Another holiday is here and with it comes all that work to make your holiday meal a success. Yes, trust me, I know how much work goes into cooking a meal — any meal. But a holiday meal is the equivalent of giving your car a full engine rebuild instead of just an oil change or adding on a new room to the house instead of getting a couple of new windows. There is nothing everyday about cooking a holiday meal from start to finish.
First, there is the list to make. Unlike daily meals, there are so many side dishes and little things to remember, if you don’t make a list — and I mean a detailed list — then you know you’re going back to the store.
Then, there are the pre-shopping arrangements to be made. You know what I’m talking about. Just take a quick peek in your refrigerator right now. Is there any way you are going to fit a 16- to 25-pound bird in there? That doesn’t account for all the other menu items that need refrigeration. It takes planning just be sure you have enough space in the fridge.
The person you want in the kitchen the most is your
distant aunt on your Dad’s side because she
is the one that really likes eggnog and that is
the help you need — with a little extra rum.
Now, comes the really fun part — shopping. As a general rule, shopping isn’t one of my Top 10 things to do on a good day. Trying to weasel your way through the crowds packed at every bin you want to get to makes you want to buck the tradition and serve spaghetti.
Cooking also is different from cooking the average meal. There you are trying to get this huge meal with multiple dishes ready and a dozen other people are hanging out trying to help. The person you want in the kitchen the most is your distant aunt on your Dad’s side because she is the one that really likes eggnog and that is the help you need — with a little extra rum. Why does all the help insist on doing the things such as stirring the sauce that really just needs to simmer instead of washing the pots and peeling the potatoes? Oh well, at least you hear all the family gossip.
For this column, I thought I would share a recipe for homemade cranberry sauce. This is something everybody wants to make fresh, but always settles for the canned. After all the work needed for other things, cranberry sauce is about as easy as it gets and so much better than the canned stuff.
Basic Cranberry Sauce
1 12- to 16-ounce bag cranberries, frozen or fresh (wash, if fresh)
1 C sugar
1 C water
Mix together in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Let simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes until all the berries have opened. The sauce will thicken as it cools. It can be served warm.
Cranberry Sauce II
1 12- to 16-ounce bag cranberries, fresh and washed
1 C sugar
3/4 C orange juice
Zest of 1 orange (use the juice of that orange)
1 pinch fresh nutmeg
Pecans & blueberries (optional)
Follow same directions as above. Also, add pecans or blueberries, if desired.
Smitty is a personal chef specializing in dinner parties, cooking classes and special events. Trained under master chef Anton Flory at Top Notch Resort in Stowe, Vt., Smitty is known for his creative use of fresh ingredients. He has been a chef for PGA’s “Memorial Tournament” for more than 15 years and ran the main kitchen at the World Games. For more information and archived copies of “Stir it Up,” visit chefsmitty.com. He welcomes your questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or (530) 412-3598.