Holiday Q&A

In Q&A, Tips and Adviceby Robert Irvine

Once again I asked all of my friends on Facebook to see if they had any pressing questions that I could address to help them through the holiday hassles. Here are a few that I thought needed answers:

Food Safety During the Holidays

Here are two questions that I can answer in one!
From Hylary:

How do I keep appetizers safe to eat for an entire party (I.e. keeping cold food cold and hot food hot) while still maintaining their appearance and flavor?
And From Sherry:
When making soup with the left overs….how quickly (hours and temps) should it be cooled and frozen? I am afraid to let it cool outside the fridge too long…..but then I am afraid to throw in the fridge too soon while its still hot….don’t want to spoil.
Answer:
I decided to answer both of these in one because it addresses something VERY important to me – FOOD SAFETY! As far as appetizers at a party, food can only be kept out for 4 hours max before it enters what is know as the “Time and Temperature Danger Zone.” This is the combination of a food entering a certain temperature range for a long enough time for bacteria to begin to grow. For cold food this temp is above 41 degrees and for hot food it’s below 135. As soon as you take your appetizers out of the fridge or oven, bacteria begins to prey on it. After 4 hours, it’s at a critical point and needs to be thrown away. SOLUTION! Only display as much food as you think your guests will consume an hour at a time, and refresh the displays with new and fresh product while discarding the old. This will keep your product fresh looking and tasting, not to mention, safe for your guests.

The same goes for cooling your soup. Soup is typically about 200 degrees once it comes off the stove, which means that it is even harder to get it down to a safe holding temperature (41 degrees) in less than 4 hours. The best way to do this is to remove it from the hot pot you cooked it in, break it down into smaller containers, and place those containers in an ice bath (ice and water) to “shock’” the soup to its desired temp. This will serve a double purpose as well, since the veggies and other ingredients in your soup won’t become overcooked by residual heat. Typically, once you get the soup down to just above room temp it is safe to put in the fridge. NEVER take items straight off the stove and put in the fridge. Not only does it not cool down fast enough (back to the Time and Temperature Danger Zone) but it will cause the internal temperature of your fridge to rise thus endangering the other food you are storing.

Holiday Food Memories

From Louise:
What is your favorite holiday food you would of had as a kid.
Answer:
Holidays were always special in my home growing up and a lot of traditional British holiday fare was available. The staple around my family’s house was the Christmas Ham. So simple to do and it always reminds me of home.

The Guest with Allergies

Here are 2 more that were kind of similar!
From Sonia:
What does one do when confronted with someone with food allergies? Should every dish require a list of ingredients?
And From Lauren:
How do you throw a dinner party everyone will love with all the different allergies and diets these days??
Answer:
It’s true that dietary restrictions, preferences, and allergies seem to be becoming more prevalent than at any point that I can remember. I feel that, as the host, it is your responsibility to do everything with your power to provide at something to accommodate your guest’s dietary restrictions within reason. This is dependent on your guest making you aware beforehand that they have these restrictions. Notice I use the term “restrictions” because I do not believe that you have to alter your offerings based on “preference.” This is merely the distinction between your being allergic vs. simply not liking something. I should further clarify that even though vegetarianism and veganism is a preference it is prevalent enough in our culture and easy enough to accommodate that special effort should be made to provide options for those particular guests.

How to logistically accommodate these guests is entirely dependent upon what type of dinner service you will be offering at your party.  A sit-down plated meal is most difficult because the menu is set and restrictions cause issues for that main dish. Don’t feel as though you have to change EVERYTHING to appease one person. Proteins, starches, and veggies are easy enough to execute gluten, shellfish, nut, and dairy-free, so this leaves the guest only missing out on one aspect of the dinner if a substitution can’t be had. Also, for starches, just keep in mind that Quinoa is gluten-free, can be whipped up in a pinch, and as about as simple as it gets.

Buffets are easiest to execute for a restrictive crowd because you can provide a wide array of selections with options for every restriction. In any case, a person with a restrictive diet will be able to find something to enjoy at the party. As far as having to list out every ingredient, I always find my guests appreciate it whenever I take the time to individually discuss the meal offerings with them and show them what I prepared in consideration for their diets. That way they are not left having to consistently ask with every item, “does this have wheat?” and it shows your caring hospitality as a host.

And Finally

I hope your holidays are safe and filled with love, friends, and family. Thank you all so much for all of the support you have shown me, my team and staff, and my shows and various causes over this past year! I say it often and I truly mean it that I have the BEST fans that I could ever expect.

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