Alex Guarnaschelli’s Last Minute Thanksgiving Entertaining Tips

11/24/2015 at 10:53 AM ET

Alex G
Squire Fox

Alex Guarnaschelli is an Iron Chef, Food Network celebrity chef, author of Old-School Comfort Food and the executive chef at New York City’s Butter restaurants. Read her blog every Tuesday to get her professional cooking tips, family-favorite recipes and personal stories of working in front of the camera and behind the kitchen doors. Follow her on Twitter at @guarnaschelli.

This is that crunch time moment right before Thanksgiving where I hunt around for a few new ideas to start the meal off right.

One of the things my parents always did was vacuum the whole joint, set the table, get the wine ready and put out a few little snacks on the table. That way, any panic about the turkey, stuffing, or cranberry sauce could be handled with the guests feeling totally happy.

I still try to do the same thing to this day. Your closest friends and family can be some of the hungriest people on the planet, and because they are your closest friends and family, they are also less forgiving if there’s nothing to eat when they get there! Here are a few of my favorite hors d’oeuvres and little snacks that I like to make in advance and put out when the guests arrive.

RELATED: Alex Guarnaschelli Blogs: Your New Favorite Thanksgiving Side Dish — Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes!

I love anything that’s made with only vegetables because then pretty much everyone can eat it no matter their dietary restrictions. I always go straight to roasted beets because you can make them ahead and they’re so tasty.

I have also done this recipe with beets and other vegetables. Peel and cook small rutabaga and turnips in the same way until tender. They are really delicious when you let them sit in the vinaigrette in the fridge for a couple of hours at least before serving and it makes for a healthier and more unusual little bite.

Alex Guarnaschelli - Beets3[2]

Roasted Beets with Red Wine Dressing
Serves: 12-14

10 medium red beets, stemmed
5-6 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. light brown sugar
Kosher salt
Cracked black pepper
2 tbsp. smooth Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
5-6 sprigs flat leaf parsley, stemmed

1. Preheat oven to 375F.

2. Cook the beets: On a flat surface, spread 12 sheets of foil large enough to wrap around each beet. Put each beet in the center of each piece of foil. Drizzle with a total of 2 tbsp. of the olive oil, some of the sugar, salt and black pepper. Wrap the foil tightly around each beet and place on a baking sheet in the oven. Cook until they are tender when pierced in the center with the tip of the knife, 1 to 1 ½ hours. The cooking time will depend on the size of the beets.

3. Clean the beets: Remove the beets from the oven. Unwrap the file and allow them to cool slightly before peeling them. If you use a kitchen towel you can wipe the skin off each beat with the towel. The skin should slide fairly easily off the beets. If not, they might need to cook a little bit longer. Cut each beat into wedges like an orange and season with salt and pepper again.

4. Make the vinaigrette and finish: In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, red wine vinegar, a pinch of brown sugar and the remaining olive oil. Taste for seasoning. Toss the beets in the vinaigrette skewer them. Refrigerate. Sprinkle with parsley when ready to serve.

RELATED: The Absolute Best Thanksgiving Side Dishes

There is absolutely no shame in serving a platter of premade meats, slices of grilled bread with mozzarella cheese, little jars of pickles, little jars of olives to make an antipasti bar of delicious stuff. I am a professional chef and somehow that means I have to make absolutely everything from scratch. If you are making a whole Thanksgiving feast and spending the day (if not two) in the kitchen baking pies, roasting turkeys etc. there is absolutely no guilt in laying out some delicious salami, prosciutto, mustard and toasted bread and letting everybody go to town. Who doesn’t like that?

I really love a good cheeseboard with a few cheeses and some crackers. Completing the picture with grapes, other fruits cut up into accessible, bite-size wedges and some smoking nuts is a great way to start the meal.

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The Latest Craze in Disco Styles Is See-Through Jeans—but Beware of Foggy Bottoms


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The Latest Craze in Disco Styles Is See-Through Jeans—but Beware of Foggy Bottoms

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On a clear day, you can see forever—or at least that’s the wicked thought behind L.A. designer Agi Berliner’s transparent idea: see-through jeans. Exhibitionists notwithstanding, most folks wear them over bathing suits or as attention-getting evening wear with halters, garter belts and body stockings. Created for the disco crowd, the $34 jeans are selling like, well, hot pants. In just six weeks, 25,000 pairs have already been sold in such major department store chains as Macy’s, Bonwit’s and Saks.

“What’s limiting American designers is that we’re afraid to do something different,” says Berliner, 32, a Hungarian émigré who fled with her family to the U.S. in 1956. Agi thought up the gimmick in London while marveling at the way plastics were being employed by designers of punk fashion. In her L.A. office, where she designs for La Parisienne junior sportswear, Agi spent five days on the phone and six weeks testing to come up with the right plastic.

Agi herself tried out the French-cut jeans with the zipper in front, and quickly found several problems: Some plastics tore away from stitching, others wouldn’t bend and all fogged with perspiration. The ideal material proved to be a vinyl supplied by a bookbinder. The steam was eliminated with a series of vents behind the knees and in the crotch. “They’re no hotter than polyester pants,” claims Agi, “and if you wear them with tights, they won’t stick to your legs.”

Whatever the discomfort and despite the problem of Saturday night feverishness, discomaniacs report one major advantage of the plastic pants: no laundry bills. To keep Berliner’s see-through jeans clear, all the wearer needs is a little Windex.

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