Some of our favorite food stars got their start in catering – see also: Ina Garten, Carla Hall – since they always pull off festive fêtes without (seeming to) break a sweat, we thought we’d ask a real-life caterer for their go-to holiday party tips. Katie LeLievre, owner of Boston-based Clementine Cuisine, has over 20 years of experience, or, roughly the equivalent of 100 holiday parties. She’s also an OXO superfan. We asked her to divulge her secrets for easy, impressive bites fit for any gathering.
Braise it up:
Low and slow is the way to go for Wine Harvester’s Chicken, a crowd-pleasing main that’s easily prepared up to three days ahead. Grapes give the dish a touch of sweetness, and red wine vinegar adds an unexpected twist. For casual get-togethers, Katie pairs it with simple oven-roasted potatoes and for more formal affairs – root vegetable gratin.
Killer gluten-free apps:
With more and more clients requesting gluten-free everything, Katie turns to our melon baller to create cucumber, radish and baby potato “cups” that she fills with everything from homemade hummus (or you can use store-bought) to jalapeno-pistachio pesto and creme fraiche and caviar, bluefish pate or chicken liver mousse. The veggies can chill in your fridge before the party. To give the cups a professional touch, use our silicone Baker’s Decorating Bottle Kit to fill them up.
Want hardboiled eggs with perfectly centered yolks and smooth, unblemished whites? Katie’s business partner and husband, David, says that steaming, not boiling is the trick. Here’s how: put a steamer basket in a large pot with about one inch of water and bring to a boil. Carefully place eggs inside the steamer basket, making sure not to overcrowd them, and continue to cook. After six minutes, gently agitate the pan to center the yolks within the eggs (undisturbed, the yolks will naturally drop to the bottom-heavy part of the egg). Continue cooking for another six minutes and give the eggs a nice ice bath, the peels should pop right off. David dresses up deviled eggs with harissa, sriracha or even pesto and pipes the mix into the halved whites – our Baker’s Decorating Bottle Kit comes in handy here too. Feeling extra funky? Top eggs with crushed salt and vinegar potato chips or even dot them with cod or wasabi-flavored fish roe.
Don’t forget about comfort food:
Fancy food has its place, but if you want a real home run at your holiday bash – keep things comfy. Katie’s most popular appetizer is mini croque monsieurs. She makes the grilled cheese ahead of time, with Parisian-style ham, sliced gruyere and a little dijon on brioche bread. Before serving, she broils them with a layer of bechamel and shredded gruyere until brown and bubbly. Good tip: move the oven rack down a notch so you don’t create a hot mess. Cut into six to eight bite-size pieces and voila!
Make it easier:
Katie uses OXO’s Chef’s Mandoline Slicer to make perfectly precise potato and root vegetable slices for gratin. Her “recipe” is simple: fill your dish with sliced vegetables, salt, pepper, and heavy cream. Bake for an hour at 375 F covered. She lets the gratin set and then chills it in her fridge. When it’s go time, she inverts the dish, cuts the gratin into wedges and then heats it up to golden bubbly.
The secret’s in the sauce:
Katie’s secret ingredient? Fish sauce. She adds it to pureed vegetable soups like cauliflower or butternut squash for a touch of umami (try serving soup in mugs or demitasse cups at your next cocktail party) and goes all in for a savory, Vietnamese-inspired caramel sauce for salmon fillets.
Just like our engineers, both Katie and David are Serious Eats fans, citing Kenji Lopez-Alt as their culinary science guru. They also get inspiration from restaurants near and far, Katie’s caramel sauce salmon is an homage to a dish she had at Detroit’s Selden Standard restaurant.