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display of pre-made food dishes

Professional chef says pre-made foods aren't a holiday party faux-pas


In the chaotic weeks leading up to the holidays, contributing to post-work holiday parties may feel like more of an imposition than a pleasure. Bringing pre-made food to parties is a reality for many of us — but it doesn't have to be a source of shame.

Mark Russell, executive chef for Loblaw and creator of the From Our Chefs brand, suggests owning it instead. We asked him for the dos and don'ts of bringing something to a holiday party.

Is taking something pre-made to a party a food faux-pas?

Pre-made food is only a faux-pas if you compromise on quality. If you're saving time by bringing something you didn't make, spend a little more money or effort to ensure it's going to deliver on taste. If you start with high-quality food, there's also a lot you can do to elevate your dish, like presenting it in an appealing manner.

How much does presentation matter?

When it comes to gourmet food, presentation is everything. Try to go the extra mile when plating your pre-made soup or entrée. Butternut squash looks fantastic served in a martini glass or teacup with a flourish of crème-fraiche or a few thinly sliced apples. Likewise, a pre-made chicken parmesan will really impress if it's cut in half and propped up on a bed of creamed spinach to create depth and colour contrast.

Is it better to be sneaky or bold about pre-made contributions?

Take a tip from top chefs who share where their dish came from, why they've chosen it, and what ingredients it contains before setting it down. Likewise, let your own guests know if you're serving a dish made from local ingredients, or one that has won an international award like From Our Chefs chocolate mousse or turkey spinach meatballs which have been recognized by the International Taste and Quality Institute in Brussels, Belgium.

Any other advice?

Don't be afraid to mix and match, especially if you're going it alone on a whole dinner party. If your braised veal is itself worthy of an international award, pair it with an equally mouth-watering cauliflower rice from your local grocery store so you can focus on getting the veal just right.

– News Canada

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