Cooking Louisiana - Holiday Meal Preparation Tips

Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day in the South Louisiana home is a "feast extraordinaire" in most cases.

We go "all out" when it comes to pleasing the pallet with bounties of fresh vegetables, soups, gumbos,  the "Grand Bird",  a sweet ham, casseroles, dressings and desserts! After all are stuffed from the great meal you sit and want to pass out from exhaustion after preparing it all. Can it get tougher? Yes... you could get no help, and, it could be done LATE! Could it get easier? Read on... maybe so!

Most folks invite family and friends over and the number of people can reach anywhere from 5 to 15 or more. This can be especially overwhelming if it's your first-go-round too. Planning is the key, and, it's not that hard to do (the restaurants do it). You want to make this plan a few days in advance. Let's look at the simple plan.

List everything that will be served. Break it down as shown below (I'll give you a form you can print out to do this a little later, sit tight).

  • Appetizers

  • Soups/Salads/Breads

  • Main Dishes

  • Desserts

With this list you will assign preparation and cooking times [don't do this yet, keep reading], then, you'll add one hour to each item, "that's your slack or "play" time". WHAT! Play time while I'm killing myself doing all this stuff? Calm down, relax.... yes... play time... time to enjoy your family even while you're (seemingly) very busy. It's starting to sound like fun huh? It will be fun because you will be "in control".

Along with the list you are going to develop, you'll define the cooking method (stove top, oven, crock pot....)

Once this is all mapped out you'll be able to get things together and have your meal done on time, and, smile when you ring the dinner bell. Tired you might be, but unflustered. 

Okay, to the listing. I've laid out a simple planning sheet that you can print out. You'll see the layout and understand better as you read below. (Click Here for the Plan) but come back here ... I'm not finished (the plan will open in a new window).

Print two copies of the plan, or, if you have Excel or any program you can make a similar plan on, go for it. You can even do calculations of you want. I'm keeping this simple here for those who don't have those programs.

First step: Fill in the blanks (with pencil), and for the start time, add the preparation time, cooking time and one hour from the time you want everything done. Then subtract that time from the time you want it to be done. For instance, if the turkey takes 30 minutes to prepare and 4 hours to cook that's 4-1/2 hours. Add one hour, that's 5-1/2 hours. Now you want the bird done for 11:00 (adjust for oven sequence - see below). 5-1/2 hours from 11:00 am is 4:30 am. That's the time you start with the turkey. 

Second step: Now, here's the trick,  take the second copy and list (with pencil) in the order of  "Start Time" what needs to taken care of  first, second, etc. Now you have a nice, clean time layout of how you are going to go about preparing everything. 

Naturally if visitors are going to bring prepared dishes in crock pots you don't have to worry about those and can leave them off of your first plan listing.

Oven sequence: There's one more thing that's important. How much oven time will be needed?  You're going to have to calculate the times you have to deal with the oven and work these into the start times. For instance, you've got a Turkey, Ham, 2 pies and a casserole to cook. You naturally can't do all of this at once. So pick the ones you can do first and reheat if needed... like pies... do those first, and cook the others last. You'll have to figure this out for yourself and work them into the plan. 

Take your time at the planning... you'll save yourself some serious frustration in the long run. Plan your work and work your plan.

Enjoy your family, friends and "the food".

Happy Holidays....

 

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