Dish & Design serves up holiday hacks, tips

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

What’s the perfect stress-free recipe for holiday entertaining, the kind you can make in advance so you’re not knee-deep in pots, pans and angst when your guests arrive? Chef Travis Holewinski has three words: braised short ribs.

“It’s delicious, it’s hard to wreck it and you can hold it for a long time,” said Holewinski, executive chef of The Fed, a new restaurant that features varied American cuisines in downtown Clarkston. “... Any kind of occasion, you can’t go wrong.”

Holewinski was one of several experts who offered tips for stress-free holiday entertaining at Wednesday’s Dish & Design, a series of talks presented by Homestyle and sponsored by Scott Shuptrine Interiors.

More than 100 readers gathered at Scott Shuptrine’s Royal Oak location to get ideas for everything from creating the right holiday tablescape to floral arrangements and even cocktails.

Holewinski said one of the most important aspects of cooking braised short ribs is searing the meat correctly. That sear is what builds flavor, he said.

“The carmelization of the meat is going to carry most of your flavor,” said Holewinski, who seared both sides and even the sides until they were a crusty brown. “It’s your one chance to get it right.”

After searing the meat, Holewinski sauteed onions and carrots in the same pan, put the meat back in and de-glazed the pan with red wine.

Another tip: Don’t rush cooking the meat. “You can’t rush slow food,” he said.

Flower power

When it comes to creating a colorful holiday floral arrangement, Jeffrey Jucewicz of Jeffrey Floral Architecture in Troy created a statement with a display that combined gladiolas with mixed berries and large leaves.

“If you have a lot of texture, you don’t want it to compete,” said Jucewicz, who designs all the holiday floral arrangements for the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham.

Jucewicz also created a display with three tall glass cylinders inside of which he put holly, pine and other greenery. He filled them with water, then added a floating candle.

And what’s an easy way to make your flowers last a few days longer? Add a few drops of bleach to the water, said Jucewicz.

The bleach helps “keep the bacteria down,” said Jucewicz.

Let your imagination go

Designer Tom Verwest of Scott Shuptrine Interiors said when it comes to creating a beautiful holiday tablescape, the color palette doesn’t have to be traditional red and green. One of his favorite color combinations to use during the holidays is chartreuse and purple.

“Let your imagination go wild,” said Verwest.

And ornaments don’t have to only go on the tree, he said.

“... Incorporate them into the table,” Verwest said.

And it’s perfectly OK to mix metals in your decor — silver and gold, or copper.

“All metals can be mixed together,” he said.

Holiday hacks

Above all, have fun with your holiday decor and don’t be afraid to think outside the box, said Jeanine Matlow, a columnist for Homestyle who offered tips for cutting corners for holiday decorating.

One idea: Use a mitten or glove as a silverware holder. Or use a mirror as a tray.

A mirror “can make a centerpiece look even prettier,” said Matlow, who writes Homestyle’s Smart Solutions column.

And remember those ugly holiday sweaters that are all the rage these days? Matlow used a red sweater over the back of a dining chair, giving it a completely different look.

“Use fashion in your decor,” said Matlow.

Punch it up

Jack Dalton, the head of beverage services at the Whisky Parlor in Detroit, mixed up a holiday cocktail with some literal punch: the Parlor Punch and Judy.

Dalton said the term “punch” comes from a Hindu word for “five” — citrus, sugar, water, alcohol and spices.

Based on a Manhattan drink, the Parlor Punch and Judy included orange and cinnamon infused Dolin Vermouth, sherry, lemon juice, vanilla simple syrup, and J.P. Scrumpy’s Hard Cider.

And how simple is it to create an infusion? “You take something, add something and leave it overnight. That’s an infusion,” said Dalton.

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Twitter: @mfeighan