Keeping it simple is a good strategy for everyday cooking. But when holidays come around, a great host really goes all out for family and friends. You want to serve a meal to remember. And that means taking the extra step, going the extra mile. We’ve put together some ideas that are a feast for the eyes as well as the palate.
Don’t be afraid to show off a bit when bringing the main course to the table. The truth is: Carving a turkey or a large roast can be a somewhat messy operation. So spare everyone the details and simply bring the impressive, fresh-from-the-oven roast to the table untouched.
After the ooos and aahhhs subside, whisk the roast back into the kitchen for the behind-the-scenes requisites of slicing down a roast. Be prepared for more adoration once everyone gets a load of you bringing a brimming platter to the table.
A Roast with Style
A beautifully browned, bone-in roast is an impressive thing unto itself. Here are a few options for making it even more special.
One way is to French the bones so they extend beyond the eye of the roast and take on a wonderful color while cooking. For reference, here’s what a rack of lamb looks like with Frenched rib bones.
To French the bones on a roast, place it on a cutting surface, fat side up. With the tip of a small knife, score the fat down to the bone in a straight line perpendicular to where the bones join the eye of the roast. Next cut down the side of each rib bone to meet the scored line you just made. Then go back and remove all the meat between the bones and scrape the bones themselves with the edge of your knife to remove any lingering bits of meat and fat.
To add even more drama to the picture after the roast is cooked, add paper frills on the end of each Frenched bone. Store-bought or homemade, these little paper covers conceal the tips of the bones and add an air of formality to the finished presentation.
And if you want a real showstopper, opt for a crown roast of lamb, pork, or veal. In this form, 2 or 3 racks are sewn together end to end and formed into a circle. With their Frenched bones reaching for the sky, it truly resembles a magnificent crown with the center filled with your favorite stuffing.
Adding the word homemade in front of anything you plan to serve for a holiday meal has a warm, nurturing sort of feeling about it. And, for the family and friends who enjoy the fruits of your labor, it implies the personal effort you put forth for their dining pleasure.
If you really want to go the extra mile—or even, the extra mile and a quarter—homemade stock and gravy are about as comforting a notion as you can get. Canned, jarred, and powdered-mix gravies can’t even come close! Check out their ingredients.
At its most basic, homemade gravy has no more than 3 or 4 ingredients: seasoned, concentrated stock and pan juices thickened by reduction or a roux made of butter or oil and flour.
Homemade gravy starts with homemade stock—or as close to it as you can get.
Admittedly, making stock is a bit of a process if you do it entirely from scratch, but here are a couple of time-saving alternatives that will keep it homemade instead of mass-produced.
If you are going the from-scratch route, start the stock first. It needs time to simmer away while you prepare the rest of the meal. And, when you are ready to make gravy shortly before serving the meal, the stock will be just right.
While store-bought gravy is one thing, store-bought stock is another entirely. There are some fine brick-pack and canned stocks that are an almost-as-good-as alternative to homemade. Just make sure to get a low/no-sodium variety so it doesn’t get too salty as it reduces in cooking. Use it instead of water to start your own stock with aromatic vegetables and seasonings. Also, add it to the bottom of your roasting pan.
Reconstituting glace or demi-glace is also a terrific time-saving alternative. Any of the glaces in Lobel’s Pantry can be brought to stock strength by adding a ratio of 5 or 7 parts water to 1 part glace or demi.
Black Tie and Tails
It might seem that the very act of serving surf and turf for a holiday celebration would be considered going the extra mile. No doubt, a perfectly cooked steak paired with a cold-water lobster tail is a quintessential statement of elegant dining and gracious hosting—no more need be said. Tuxedos optional.
But wait, you can raise the pinnacle on a ne plus ultra party!
Uncork a bottle of brut. A dry Champagne or sparkling wine’s effervescence is the perfect counterpoint to the richness of a beautifully marbled steak and bites of lobster dipped in melted butter.
Start with a first course of the best caviar you can afford. Fine caviars require little more than buttered toast points as accompaniment, so it can be a very streamlined addition to your menu.
And speaking of melted butter, black truffle butter with surf and turf will knock their socks off. This combination qualifies as a unique taste experience. The earthy essence of Grade AA creamery butter studded with bits of the finest black Italian truffle is the perfect complement to the open-water flavor of the lobster tail and the steak’s beefiness.
Give the lobster tail a lift by butterflying it. This classic restaurant presentation adds an architectural element to the plated serving.
To butterfly a lobster tail, place the cooked tail on a cutting surface with the tail facing away from you. With a pair of sturdy kitchen shears wedged between shell and meat, cut a straight line in the shell to the base of the tail. Gently run your finger inside the shell to loosen the lobster meat, but leave the last portion attached to the tail. Carefully pry the sides of the shell apart and lift the lobster meat up, release the sides so they partially close, and rest the lobster meat on top of the shell.
And if you want to show true dedication, follow the Lobel’s master recipe for cooking the perfect steak indoors: Lobel’s Guide to Cooking the Perfect Steak. Throwing a coat on in the middle of winter to grill the turf portion of the menu outside really qualifies as going the extra mile.
Add Some Sizzle to Your Gift Package
While giving a gift of Lobel’s steaks certainly has its own “wow!” factor, you can up the ante further by choosing some special packaging to showcase your gift.
Your individually vacuum-sealed meat selections are delivered to your gift recipient in our standard corrugated shipping carton, lined with a Styrofoam cooler. While this packaging is functional for getting your order to its destination intact and in ready-to-cook condition, you can add an element of surprise when the box is opened.
Lobel’s pre-selected Black-Tie Gift Box and Grand Black-Tie Gift Box assortments are an ideal way to underscore the elegance of the gift you are giving. Foam-lined to nestle the contents, each box features sturdy board construction, smooth matte black finish, and Lobel’s hallmark logo on the lid.
Another option is to choose one of our Cooler Gift Bag steak packages. This is a more casual approach to highlighting your special gift. It’s like giving two gifts in one: A selection of the finest and freshest meats money can buy and a handy wear-resistant tote that will provide your gift recipient with years and years of service.
Why give just one gift when you can extend the enjoyment of peak dining throughout the year with one of our Celebrations programs.
We’ve taken everything our customers love about our different gift-giving options and combined them into Lobel’s Celebrations: The impressiveness of a gift from Lobel’s of New York, the flexibility of our Versatile Packages, the elegance of our Black-Tie Gift Boxes, and the convenience and practicality of gift certificates. We offer 12-, 6-, and 4-month program options.