When entertaining, think about how the food you are serving is plated, and take a cue from restaurant chefs. Try mounding spaghetti-style pasta by using tongs and twisting the pasta to shape a nest-like portion before adding the sauce. Bone-in pork chops or lamb chops add dimension to a plate when propped against a pile of mashed potatoes or vegetables. A mound of chocolate curls placed in the center of an individual dessert is an easy garnish that makes a spectacular presentation as well.
To make your own bread crumbs, toast a slice of white bread. When it is completely cool, pulse it in a mini food processor until you get crumbs. For a more rustic look, use a slice of whole grain bread instead.
If a recipe calls for Burgundy wine, there is no need to use only that variety. It is perfectly acceptable to use any full-bodied red wine, so if you are a Merlot drinker, use Merlot, or if you are a Cabernet drinker, use a Cab. Just remember to use a quality wine that you would also drink.
Pancetta, an Italian bacon cured with salt and a lot pepper, is great for adding depth of flavor to meats and stews. Start by chopping a few slices of pancetta and sautéing them in a sauté pan over medium heat until the fat is rendered. A mixture of finely chopped carrots, celery and onion is often sautéed in the pancetta fat before adding other ingredients for additional flavor.
If you don't have parchment paper in your kitchen cupboard, you need to get some. It is strong enough to stand up to both heat and water, and the smooth, hard surface doesn't soak up grease. It is nonstick as well, which makes it great for lining cookie sheets and baking pans. It also makes clean up a breeze!