“A well-stocked fridge and pantry go a long way when it comes to pulling together a last-minute lavish spread. It’s easy to pull a party out of your fridge if you’ve got the right bare essentials on hand,” says Ian Knauer, author, chef, and host of PBS’ upcoming series The Farm.
Holiday entertaining will soon be in full swing, and impromptu parties can be delightful and stress-free, if you’re prepared. Don’t get caught empty-handed when unexpected guests drop by — check out these essential items to have stocked in the pantry, fridge, or freezer to wow your last-minute guests.
- Toasted Baguette Slices – Toast your day-old bread in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil, then keep them in a plastic bag in the freezer. They serve as the foundation of any last-minute get together, as a base for crostini, to serve with spreads and cheeses, or just by themselves.
- Frozen Tater Tots – As soon as your guests walk through the door, heat these up in the oven, then top the crisp nuggets with cheese and gravy for a quick poutine or grated cheese and pickled jalapeños for a fun take on nachos.
- Frozen Pizza Dough – It doesn’t take too long to bake and there’s a lot you can do with ready-made dough. Make it a pizza roll or calzone by adding tomato sauce and cheese or cut into thin strips and sprinkle with grated parmesan for killer bread sticks.
- Frozen Juice Cubes – Make ice cubes from cranberry juice, grape juice, or lemonade and pop them into a glass of champagne or your favorite liquor for an instant cocktail.
- Mixed Olives – Heat olives with their brine, a bay leaf, cinnamon stick and a pinch of sugar for super-flavorful snack.
- Cheeses – Of course, you can always make a quick cheese plate, but spreadable cheeses like fresh goat or soft blue can become the base of incredible crostini. Spread on baguette toasts and top with whatever you’ve got for leftovers; shredded braised short ribs, pulled pork, even sliced chicken breast. Cream cheese topped with pic-a-pepper sauce makes for an instant crowd pleaser.
- Veggies of all sorts – Don’t stop at carrots and celery. Vegetables from asparagus to zucchini to fennel make for perfect crudités. “Vegetables stay fresh in my Liebherr refrigerator, especially with Liebherr’s patented BioFresh technology, which preserves foods’ essential vitamins and minerals,” Ian explains. “Vegetables are best kept in the HydroSafe compartment with a high level of humidity. Keep them placed unwrapped in the drawer to allow the humidity to circulate,” he added.
- Herbs, Herbs, and More Herbs – Cilantro, thyme, parsley, rosemary, chervil, and sage can turn ho-hum plates of leftovers into brand new dishes. Bring new life to jarred salsa or hummus by folding in chopped cilantro or thyme.
- Meatloaf – Keep meatloaf in constant rotation during the holiday season. Cut a cold slice and serve with grainy mustard for a down-home version of country paté.
- Smoked Sausage – Sear slices of kielbasa or smoked sausage in a skillet and serve with just about any sauce; mustard, hot sauce, even pesto.
- Mayonnaise – Whisk minced garlic and a squeeze of lemon into mayo for an instant aioli. Get crazy if you want and throw in some smoked paprika and cilantro. Makes a great dip for carrot and celery sticks of French fries.