Photo by Collin Richie.

For the Chastain family, chaos is all part of the holiday party process

As the youngest of four kids, hosting the family Christmas party has always been equally as stressful as it is enjoyable. Dad and the boys set up the yard. Mom scrambles for a kid to do the fourth grocery run of the day. Aunts and uncles swing in for a quick, but usually unnecessary, chat. And of course, we’re always late. Every single time. But if there is one thing I’ve learned about hosting a holiday party, it is to embrace the chaos.

Over the years, my mother, Joan Chastain, co-owner of Ingle Eats, has mastered the art of throwing a successful party—a skill I believe only a few possess. However, when I asked her for tips on how to host the perfect get-together, her answer was simple: you can’t.

“If you’re looking for perfection, you’ll lose the joy,” she says. “I don’t always set a table, and we don’t use the fine china every time. We present our dishes on nice plates and platters, but we serve and seat ourselves.”

My mom has never put pressure on herself or a party, and I think that is what makes the events she hosts so great. For reference, the photo shoot for this story was set for 11 a.m., and at 10:55 the only thing we had on the table was the ham. But alas, in five minutes, she turned our table into a fabulous Christmas spread full of beautiful gourmet food.

Mom likes to give each kid a job. James controls the music. Sam and I finish whatever food is left to cook. Dad prepares the bar. And Helene does a final house sweep. It’s a system, and it works.

Making your guests feel comfortable is also something Mom values in a good party, and our home on Ingleside Drive is the perfect testament to that.

“We’ve always had a very open floor plan, so everyone feels connected, and there is no bad place to be when seated,” my mom says.

Recently, we added a few small-but-necessary additions to our home to up our entertaining game. The renovation was spearheaded by my sister, interior designer Helene Dellocono.

“We created a butler’s pantry for a bar and coffee station that opens to the kitchen and flows to the living areas,” Helene says. “We never had a bar set up in the house, which created a cluster of people. Having a gorgeous space designated for a bar just made sense.”

When I asked my family what they would tell all of you, their response was a call to enjoy the food, the space and the company when hosting a party, and never stress over the details. Like my mom says, if you’re looking for perfection, you’ll lose the joy.

My mom is hoping to spread the joy this holiday season courtesy of the four recipes on the following pages. So create your holiday menu, assign your planning crew their jobs, and never be afraid to be fashionably late.

Happy holidays from the Chastain family!

Foolproof Béarnaise Sauce

½ cup dry white wine
¼ cup white wine vinegar
3 sprigs tarragon, leaves finely minced, stems reserved separately
1 small shallot, roughly chopped
½ tsp. whole black peppercorns
2 egg yolks
Kosher salt
12 Tbsp. (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter
Combine wine, vinegar, herb stems, shallots, and black peppercorns in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and lower heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook until reduced to about 1 ½ Tbsp. of liquid, about 15 minutes. Carefully strain liquid through a fine mesh strainer into a small bowl, pressing on solids with the back of a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible.
Combine wine reduction, egg yolks and a pinch of salt in the bottom of a cup that barely fits the head of an immersion blender. Melt butter in a small saucepan over high heat, swirling constantly, until foaming subsides. Transfer butter to a 1-cup liquid measuring cup.
Place head of immersion blender into the bottom of the cup with wine reduction. Continue pouring until all butter is added. Sauce should be thick and creamy. Season to taste with salt. Whisk in chopped tarragon. Serve immediately, or transfer to small, lidded pot and keep in a warm place for up to 1 hour before serving. Bérnaise cannot be cooled and reheated.

Alon Shaya’s Potato Latkes

3 ¾ lb. russet potatoes, peeled and grated
½ lb. onion
1 cup lemon juice
1 ½ Tbsp. salt
1 bunch green onions
½ cup cornstarch
7 egg whites, whipped until frothy
Butter or canola oil for frying
Grate potatoes and onions with a cheese grater. (The weight of the potatoes and onions in the recipe is after they are grated.)
Combine grated onion, potato, lemon juice and salt together and place in a towel over a colander to drain. Add weight to colander to press out any excess liquid. Let sit for 1 hour, then ring out the mixture to dry even more.
Fold whipped egg whites, cornstarch, and green onions into the potato mixture.
Pan fry latkes in thin even layers in clarified butter until golden brown on both sides. Canola oil can be substituted for clarified butter.

Lobster Latkes

6 steamed, seasoned lobsters, meat removed and coarsely chopped
Latkes (see recipe above)
Béarnaise sauce (see recipe)
Layer latkes, lobster and Béarnaise.
Enjoy with fresh fruit and biscuits.

Honey Lime Mint Dressing

2 Tbsp. honey
2 tsp. lime zest (about 1 lime)
2 Tbsp. lime juice (about 1 lime)
2 Tbsp. chopped, fresh mint
6 cups mixed berries
Combine dressing ingredients. Serve over fresh fruit.

Cheddar Chive Scones with Ham and Fig Preserves

2 cups self rising flour
1/4 cup grated cheddar
2 Tbsp. chopped chives
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/4 cup whipping cream
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a mixing bowl, gently combine ingredients.
Turn onto floured surface. Knead until dough comes together. Form into 8-9” circle, about 1/2 an inch thick. Cut with 2 inch biscuit cutter. You should get about 10-12 biscuits. Brush with melted butter.
Bake on a greased baking sheet for 9-11 minutes or until lightly browned and cooked throughout. Serve with sliced ham and fig preserves.