In my family, we were raised with the idea that being a good host means that your guests are comfortable and relaxed – and that you, the host, are never too harried to enjoy your own party. To accomplish this, you need to plan ahead and be prepared. My model for this is my grandmother, who would not only serve a Thanksgiving supper for 30 without breaking a sweat, but she'd then also set out a late-night buffet of leftovers that we would pile sandwich-style onto perfect Sister Schubert's dinner rolls. In honor of Nana's effortless grace and hospitality, we've turned to the consummate hostess, Sister Schubert herself, for the best entertaining tips for Thanksgiving and beyond.
Sister Schubert, aka Patricia Barnes, credits her own grandmother with teaching her not only those famous rolls recipes, but also the keys to true Southern hospitality. Her tips are designed to make entertaining easier for the host, which makes for a more gracious and relaxed evening for everyone.
Sister's Entertaining Tips
- Always set your table the night before – not only will your family immediately feel special when they arrive and see a fully decorated table, but you'll have more time to focus on visiting with loved ones during the special day.
- Write down your menu a few days before – make sure it's a combination of family traditions, new tastes and at least 1-2 items that require only minimal prep. By creating a menu, you can set your mind at ease as you shop, cook and put the finished plates on the table, keeping you focused on what's really important: spending the holidays with family and friends.
- Prepare as many foods in advance as possible – you'll be glad you got a head start, and flavors will be enhanced.
- Decorate with fresh flowers. Buy potted plants (amaryllis, paperwhites, and herbs) two weeks in advance and fresh flowers (tulips and hydrangeas are my favorites) no more than two days before. I like to collect nice vases; they make up half of the look of the flower arrangements! For an extra special touch, add flowers, branches, leaves and berries from the garden.
- Incorporate something handwritten. Send invitations, create a menu, or put place cards on the table. If serving buffet-style, it's a nice touch to have the recipe name creatively displayed next to each dish. This is an easy task, and your guests will appreciate the extra-special touch.
- Make guests feel special by welcoming them with a refreshing drink and sending them home with something from your kitchen to add warmth to their own tables. There's nothing better than sending guests off with a package of my homemade rolls!
Indeed, perhaps the best Thanksgiving gift of all is a to-go bag with fixin's for each guest's perfect leftover sandwich. Plenty of internet space is dedicated to achieving leftover sandwich nirvana, with debates raging from the temperature of the ingredients to the exact type of bread. For me it’s very simple: it’s all about delicious layers of flavors and textures stacked in between a Sister Schubert’s Parker House roll, the very same rolls I serve on my holiday table. The bite-size sliders are the perfect balance of savory yet sweet, crunchy and still oh-so-soft.
Turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce are no-brainers, and of course a drizzle of brown gravy to keep everything rich and moist. My pièce de résistance is a sprinkling of crispy fried onions, which provide the perfect finishing crunch to my decadent leftover masterpiece.
This year the other souvenir we're sending home with our guests is a piece of virtual needlepoint art. Sister Schubert loves to needlepoint, so she's created Needlequotes, an online service where you can enter the quote of your choice and it will create a shareable craft that you can send to your friends and family. When you create a Needlequote, you also enter for the chance to win a generous gift basket filled with everything you've ever wanted for your holiday tabletop, including beautiful table linens, a bread basket, and of course those delicious rolls. Best of all, if you win, you get to choose a loved one to win a second gift basket. All in the spirit of Sister's gracious hospitality.