peppers, 1 tsp ancho chili powder or 1 tbsp lemon zest.
  4. Serve on a platter with pita bread and fresh vegetables.

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