Thanksgiving has just got you warmed up for the holiday cooking. Next month, if you are planning something with friends or family, say a Christmas dinner at home, Thanksgiving cooking was just a wake-up call. If your kitchen was a mess, unorganized, off time and the thanksgiving menu was rubbish, now is an excellent time to step back, evaluate and change the errors in the game plan.
Let me introduce you to the term ‘mise-en-place’. A culinary term, when translated from French, literally means to ‘put in place.’ Your kitchen from start to finish must be organized, clean and in order. And for the amateur cook, that can be the most difficult thing to do.
Your first step for a successful dinner is to plan the menu, and plan it well. Think of all the details and balance all aspects. Don’t go buying an ingredient that’s not in season and please remember to make something for the vegetarians and those with allergies. Get your recipes ready and the shopping list written out. Buy your ingredients and order your meat well in advance. Purchase in the right quantity. And don’t go and waste all the good rum into eggnog, you know a lot of people aren’t going to drink it anyways.
Now to start with the actual ‘mise-en-place.’ It is all the necessary preparation needed to be done before the cooking of your dish. If you’re going to be cooking a bird, remember to thaw, brine/marinate it a few days before the dinner, you don’t want a thanksgiving disaster on Christmas. Next you are going to clean all your ingredients, cut, slice, chop, make the sauces and work out the dough. This can be done a few hours before you start cooking or even the night before. But remember to store your items correctly, in the refrigerator, plastic wrapped or in well sealed containers.
When you start cooking you should have a good plan of action. Figure out the cooking times and plan your day well. Most of the items in your menu might need to be served hot. Figure out how you are going to keep them warm and ready for service.
It’s Christmas, the last thing you want is a burning pan, a messy kitchen and, hence, stress. There will be guests coming over, keep the kitchen clean. Enjoy the cooking, keep the Christmas spirit and drink some good spirits too! And don’t worry if things go wrong, you can always try again for the New Year’s feast!