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How to Dress Up Your Holiday Ham or Roast


It's Christmas week already. And although you likely have already been meal planning, you may have not Ham with garnish thought about presentation of the meat-often the main part of your holiday meal. If you have decided that Thanksgiving provided ample turkey and are cooking a roast or ham instead, here are some tips to help you make a great presentation:

  1. Start with the basics. And by that, I mean don't doubt the power of your platter underneath the meat. A metal pan is tacky. Even a glass pan will not give the best impression. A platter that matches your dish set that you will be using or a platter with an elegant holiday theme (perhaps etched glass) is perfect.
  2. Decide what form to serve the meat in. Do you want to present it as a whole piece, or slice it up on the platter first? It's important to decide this before deciding between potential garnishes.
  3. Use a meat thermometer. If you don't want to cut into the meat to check that it is done, make sure that you use a meat thermometer to insure that the meat has reached the correct temperature. Ham should be at 160 degrees and beef should be at 155-165 degrees for well done. 

There are also several options for garnishes after the meat is on the platter:

  1. Fruit - A honey-glazed ham pairs well with fruit so use toothpicks to attach pineapple rings, maraschino cherries or oranges sliced in circles. Or arrange fruit around the meat on the platter.
  2. Flowers - Buy carnations or roses and cut off the stems. Arrange the head only of the flowers around the roast. Even one or two flowers will make the meat presentation unique. Try edible flowers for even more "ooo and ahh."
  3. Veggies - Layer the platter with lettuce or parsley and place the meat on top of it. Or use cooked veggies such as cubed potatoes, long stems of broccoli, beets or asparagus. Another idea is to shred carrots, make little "beds" of them around the roast and place a small red radish or small tomato in the center of the carrot beds.
  4. Nuts - Place chestnuts, pecans or almonds around the base of the roast.

As the cook, you should also decide how the meat will be served. Will it be sliced at the table and plates passed around the table for their portion? If so, add a portion of the edible garnishes to each serving after you place a slice on a plate.

Don't be afraid to practice a couple of garnishes before the big day. A well-presented main dish can become the talk of the holiday dinner.