The Brilliant Edit

#BrilliantWomen: Colu Henry

Stressed about entertaining this holiday season? We’ve got you covered with this month’s #BrilliantWomen, Colu Henry.

Writer, cook, and frequent contributor to the New York Times and Food & Wine, Colu has worked in food for over 15 years and has learned what resonates with home cooks by creating elegant, yet approachable recipes without overthinking it. She is the author of Back Pocket Pasta and Colu Cooks: Easy Fancy Food and also writes a weekly companion newsletter, Colu Cooks.

We were lucky enough to pull Colu out of the kitchen long enough for her to write this holiday season’s most anticipated listicle on how to make this year’s holiday celebration a sparkling and savory success.

5 Ways to Make your Holiday Party a Smash

By Colu Henry

1. Dress For the Party You Want!

It’s so easy to get bogged down in all those small party details, trust me, I’ve been there and I can tell you that, yes, you bought too many napkins, and, no, you do not need more ice. So instead of focusing on things you can’t control, shift your attention to something you can – your outfit. This may sound simple or silly, but how you look and what you wear will set the tone for the whole party. As a musical theater major and former cabaret singer (yes, it’s true), I inherently think about clothes in a somewhat playful, performative way. As the host, you’re the lead actress and behind every great role, there’s an even better costume!

2. Best Served with Diamonds

Even the best of outfits needs a little sparkle, so when creating your hostess look, don’t forget to accessorize. There is the jewelry I wear every day and then there are special /statement pieces that I will break out of the holidays. I own a lot of vintage pieces – they have secret stories and past lives – I enjoy being able to mix those pieces with contemporary ones to give them a new narrative. I think wearing a diamond or other fashionable cocktail ring to a party can be a great conversation starter. I know I’d ask about the story behind it! It’s a great way to break the ice.

3. Candles, Candles, Candles

One of my secret tricks for planning a great party is, don’t overthink the decorations, just buy candles. Lots and lots of candles! Lighting is everything and sets the mood. I love lots of tapered beeswax candles for the table. But, I actually also bought six packs (18 total!) of these amazing “flameless candles” and put them all over the dining room. They are remote controlled and look incredibly real. It makes the room feel so cozy. I love them so much that I keep them out year around to add warmth during the cold, dark months.

4. Let Them Snack!

Trust me on this, your guests will be hungry the moment they arrive, so serving some perfect pre-dinner snacks is a great way to avoid a hangry cocktail hour, while showing off your superior culinary skills. I recently shared a recipe in my Substack for Broiled Mussels with Panko and Pecorino, which also appeared in my most recent book Colu Cooks: Easy Fancy Food. I love to serve these as part of the “snacking” section for the evening. You can prepare everything in advance and then just throw them under the broiler for a few minutes and can be put on a platter eaten with your hands. Even better with a statement ring on! What’s more fun than that?

5. Be Prepared!

Prep everything you can as much in advance of the event as possible. Think about serving food that can be made a few days ahead such as a braise or hang out for a while such as a ham. I strongly recommend going family style and letting guests chart their own course. Batching cocktails such as martinis or negronis and stocking up on ice, will also help one from being on bartender duty. If you go this route, you’ll have all the time you need to get primped before guests arrive as things will be pretty much set and ready to go! And, if you can spring for a clean up team, do it. You’ll thank yourself in the morning.

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