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1 potato, 2 potato, 3 potato . . .

Jennifer Rubell, author, Real Life Entertaining: Easy Recipes and Unconventional Wisdom

Q: Every year around the holidays, I always seem to have lots of unexpected guests for cocktails, dinner or brunch, thanks to my very social fiancé. Any tips on what I should keep on hand in the pantry or fridge, that can make it seem like I'm oh-so-together?

JR: I've got my holiday must-haves down to a science, and there are only four things on the list: Little red potatoes, sour cream, caviar and Champagne. Whenever you want to transform yourself into a hostess with the mostest, just throw a dozen potatoes on a pan and stick it in a 350-degree oven. Forty minutes later, take them out, cut a little ''V'' out of the top, squeeze to fluff them up a little, add a dollop of sour cream and a little caviar and place them on a gorgeous tray. Then, pop open the Champagne and you're an entertaining genius. (If you're on a budget, substitute salmon roe for caviar, and cheap American bubbly for Champagne; you'll still be a genius.)

Jennifer Rubell will be at Miami Book Fair International on Sun., Nov. 19 at 3 p.m. Nov. 19, Florida Center for the Literary Arts at Miami Dade College.

Coming Nov. 15: Wine expert Jay McInerney on impressing your new crush.