It’s the number one question Ina Garten receives from home cooks: “Can I make it ahead?” That was the inspiration for her latest cookbook, Make It Ahead, which gives readers a game plan for pulling off stress-free dinner parties, including recipes ideal for prepping, assembling or cooking in advance. Here, she shares her top 10 make-ahead tips from Make It Ahead for parties — perfect for a special holiday feast or a relaxed evening with friends.
1. A week ahead, instead of keeping everything in your head, write down a game plan for both the week and the day of the party.
2. A week ahead, shop for the pantry ingredients. Shop for the fresh ingredients the day before the party.
3. A week ahead, order cookies with people’s names on them for place cards. I order decorated cookies from EliZabar.com.
4. Three days ahead, set the table, as long as it’s not a table you ordinarily use during the week.
5. Up to a few days ahead, prep as many ingredients as possible and store them in plastic bags in the fridge.
6. Two days ahead, arrange the flowers so the petals have time to fully open up.
7. A day ahead, uncork, taste, and chill (if appropriate) the wines.
8. A day ahead, pull the platters and serving pieces you’ll need and place Post-It notes on each one to remind yourself which food goes where.
9. A few hours ahead, put ground coffee and water in the coffee-maker (but don’t turn it on until you’re ready to serve dessert).
10. Before the party, run the dishwasher and empty it so you’re ready for the cleanup afterward.
Find more of Ina’s tips and recipes for holiday entertaining here.