Avoid the pitfalls of holiday horror and turkey terror
It is that time of year. The holiday and entertaining season us upon us. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and Superbowl.
It is the time of feasting and fear.
Turkey terror and holiday horror are looming like predatory pterodactyls. Family cooks are fretting, curled in fetal positions. Fear grips their bowels.
For some strange reason people suffer angst and panic over holiday feasts. They fear criticism, personal and behind their back, from family members and friends.
There is a feeling that if you are putting on the fete, you must provide everything and it better taste great. There is the cost to consider.
There is no reason for horror, terror, and fear. With a little thinking, some creativity, and planning, you can put on a feast worthy of your grandparents, great grandparents, or aunt Wanda.
Let us deal with cost first. Start creating your holiday menus now. Dig out recipes you may use. Build your ingredient list.
Make three lists. One with pantry items, canned and frozen goods. The other with fresh vegetables, meats or poultry, fish, dairy, etc. The third, specialty or fancy items and any cookware or utensils you may need.
Every time you stop at the grocery store pick up a few pantry items and staples. Anything that is non-perishable. Some of these items are usually on sale far in advance, an added bonus.
Store them all in one place so they will be on hand. If you have a few extra dollars, pick up one or two specialty or fancy items that will keep.
Get any cookware or utensils you need. Just buy the best you can afford. Only buy items that have multiple uses.
By the time Thanksgiving or Christmas rolls around most of your purchases will be made. You will not be waiting in long lines a few days before, praying your credit card will not be declined. You also will not have to run out looking for an open store on the holiday.
Make the grocery store your friend. There are plenty of canned or frozen items that taste good and will help you save time. Stocks, frozen vegetables, biscuits, pie crusts, and other items. Everything does not have to be made from scratch.
Bakeries are a good source of pastry. You do not have to worry about pies, cookies, or other desserts if there is a good bakery nearby.
Oh, and be a good guest. If you are invited and asked to make something, make it. Stick with the host’s menu. Do not stop off at an open store on your way to the party because you were too busy or lazy.
If you are buying fresh turkey or other meats, order them ahead. Pick them up when you are supposed to. This will ensure you have the main course ready to cook.
If buying a frozen bird, purchase ahead and follow the instructions for thawing. Frozen turkeys can take two days or more to thaw in the fridge.
Do not do all the work yourself. If one or more of your guests is a killer baker, ask them to bake. Enlist others to bring side dishes. Make the feast participatory.
Do what you do well. Leave the rest to others.
You do not need a fancy roasting pan for your bird or roast. Those large cheap aluminum foil roasters work just fine. Use one for the bird or roast, one for the dressing or smaller ones for side dishes. Instead of toiling to clean them, you toss them out. If the bird or roast is heavy, double up two pans to avoid a collapsing catastrophe.
Dressing and side dishes can be prepared the day before. Just pop it in the oven with the bird.
Forget about making that Norman Rockwell picture perfect turkey or the turkey your grandmother or mother made. It is not going to happen unless you have been cooking turkeys for years.
Where is it written you must roast a whole turkey?
Think outside the box. Try braising a cut up turkey. The cooking time is shorter. Adapt chicken recipes for this if you cannot find turkey recipes. Try it coq au vin style or braised in vinegar with mushrooms.
You could get a whole boneless skinless turkey breast, season, and cook, grill, or smoke it like brisket. You could also season it with salt, pepper, caraway and roast it on a bed of sauerkraut, onions, and apples.
Deep frying turkey is popular. Frying turkey is also dangerous. Be sure to follow all the instructions when frying your gobbler or the fire department will be your guests for dinner. Worse, you may wind up in the burn unit.
You do not have to serve turkey. Ham or another type of roast will do. Duck or geese make fine substitutions for turkey, especially for smaller groups. Capons or Cornish hens are another substitution. Even a beef or pork roast is fine. Who says you cannot have fish? What turkey makes these rules?
From various tales and history, the First Thanksgiving had a wide variety of food. Game meat and fowl, fish, farmed and foraged vegetables and fruits. Make your own traditions or do something different each time.
Try to keep things as simple as possible. Feasts are supposed to be celebrations. There is no need to fret, toil, slave, and wear yourself out.
Google is your friend. Food Network is your friend. YouTube is your friend. Other recipe or cooking sites are your friends. Do some research. Get informed. Keep things simple and enjoy the process.
Many restaurants, especially specialty restaurants, and some major grocery stores offer prepared Thanksgiving meals. If you are not sure of your skills or are pressed for time, order out. Again, pick the food up when you are supposed to. Get it home and arrange it nicely.
Set your table one or two days ahead of time. Decide if your meal will be family style, individually plated, or a buffet. A buffet is the easiest option.
Eating out is an option. There is no commandment that you must have a holiday feast at home. If you have a small family circle or group of friends, eating out can be a good idea. Make those reservations well ahead.
You are celebrating. Celebrations are supposed to be fun. They are not supposed to be a horrible chore to get through.
You do not have to be a victim of holiday horror or turkey terror. You do not have to break the bank. With a little planning, pre-holiday shopping, and using simple techniques and methods, you can put on a feast fit for the Pilgrims or your aunt Wanda.