Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Oh Shit.

Somehow, you've been tasked with cooking the holiday meal.  What do you do? Panic? Head to the bookstore and buy every cooking magazine available? (Btw, I love those cooking magazines with their cool photos and funky dishes. I don't know where they get those models, but they are always irritatingly proportioned, ultra-cool, and super euro. I don't know about you, but I would be wildly, wildly uncomfortable in a room full of people like that. But I digress.) Let's run through a game plan.

1. Compose your menu. This is where you can fix mistakes before they're made. Remember to consider how you're going to produce the menu. In a professional kitchen, how to execute a dish is as important as the dish itself. Just like you can't overload the saute station at work, at home you can't bake four things at different temperatures at the same time. Try to keep the rules of physics in mind whilst creating your holiday deliciousness. To begin, I usually begin with the main protein. Let's take a standing rib roast, for example. It's a festive, luxurious cut of well-marbled beef. You can dictate the size by specifying how many ribs you would like. A few years ago, I bought a three-rib roast for four people, and there were plenty of leftovers. Whatever your protein, be it turkey, beef, lamb, or goose, remember to account for time to rest the meat. This will give you about thirty minutes to bring the last components of your meal together. You want a starch, such as mashed potatoes, rice pilaf, or roasted fingerlings. And I usually provide at least two veggies. A dark leafy green like kale is perfect sauteed with shallots, garlic and olive oil. Easy, and, for me, a necessary part of a meal. If you are adventurous and want to experiment, try to limit it to one or two dishes. The last thing you want is unforeseen complications when everybody is starving and getting cranky.

2. Make a prep list. On your list, label each dish, write out each component, and how long and by what technique you will cook it. Figure out what you can delegate, and what you need to do yourself. Try to get things done the day before, especially grocery shopping. I like to get all chopping out of the way beforehand, and keep my garlic, shallots, onions, carrots, etc. in bowls so I can cook organized and uninterrupted.

3. Get Help! Chances are, there will be people around you saying, "What can I do to help?" Do not play the martyr. Conscript and conquer. "Chop those onions." "Wash those pans." "Pick that parsley." If your guests are like mine, they will be happy to be included and it's more fun for everyone.

Alright folks. Holiday issues? Concerns? Questions? Blog it!


  1. So this isn't necessarily Holiday related, but I have a question. I have 2 breastless ducks that I was thinking of using for duck confit. I've never made confit before. What's the best way to go about it? Also, in regards to the duck fat, do I use fat from the ducks I have, do I need to some how render the fat? Thanks in advance!

  2. Any suggestions for easy-to-make hors d'oeuvres which are relatively light and go well with champagne?