Make It Easy for Yourself
Every year I vow to keep things simple in the kitchen during the holidays. I promise myself that I will prepare menus that are simpler, easier, and less demanding than in years past. But as I make that promise to myself every year, I know full well I’m not going to keep it. Because, like many of you, I’ve spent months creating and testing new recipes so that I’ll be ready to make them for my guests during the season. After all, for those of us who spend our lives in the kitchen, the holidays are kind of our crowning glory. Richer foods, more complicated techniques, more exotic ingredients. The sky’s the limit, and we’ll stop at nothing to shower our guests with the finest the culinary world has to offer.
And yet, I recently found myself making the same commitment I always do. Except this year, I mean it! I’m serious about making things easier so that I can enjoy the holidays as much as I hope my guests enjoy them. For me, the way to make that happen was to get started earlier than usual.
Several weeks ago I began making and freezing cookie dough so I’d have it on hand and ready to go during the next couple of weeks when my kitchen will be in the midst of its annual baking frenzy. I also made several dozen biscuits and scones, two cakes, and a few quick breads to pull out of the freezer on a moment’s notice.
Last month I made two big batches of roux – both dark and blonde – and froze them in ice cube trays to have ready when I’m making those special holiday sauces and gravies. It will be wonderful to just pull out a few of the cubes when I’m ready for them.
Compound butters are a great way to dress up meats, poultry, and root vegetables - even desserts. For me, nothing works better for roasting a perfect holiday turkey than to massage several pats of Country French Compound Butter under the skin. And I add some of that same butter to the turkey dressing to echo the flavors in a side dish. I’m able to create a memorable version of beef tenderloin by melting a little Classic Bistro Compound Butter on top. Baked Sweet Potatoes will become more than just a side when I top them with either Tradewinds or Sweet Shoppe Compound Butter. Knowing I would want to depend on compound butters during the holidays, I made several types last week - more than enough to carry me right through the New Year!
Within the next few days, I’ll start making seasoned bread crumbs to use on top of gratins, etc., and seasoned croutons to add to soups and salads. As for dessert, remember that I said I baked biscuits and quick breads ahead of time? I’ll use those to create some wonderful bread puddings during the holidays, and I’ll use the cakes to make a couple of trifles – one Black Forest, one cranberry-orange – that will wow my guests.
And, oh yes! I’ve made Green Olive Tapenade to serve with cocktails. Nothing could be easier – or more impressive. I’ll add the leftovers to Chicken Piccata for an amazing, “What is that?” touch to my usual piccata recipe. I’ve also made Romesco Sauce to serve with pasta as a side dish or light holiday supper after coming in from the snow. And I’ll use what’s left for a Romesco Cheese Spread to serve during the Bowl Games on New Year’s Day.
So I have a plan in place to make things simpler for myself. But don’t worry. If you haven’t started on your holiday preparations, there’s no time like the present to get started. Everything I’ve talked about here is easy to make, and I promise you, they’ll make life a whole lot easier for you! For some of the recipes featured here, along with the seasonings that make them special, visit us online today at: