(ARA) - If the holiday meal is at your house this year, you could completely stress out over the menu and ingredients, spending hours and plenty of money in an attempt to feed everyone the perfect holiday meal. Or, you could plan ahead, save a few dollars here and there, and enjoy the holiday.
As the host of PBS-TV's "Flavors of America," Chef Jim Coleman has plenty of tips on how to properly prepare for the holiday meal, and make your job easier.
"The perfect holiday party host shouldn't feel overwhelmed with staying on top of all the food preparation," says Coleman. "By planning ahead and preparing, you'll have the time and energy to get out of the kitchen and socialize."
* Start four days early:
Set your table in advance if you can or at very least, set aside the serving and table dishes you will be using. Pick your recipes and make a recipe booklet for easy reference. Plan your shopping lists as well. To help save costs, ask your guests to bring a special dish for the meal. If Aunt Betty specializes in Green Bean Casserole, ask her to bring that so everyone can enjoy it. Another family member can supply a bottle of wine. This will also help you reduce the size of your ingredient list. Scan the grocery store fliers for sales and coupons before you go shopping.
* Chop the veggies ahead of time:
Three days ahead of the party, chop all the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, bread for stuffing, etc. and store them in ziplock bags. This will make the cooking time go much faster.
Make sure you use sharp knives. Sharp knives are safer to use and will help you zip through the chopping and dicing. A knife sharpener is an essential household tool - knives always dull with use. Invest in an easy to use reliable knife sharpener like the ChefsChoice Model 120 which uses 100 percent diamond abrasives and precision angle guides for a super sharp and durable edge. Call (800) 342-3255 for more information. A good knife sharpener helps save money by renewing the knives you already own.
After you chop the vegetables, throw 12 ounces of cranberries into a saucepan with orange zest, 3/4 cup of orange juice, 1/2 cup of honey and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes. Let the sauce cool and store it in the refrigerator until it's time for your meal.
* Prepare the turkey:
Two days before the party brine your turkey. Here's a recipe to use:
Coleman's Holiday Brine for 8 to 12 pound bird:
1 cup kosher salt (per gallon of ice water) approximately 3 gallons for 8 to 12 pound bird
1 lime, cut into wedges
1 orange, cut into wedges
1 medium onion, cut into wedges
5 cloves garlic
4 bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried sage
1 tablespoon white black pepper
Place turkey in a cooler then add ice cold water to completely submerge the turkey. Depending on how many gallons, adjust accordingly for salt And if using more than 3 gallons of water, use more lime, orange, onion, garlic, bay leaves, sage, thyme and pepper. Take remaining ingredients and add to brine. Stir until well combined. Top with ice cubes and leave in cool spot overnight. Discard brine after removing the turkey. Rinse turkey before placing in oven.
* Party day
When the big day arrives, adjust your day according to the time you're planning on serving the meal. Start your oven at a higher temperature (around 400 F.) with the breast of the turkey on the rack facing the bottom of the pan. If you don't have a rack, make a wreath with tin foil to hold the turkey properly. Cook for about 45 minutes at the higher temperature. Then take the bird out of the oven, turn it over and cook at reduced heat of 325 F. This should take about two and a half hours, depending on the weight of the turkey. The meat thermometer should read 180 F. when inserted in the thickest part of the turkey near the thigh.
* Serve and enjoy:
To carve the turkey, try these steps:
1. Be sure to use a sharp carving knife for best results. Sharp knives are not only safer, they will help you smoothly cut thin, even delicious looking slices without shredding the meat.
2. After turkey is cooked, cool for 20 minutes. Cooling makes the meat firmer and easier to slice. Remove and set aside the turkey legs and the last joint of each wing. Make a long, deep (to the bone) horizontal "base cut" into the breast just above the wing.
3. Slice down vertically through the breast until you meet the original base cut. This will release perfect, even slices.
With the bird cooked and side dishes prepared, all you need to do is carve the turkey and enjoy the meal and your company.
Courtesy of ARAcontent