24 Party-Ready Pantry Items | Reader's Digest

24 Party-Ready Pantry Items

Can, carton, bottle, jar: stock these star-chef staples.

By Lauren Gniazdowski from Reader's Digest
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    Mark Bittman
    Author of Mark Bittman’s Kitchen Express and Food Matters (Simon & Schuster)
    Can: Tomatoes. “Tomatoes are my favorite staple, because I make a lot of pasta.”
    Carton: Eggs. “I make a lot of frittatas, which seem fancy but aren’t, and hold great at room temperature.”
    Bottle: Olive oil, sherry vinegar, and soy sauce. “With those, you can make almost anything taste good.”
    Jar: Anchovies. “If I have piquillo peppers and anchovies, I can make a fantastic appetizer in two minutes.”
    Tip: “The main thing is to not be overambitious. If you give people real food that you made yourself, they’ll be happy. It never fails.”

    Michael Psilakis
    Chef/owner of Anthos restaurant in New York City and author of How to Roast a Lamb (Little, Brown)
    Can: Chickpeas. “They’re wonderful to just throw into a food processor and puree with a little bit of garlic and whatever else you have available-sun-dried tomato, any kind of fresh herb, dry herb. Season with just a little bit of salt and pepper, and you make a really fun, quick hummus.”
    Carton: Eggs. “Whenever (my mom) ran into a wall as far as time was concerned, she would just cut up some French fries and deep-fry them and make a big French fry and egg omelet with tomato-very, very traditional Greek food.”
    Bottle: Champagne. “You’d be surprised how a simple thing like champagne, as opposed to wine, really gets everything going in the direction you want it to.”
    Jar: Roasted red peppers, artichokes, and mushrooms. “No fuss. Very, very simple. And if you get a really, really good quality brand in a jar, they eliminate so much time that you’d spend getting them ready yourself.”
    Tip: “My secret for home entertaining: Take the formality out of the dinner and allow people to feel comfortable in your environment.”

    B. Smith
    Owner of B. Smith’s restaurants and the author of B. Smith Cooks Southern-Style (Scribner)
    Can: Pineapple. “Fruit is always kind of nice, and pineapple is not so disgusting in a can. You can even whip up a drink with it, so that’s a good thing.”
    Carton: Party mix. “I like to go to Costco or Walmart or Target and get just a big snack box or carton.”
    Bottle: Sparkling cider. “I always have rum or vodka if people want to add a little alcohol, but it’s really nice and refreshing to serve plain.”
    Jar: Roasted red peppers. “Whether I’ve chopped them up and put them in a salad or whether I’m making a dish and I blend them as part of a sauce, that’s an item I happen to really like.”
    Entertaining tip: “I think it’s nice during the holidays that you have a little bit of the season in each room people are going to go into, like in the powder room, the kitchen, the dining room, the living room-just a little of the holiday season everywhere.”

    Sandra Lee
    Host of the Food Network’s Semi-Homemade Cooking with Sandra Lee and author of Weeknight Wonders (Wiley)
    Can: Pie filling. “Take premade crepes from the grocery store and a can of cherry or apple pie filling (or mix the two), and you have a great treat for your guests.”
    Carton: Eggnog. “I am a big believer in eggnog. Embellish it with Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur.”
    Bottle: Vanilla vodka. “Four shots cost about $2.12. So for four cocktails, that’s pretty inexpensive entertaining.”
    Jar: Pace salsa. “You take your jarred salsa. You take one avocado. You cut it very finely into little chunks. Take your parsley or your cilantro, or your green onions or chives-chop those up. Put that in your salsa and you’ve got an amazing avocado salsa.”
    Tip: “Don’t do the ordinary. Do the unexpected.”

    John Besh
    Chef/owner of Restaurant August in New Orleans and author of My New Orleans: The Cookbook (Andrews McMeel)
    Can: French green peppercorns. “For cold shrimp cocktail, there’s nothing better than a few crushed green peppercorns in the sauce.”
    Carton: Panettone. “To keep a panettone on hand is just a no-brainer. You can slice it, and you serve and eat it as you would any other cake. It’s wonderful by itself. It’s wonderful with a bit of whipped cream and some preserves.”
    Bottle: Walnut and hazelnut oils. “I think these nut oils are great to use in various vinaigrettes and marinades.”
    Jar: Preserves. “Whether it’s peach marmalade or apricot or blackberry or blueberry-take that and use that on a plate with various cheeses.”
    Tip: “Entertaining at home is seen as an arduous task and it can be if you don’t have certain little things in your pantry or freezer that you could just pull out.”

    Thomas Keller
    Chef/owner of The French Laundry in Yountville, California, and the author of Ad Hoc at Home (Artisan)
    Can: Italian tuna fish. “I think that’s such an extraordinary product. And it’s something that can be made into a canapé or a salad.”
    Carton: Eggs. “Deviled eggs: That’s something my mother made for us when we were kids for Thanksgiving that still resonates with me and that we still do here at The French Laundry for our Christmas party.”
    Bottle: Wine or Champagne. “When you think about what’s your favorite thing in a bottle, I don’t necessarily go to food. I think about a great glass of champagne or a beautiful glass of white wine.”
    Jar: Piquillo peppers. “They’re a little bit spicy but sweet at the same time. They’re not overpowering but they add a really nice smokiness, whether you’re using them chopped in a salad or in a sauce.”
    Tip: “People we have to our house are our friends, so it should be something that’s simple and easy and not too fussy.”

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