How to Survive a Holiday Meal

by Jeff Berkowitz on November 16, 2010 · 2 comments

in Tips & Tricks

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Holiday meals are very important to us. Perhaps they are most important to the cook, who wants everything to be perfect. I cook very often for my family and, even with all my experience, I forget an ingredient or condiment very often. Naturally, this bothers me for a minute and then I let it go…most of the time the ingredient is only one small element which does not ruin the dish. This happens to a great many cooks. I have also witnessed the frenzy and stress of last minute details before the meal is served…that is no way to enjoy a Holiday with family and friends. Holidays like Thanksgiving should be times of peace and joy so that we can be truly thankful for what we have. To that end I have a solution.

This is not a new solution, but it really does work. I learned many years ago to “take a page from Iron Chef Rokusaburo Michiba’s book” which means to write down a menu. I loved the original Iron Chef! Iron Chef Michiba would write down his menu during the first few precious minutes of each battle so that he and his sous chefs would know what to do. The only battles he lost were the ones during which he did not write the menu down in the beginning of the battle…coincidence? I don’t think so. When I had a complicated day at the Country Club or was dealing with feeding over ten thousand people after commencement at the university I would write down th menu and even write down what time things needed to go into the oven because, even then, oven space was always tight. Simply stated, make a menu. This menu then becomes shopping list, timing list and even the “oh yeah don’t forget to take the cranberry sauce out of the fridge” list.  The menu does not have to be complicated, but even the simplest list can keep you from forgetting to buy the fried onions for the green bean casserole. Our menu will look something like this:

Butternut Squash Soup

Roast or Smoked Brined Fresh Turkey

Cornbread & Chestnut Dressing


Sweet Potatoes with Brown Sugar Rum Sauce

Port Wine Vinegar Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Wilted Greens with Caramelized Onions

Confit of Shallot and Mushrooms

Cranberry Sauce

Various Home Pickled Vegetables

Pumpkin Pie

This is the idea. During the next few days I will be digging up or even creating the recipes for these dishes and one by one I hope to post some form of the dish so that everyone will have an idea of what to do. Some of these items on the list are nothing more than ideas at this point, like the gravy… I know I will have a gravy but I want something that will compliment a smoked turkey which may not be the usual “gravy”. Later, I will put a timetable on when each dish should be made so that everything can hit the dinner table at the same time. Some of the items on the menu will have to be made days ahead, some on the stove top and some in the oven, but everything can come together at the same time! I am in no way suggesting that anyone abandon their family favorite dishes in favor of mine. I only wish to help organize and give some new ideas if you want to try something new. The key here is enjoyment of the day! Enjoy.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jody December 14, 2010 at 5:11 pm

I like the idea of creating a menu, then schedule. I do the same thing when planning a big meal. I intend to try several of the items on your menu (wilted greens with carmelized onions and butternut squash soup). We are vegetarians and always looking for new recipes. Thanks! ~ Jody


2 Sherell Casbeer November 27, 2010 at 9:22 am

Thanks for the post, keep posting stuff


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