While shopping this fall I've seen an interesting culinary item in store after store: electric chafing dishes with three compartments to warm food on a buffet table to keep it hot for the duration of a party. It's popular for the approaching celebrations when family and friends gather.
Cooking and entertaining for the holidays calls for a lot of organization. You have to make your guest list, order and shop for your food, and prepare your home to receive guests.
But some things may be overlooked - like preparing your appliances and work space.
With Thanksgiving only two days away, it's not unusual to have a full refrigerator. By week's end, you'll be clearing it out. If a container is expired or nearly empty, throw it out. Toss out old, aging food and condiments.
As for your oven, Angie's List, a provider of consumer ratings on service companies, advises that you test your oven to avoid emergency appliance repairs. Keep it clean, but don't run the self-clean cycle within two weeks of a holiday dinner. Don't open the oven door to take a peek at what's cooking inside. Opening the oven door lowers the temperature by at least 25 degrees, which increases cooking time and wastes energy. Bake several dishes at a time if possible.
Counter space is often at a premium. Reorganize and throw out what you don't need so you have more space to work.
There's still time to buy serving dishes. Be sure you have a cutting board to carve the turkey and a platter big enough to serve the bird.
There are also a variety of guides available.
•Denise Vivaldo's The Entertaining Encyclopedia: Essential Tips and Recipes for Perfect Parties (Robert Rose, $24.95) has 200 recipes with hundreds of party ideas and tips. Whether you host a holiday celebration or a formal dinner or a bowl game afternoon, six elements for a party are the same: theme, location, decor, guests, food and beverages, and entertainment. Other tidbits: plan on one and a half to two pounds of ice per person; remember to accommodate special diets; have a comfortable room temperature, and if you have a good time, your guests will have a good time.
•In Pastry Queen Parties: Entertaining Friends and Family, Texas Style, by Rebecca Rather and Alison Oresman (10 Speed Press, $32.50), the Homecoming chapter has recipe ideas for pot lucks, birthday parties, and church suppers. Among the party tips: always have an alternative to red meat because today, there's always someone who cannot or will not eat it.
•Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade Cocktail Time (Wiley, $17.95) has beverages and appetizers for every month of the year. In November, a Choco-Mint Martini is paired with Double Relish-Dipped Cheese Ravioli. The ravioli is fried for two minutes or until golden brown and then each can be dipped in Tomato-Pepper Relish or Artichoke Caper Dip. In December, Antipasto is served with Cranberry Kiss cocktail.
If wine is your preference over cocktails, take this advice from The Vineyard at 5305 Monroe St. With the variety of wines for Thanksgiving limitless, pairing is not based on the turkey or ham but on the side dish flavors that will accompany your choice of meats. A red or white wine can be paired. For a white, the Vineyard recommends a Riesling with a sweetness to match your taste or a Gewurztraminer which pairs well with fall vegetables and soups. Red recommendations tend toward Pinot Noirs or Beaujolais, both of which are lighter reds with the Beaujolais being fruitier in style. Pinot Noir comes in many styles and prices.
Kathie Smith is The Blade's food editor.
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