Q: What knives are good to get and why? Also, how do you keep your fingers out of the way of a really sharp knife?
I find Wusthof knives to be the best. They are made in Germany and are used by famous chefs all over the world. They are known for their excellent craftsmanship, feel, weight and sharp edges. You can find them at Williams-Sonoma, Macy's, Crate & Barrel and numerous online venues. In fact, there's also a website with all the information you need about Wusthofs, including how to care for them. Google "Wusthof knives" and find what you are looking for, including special sales!
As far as keeping your fingers safe, cut slowly and deliberately—especially if you haven't had much experience slicing and dicing. Never be in a hurry when you are chopping and always pay attention to where your fingers are and where the blade is. By the way, some cooking schools offer knife cutting classes. I took one, but I'm still ultra-careful!
Cristina on how to make the perfect gravy Q: I have tried numerous times to make gravy from scratch without success; it is either too liquidy or tastes like flour. Last year, Christmas dinner was celebrated at my house, and since I did not want to screw up the turkey gravy, I got one of my guests to do it (a little embarrassing). I would just love to be able to make gravy without being so scared of the outcome. I want to be confident next year, therefore, if I get the information from a pro and practice, my gravy phobia will be a thing of the past.
Try it—I think you will like it. Definitely give it a go now since the holidays are almost a year away. It will give you plenty of time to see if you like it.
Also try making the turkey with my marinade . You can use the same marinade for chicken too! It makes really great pan juices to make the gravy. Please let me know how it turns out!
Good luck, Cristina
Cristina on party hosting etiquette Q: Is it a no-no to serve your guests on paper plates? Should guests help with clean up after dinner? Is it rude to start washing the dishes (if you don't use paper plates!) and cleaning up before guests leave? And one last question, how long should guests wait after arriving before dinner is served?
Paper plates have a place—at a picnic! I like to serve meals on dishes and drinks in glasses because I want my guests to feel special. How would you feel if you were looking forward to going over to someone's home and they served you a meal on a paper plate? It's all a matter of how you wish to take care of someone you've invited into your home to enjoy a meal you have prepared. Plus, I think wine always taste better in a glass; it doesn't taste the same in a paper cup!
Sit with your company after dinner and wait until they leave before you wash the dishes. I know it's a pain to clean up, but if a guest "asks" to help clean up, I always say, "No, thank you" first. However, if they ask again, I quickly hand them a towel and say, "Sure!" (Why not?) Some of the most fun and best laughs come from being together in the kitchen cleaning up!
I only wait 30 to 45 minutes—tops—before I serve dinner. I don't believe in long cocktail hours. People are hungry, and I feel it's being inconsiderate to keep people waiting too long.
Speaking of inconsiderate, if I have asked guests to be at the house by 7 p.m., I won't wait for people who arrive past the 45-minute mark. Why should I keep the people who showed up on time waiting for someone who is late? Now that's a no-no!