Monday, December 24, 2007

Holiday cooking rescue guide

"'twas the night before Christmas
and all through the house
The turkey was burning
And so was my blouse..."

Just some quick last-minute tips for those of us who are a little fearful that our Christmas meals won't come out quite right.

1. Relax. Take a deep breath. It will all be ok. Put on some music that you like while you are cooking, something to chill you out and calm you down.
2. Delegate. I had 20 people in my smallish house for christmas. I did the meats, and everybody else brought the side dishes. Took a lot of the stress off my hands.
3. If you can't delegate, use shortcuts. There's lots of great prepared foods out there, especially for desserts, that work really well. There's even great roasted chickens at most grocery stores. Take the garbage out, and no one will be the wiser. Your family will probably want to help in some way. Let them.
4. If you have time, do a dry run. I cooked my first Christmas turkey two weeks before Christmas, to make sure everything came out OK. A good thing I did, too, because it took more than twice as long to thaw as the package said it would.
5. Don't do more than one new recipe. Go with old standbys for most of your meals.
6. Read through the recipe several times before you start. Look for anything that is confusing to you or doesn't make sense.
7. "Mise in place" is your friend. Have everything cut and measured before you start. You can do this well in advance for most things, and you won't run frantically around the kitchen as much.
8. Have a backup plan. That way, if your item doesn't come out, you can have something to serve to your hungry guests. Frozen ravioli may not be traditional, but it's filling, can feed a crowd, is easy to make, and pretty much everybody likes it. Also, Find the number of the Chinese place nearby that will be open on Christmas Day. If things are unsalvagable, give them a call.
9. Don't start drinking until affter the bulk of the cooking is done. Okay, maybe a beer or one glass of wine, but no more. You may think that drinking will help to relax you, but drunk cooking is sloppy cooking, and leads to injury and disaster.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

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