The title to this post gives me a little anxiety…a countdown to Thanksgiving. Can you feel the (both) pressure and excitement mounting? As someone with virtually no extra time on my hands yet who makes Thanksgiving dinner every year from “beyond” scratch, I’m feeling a bit of a twinge right now! I do have some helpful tips I’d like to share with you, and I’d love you to share yours with our community too.
Thanksgiving Zen – I was going to put this last, but I think I’ll mention it first. Every year, in the midst of my inefficiencies, mini crises in the kitchen and shortage of key ingredients, a voice comes into my head and says: “Somehow Thanksgiving dinner will be on the table tomorrow. I may not know how right now, but I know it will be.” Seems like a good way to start the tips and if you can find that voice, I can tell you that it’s helpful!
Serveware – Finding and taking out your serveware plates, platters, bowls, and utensils and putting them aside a few days ahead for your main and side dishes, will save last minute anxiety. Put these pieces outside of the kitchen, to be at the ready when called to duty. On more than one occasion I’ve had to add the plastic utensil to a side dish at the last minute. Not the end of the world, but advance attention to detail will avoid those situations.
Meal Planning – Everyone has their own way of preparing the meal, especially with assistants under foot in the kitchen. My friend, Sean Sullivan, tells me that his “perfect kitchen helper” will accept the job that is given, find an out-of-the-way spot, clean up when done (important!) and say “what’s next?” Carefully plan who is best for which task and what the best time is to do particular tasks.
Plan the preparation of all of your courses according to when your cooking helpers are available to you, your appliances are available to avoid overcrowding, and availability of countertop appliances as well such as mixers, bowls, strainers, food processors, etc. A little planning ahead will make the process flow efficiently.
Appliance Preparation – It’s a great time to observe how your appliances are working for you, especially if a kitchen remodel might be in your future. There is no right and wrong as to the type of cooking appliances that make sense for your kitchen and cooking style and which do not. One example is my double ovens. I use the second oven one day a year – Thanksgiving – but I’m thrilled to have a second oven on that day when everything goes into the oven! It’s your “cooking stage” and a heightened awareness of appliances that truly work for you and an appliance that does not perform as you need it to, will be helpful when it is time for a change.
Do you need an extra cooking burner? Take a good look at the portable induction burners. They can go anywhere you have a spot and an outlet in the kitchen. They add real efficiency.
Countertop Countdown – Scan the countertop! In a small to medium kitchen, consider removing decorative and unneeded items from the countertop and place them out of site. Preparing your kitchen countertops for the big cooking sessions will add, in some cases, substantially more space for prep. Take a fresh look past the clutter…you’ll be glad you did.
By anticipating how you and others can best move about the kitchen on Thanksgiving Day and the days prior when we’re busy cooking, you will have more control, more of a flow to the cooking process, and you’ll get to that zen place before you know it! Happy Thanksgiving! I’d love to know your tips for a smooth cooking process.