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Smitten Kitchen’s Deb Perelman On How To Nail Holiday Hosting (While Actually Enjoying Yourself)

The popular food blogger — who just released her second cookbook — shares her best tips on stress-free entertaining (pot pie party, anyone?)

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Three vanilla cakes and one chocolate cake on four different white plates

The holiday season is nearly upon us, and with it a flurry of festive gatherings. But hosting can be stressful. For some expert guidance, Chatelaine spoke with Smitten Kitchen’s Deb Perelman, who offered her sage advice: keep it simple — and outsource.

Perelman, the creator behind the wildly popular Smitten Kitchen blog, chronicles her cooking (and baking) adventures from her tiny New York City kitchen. Last month, she released her second cookbook, Smitten Kitchen Every Day. Like her new book, Perelman’s entertaining style is down-to-earth, but always delicious. Instead of worrying about cooking up a slew of different dishes, Perelman recommends making a few really — really well.

Winter slaw salad on a white plate on top of a blue napkin and wooden table

Winter slaw with farro from Smitten Kitchen Every Day

Perelman likes to make mussels and fries for guests. Mussels, she says, are quick to prepare and fries can stay warm in the oven if you make them ahead of time. To round out the meal, she’ll make a simple green salad and serve store-bought baguettes for soaking up the sauce. For a variation on this meal, try Manhattan-style clams with fregola.

Manhattan-style clams with tomatos in pan

Manhattan-style clams with fregola from Smitten Kitchen Every Day

Perelman’s even hosted pot pie parties. “That’s some dead of winter stuff,” she says. She suggests serving chicken pot pie in individual ramekins or in a giant casserole dish. “I feel like it sets a tone that’s very relaxed,” says Perelman.

“Do a few things that you really think are important and outsource anything else,” she says. “Do not kill yourself. Pick three things to make at home, and everything else you should outsource,” she continues. If you hate baking, pick up a cake or pie at your favourite bakery, or better yet, put one of your guests in charge of dessert.

Wild mushroom shepherd's pie from Smitten Kitchen Every Day

Wild mushroom shepherd’s pie from Smitten Kitchen Every Day

For an easy homemade dessert hack, Perelman recommends making ganache and treating it like fondue — plate an assortment of fruit, marshmallows and other small sweets for DIY dipping. She also has a handy cake-builder in her new cookbook, with mix and match one-bowl cake and icing recipes. Perelman stresses that if you play your cards right, the whole process can take just over an hour.

“I take the cake out of the pan and pop it right into the freezer. I do not wait for it to slowly cool… It might take 20 minutes. I make the frosting while it’s in there and then you’re done,” she says. She knows her cakes might not be the fanciest — but cakes with lots of frosting and sprinkles rarely disappoint.

By sticking to just a handful of homemade dishes, you can also avoid spending your party fussing over food in the kitchen — and you might actually be able to give yourself time to get ready before your guests arrive.

“I want to be done and then I want to sit down with my friends and drink wine and not be stressing in the kitchen all night,” she says. “Although I probably am anyway.”