This year’s holiday gatherings may look different, but that doesn’t mean that they will lack any great seasonal flavors! In fact, since celebrations will likely be smaller than usual, this gives holiday party hosts an opportunity to get creative and have a little fun with their menus. For caterers, this means going above and beyond expectations—but that doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, there are plenty of ways to experiment with unique recipes while still keeping the process efficient and cost-effective.
A holiday menu isn’t just about feeding people, though; it serves as a celebration of the season and, therefore, should evoke feelings of comfort and coziness. Here are a few tips for creating menus that will ensure your clients’ at-home celebrations are fun, festive, and fabulous.
Lean on seasonal staples.
Sourcing seasonal ingredients isn’t just a cost-effective strategy; it also ensures your dishes fit in with the holiday vibes expected at a winter get-together. Fortunately, seasonal foods are also the freshest as your local farmers and markets are producing them regularly, as opposed to off-season items that must be transported from elsewhere.
Photo courtesy Mike B Photography
Wintry ingredients like root vegetables, squashes, and game meat are all prime selections for rich and hearty meals that warm the soul. For the sweeter palates, consider winter staples like pumpkins, cranberries, and apples to round out the holiday dessert table.
Get experimental with flavors.
While seasonal staples may form the foundation of holiday menus, that’s not to say you shouldn’t use them in unique ways. For examples, fruits aren’t just for pies—opt for a savory option instead, pairing apples with roasted duck or braising rabbit with cranberry glaze.
You can also experiment with herbs and spice blends to mix up a simple roasted veggie plate or rich stew. Try out combinations of anise, fennel, turmeric, cloves, and cardamom. Also, with the chilly weather, don’t be afraid to add some heat to mix with cayenne or ancho chili powder. A bit of spiciness goes a long way, so consider using it with some sweet and savory flavor profiles.
Photo courttesy Mike B Photography
Take advantage of batch cooking.
When planning client menus for the holidays, try to focus on dishes that can be cooked in large batches to save yourself time and resources. Not only does batch cooking allow you to save time on prep, but you can also save your clients money by purchasing all of your ingredients in bulk. You don’t have to sacrifice quality, while still ensuring your clients get the best bang for their buck.
Fortunately, many winter favorites lend themselves to easy batch cooking. Hearty meals like soups, stews, and chilis can easily be prepared in large batches in advance, as can certain sides like roasted veggies and grains.
Don't forget the drinks!
A true holiday celebration wouldn’t be complete with a signature drink or two, so be sure to consider how you can spice up the beverages at your clients’ events. Cozy drinks are always a winter favorite, so stock up on mulling spices, cocoa, cinnamon, and peppermint. Coffee and tea are also great choices to have on the side. A little bit of liquor or mulled wine can easily turn favorites into adult-only concoctions that keep the festivities going.
Holiday drinks are simple to plan and prepare, so spend some extra time on the presentation. A DIY bar adds an interactive element to the party and, for at-home celebrations with family and friends, there aren’t regulations for self-serving alcohol. Don’t forget to add some tasty accoutrements for garnishes, like cinnamon sticks, flavored marshmallows, graham cracker crunch, and fresh mint.
The holidays may be spent closer to home this year, but that’s all the more reason to lean into the warm and welcoming energy of cozying up at home with loved ones.