Tips for Easy Entertaining from Chef Michelle Bernstein

By: Cooking Channel Staff

Want to make sure your 4th of July bash goes off without a hitch? Award-winning chef Michelle Bernstein, who knows a thing or two about cooking for a crowd, has four tips to make entertaining easier.

Michelle Bernstein's Tips for Easy Entertaining:
  • Make dishes that sit well. "I want to hang out, too," she says. "Make things in a thoughtful way beforehand, and then prepare fully the day of." For instance, if you're putting together a Greek salad, chop all of the cucumbers, tomatoes and seasonings the night before.
  • Let your kids join in on the fun. Give them prepared tasks like setting up the table so they feel like part of the action, too.
  • Use the freshest ingredients possible, especially for the finishing touch. If you prepare the salad a day or two ahead, add a pop of flavor with fresh cilantro and citrus. "It will taste like you made it that day," Michelle says.
  • Taste everything before you serve it. Seriously, this one is a must. Get approval from yourself for each dish.
Michelle's last tip? Mix up your menu.

"I like to change things up and play in the kitchen," she says.

So skip the burgers this year and bring in some Latin flavors with Michelle's recipe for chorizo tacos:

Michelle Bernstein’s Chorizo Tacos
  Michelle's Chorizo Tacos Recipe

 You can, of course, buy chorizo at the supermarket, but Michelle suggests making your own at home with a stand-mixer and grinding attachment. Using fresh pork, cinnamon, cumin, garlic, salt and pepper, and then feed the meat through the grinder twice (you can also throw some ice cubes in to help the grind). Not a pork fan? Substitute the meat with chicken, scallops, shrimp or beef.

2 pounds pork butt, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons garlic, chopped fine
1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped fine
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
3/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 dried guajillo chilies
4 ancho chilies
4 tablespoons cider vinegar

In a large bowl, mix the pork butt with the garlic, onion, salt, chili powder, smoked paprika, cumin, cinnamon and black pepper. Using your stand mixer with a grinder attachment, grind the pork with spices two times. In a skillet over high heat, toast the dried guajillo and ancho chilies on both sides for a few seconds. Cover the chilies in warm water and let soak for 1 hour. After an hour, remove the chilies from the water, remove the stems and seeds from the chilies. Chop the chilies and place them in a blender with the vinegar; puree until smooth. Combine the spiced pork with the puree. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Cook the pork for about 10-12 minutes or until cooked through. Set aside.

Pickled Onions:
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Place the onions in a bowl over a larger bowl of ice water. In a small pan, combine the vinegar, sugar, salt and 1/4 cup water and bring to a boil. Pour over the onions and allow to macerate until they cool. Drain and store in the refrigerator for a few days. Before serving add in cilantro.

Avocado Relish:
4 Haas avocados
1 Serrano pepper, chopped fine
Juice of 1 lime
Kosher salt

Mix all ingredients together.

Black Beans:
2 cups dried black beans
8 cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup yellow onions, brunoise
1 cup green bell pepper, brunoise
4 garlic cloves, mashed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup dry Spanish sherry
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

Soak the beans in water overnight in the refrigerator. Drain, place in a large saucepan with fresh water to cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cook about 1 hour or until tender. Sauté the onions, pepper, garlic in olive oil until soft, add the salt, pepper, oregano, cumin, bay leaves, sherry and sherry vinegar. Bring to a boil, add the beans to the mixture and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring gently. Pour half of the mixture into a blender and puree then pour back into the beans, taste for seasoning.

To build the tacos:

Top a corn tortilla with a spoonful of black beans. Top the black beans with two spoonfuls of the chorizo filling then top with the onion/cilantro mix and some avocado relish.

More Main Dish Recipes (that aren't burgers) for the 4th of July

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