Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Chef Tips - Prepare for Thanksgiving Part 2 - Tips & Timing

Well, it is the day before D-day (or T-day) and I have some tips and tricks to make the day go better. Best we just start with a top-10 list of things you do NOT want to do tomorrow, so getting them done today will make you happy. Seems like these are the simple things but are always getting overlooked and can set you back 30, 60 or even 90 minutes.
  1. Cut bread for stuffing
  2. Set the table
  3. Make desert
  4. Go to the grocery store
  5. Do dishes
  6. Clean the kitchen
  7. Clean the fridge (as mentioned before)
  8. Forget to take time for a shower (please still do this on Thanksgiving, just make a plan for it)
  9. Ignore your guests
  10. Have a terrible time

I believe the question I get the most is "how do I get everything to finish on (or around) the same time?" Obviously, the more you get done the day before, the easier timing will be on Thanksgiving. I have some simple calculations that will help you plan the day and make sure everything is hot and fresh.

Tip #1 - The Turkey should rest for 30 minutes before you cut it
This is great for you because it is the perfect amount of time to bring everything together. During this time you should; make the gravy from pan drippings, get your veggies ready and to the table (flash fry your green beans if you have previously blanched them), scoop the stuffing out of the bird and put in a dish, bring out the mashed potatoes, and get everyone a fresh drink and headed to the table. You may be surprised just how long the last one takes!

Tip #2 - Don't wait to get the Turkey in the oven
Depending upon the size of your turkey, you may need as little as 3 hours and as many as 6 but here is the secret. By adjusting the temperature in your oven you can extend the cooking of a smaller bird or speed up a big one. So don't wait, get up get the bird ready and into the oven, then just adjust the heat throughout the day to match up with your desired eating time. 165° internal temperature is what you are aiming for.

Tip #3 - Do your mashed potatoes early
Mashed potatoes always take longer than expected. I cook mine with the skins on in 1/2 milk and 1/2 cream with garlic, thyme and a bay leaf. Once cooked I have to peel, put through a ricer and re-incorporate with the milk, cream and butter. If you put your finished potatoes in a disposable tin tray, cover with plastic wrap you can hold them for 4-6 hours over a pan of simmering water. This way they are not holding up the meal.

Good luck out there and I will see you at the table. Here is my menu from this year, hope you will share yours with everyone as well.

1st Course
Blue Cheese Gougéres
Ribeye Crostinis with Horseradish Goat Cheese
Catalan Olives w/ Italian Sweet Peppers

Main Course
Free-range Organic Turkey
Chanterelle Mushroom & Leek Stuffing
Garlic Cream Mashed Potatoes w/ Gravy
Lemon Vinegar Green Beans
Orange Cinnamon Cranberry

Vanilla Bean Apple Pie a-la-mode
Pumpkin Pie w/ Whipped Cream

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