Holiday Cooks Hat

Here I’ve been for the last few weeks, getting over some surgical procedures, becoming accustomed to a new town (Easton, MD) and generally puttering about until I get my health back. Or some semblance of it. I’ve been steadily feeling better, and with careful maintenance of food and liquids, I’ll be back to what I now call normal.

Lets talk about the Holidays for a moment, shall we? If you aren’t a cook, I’m sorry for you. These early winter days are my favorite time of the year to crack open jars of preserves from the summer and years past, try new foods, can late season apples in the forms of applesauce, apple butter, apple jam and enjoy the company of family and friends.

This year, don’t let it all sneak up on you. If you haven’t already started preparing, do it now! It’s not too late, but it’s getting there. Don’t panic on me, ok? We have lots of time. A cook would have all day, every day to prepare for changing menus and wild crowds and even she is going to be stressed and gloriously victorious after each shift during this season of festivities. To make things easier, put on your cooking hat and apron and get cranking on this list:

  • Make chicken broth. Nothing could be easier and it will taste unbelievable better than the sodium-stuffed broth you buy in the store. I don’t care how many organic stickers and packaging they put on it.
  • Get to know your suppliers a little better. Chat with your butcher now, before he is slammed with orders. Chances are, you’ll get a deal for bulk orders. Order specialty items ahead of time, before the “I need it TOMORROW” crowds get there. Peking Duck, Mallards, Heritage Turkey, Venison, Boar, Trotters, Grains, vegetables, whatever else you may need, plan now. Order meat products now, and ask vegetable vendors what will be available. Pumpkins, squash, onions, garlic, late winter greens, apples, pears, potatoes – all that stuff is still available and most of it will keep. Grab some late season tomatoes while they are out there and you will be your own best friend.
  • Plan your menu. For days you will be hosting, plan your menu now. Would you like to master a new cooking trend or carving skill to impress people with? Do a test run as soon as you can. Don’t let the day of the event be the first time you’ve tried making poached eggs over scrapple on a bed of grilled leeks. Want to learn to carve a turkey? They are cheap right now in grocery stores. Buy a cheap one, cook it and practice. Your family will love you, you can make stock, soup and turkey salad with the leftovers.
  • Stock up on pots and pans that you need.Don’t buy gadget items! Visit a kitchen supply store if you can.
  • Plan your drink menu. Do you have non-alcoholic beverages that go with the meal? Talk to your beer and wine store. Chances are they will be happy to help you now. In a few weeks, they’ll be slammed for time.
  • Want to try some new cookies? Try them now. Specialty cooks can be a pain! Be careful what you promise! https://ramblinron.com/2013/12/18/christmas-cookies/
  • Get with your baker and pick her brain for bread and all things baked. Pre-order so you aren’t forgotten.

I could go on and on but let’s stop right there. Get these things done and you will be golden. Don’t worry: I’ll walk you through it in the next few weeks.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Ron

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