Since being married, Craig and I have had several opportunities to host holiday meals. And by “hosting” I don’t just mean that we provided the venue; I mean that we cook the feast, including the turkey, and serving it up to family.
This, I’ve come to realize, is an unusual role for someone as young as myself to play. Most of my friends are still in the phase of “bringing a contributing dish” to the family feast rather than making the feast itself. And in fact, hosting a traditional holiday meal can be intimidating. There are expectations to meet. There are family recipes that need to be honored. And there are a thousand ways that things can go wrong. And after several years of hosting/preparing (ahem…making many errors), I feel qualified to offer some advice to any of you newbie hostesses out there. My tips are as follows:
Tips for Hosting A Holiday Meal:
- When selecting the warm, dark place for your rolls to rise, I recommend NOT choosing the oven. Otherwise, when you preheat it to bake the pie, you might run the risk of forgetting your dough and accidentally melting plastic wrap permanently to your mixing bowl (and, naturally, ruining your dough).
- When responsible for the turkey, DO NOT forget that those giant birds need time to thaw. And that you need to make room in your refrigerator for them to do so. A 20lb. bird stands no chance of being ready in time when you decide to haul it into the kitchen 24 hours before mealtime.
- Set the holiday table the night BEFORE the holiday, because if you don’t it is almost certain that you’ll discover about 1 hour before eating that all of your forks are dirty and in the dishwasher and that you can’t remember for the life of you where you stashed your gravy boat.
- Make sure you have a meat thermometer that works (and no–those little red stickers that supposedly pop up when the turkey is cooked do not count). I repeat, make sure you have a meat thermometer that works.
- Take the time to figure out how long each dish takes to bake and at what temperature BEFORE you’re elbow deep in flour and poultry. Because believe me–it is quite distressing to try to figure out at the last minute how you are going to cook the turkey at 300, the rolls at 350, the potato gratin at 375, and the pie at 400 when a) they all need to FIT into the oven and b) come out at relatively the same time. (note: this step may require some complex algorithms and a spreadsheet…)
- Clean as you go. I cannot stress this enough. CLEAN AS YOU GO. Because even if you have helpful hands volunteering to pitch in after the meal, you’ll still be assaulted with a million questions about things like the location of your tupperware, where the extra handtowels are, and where you’d like the dirty napkins to go. Thus the more you clean beforehand, the more likely you are to be able to enjoy that glass of wine with your feet up interrupted afterward.
- Which brings me to my final tip: buy two types of wine. The first is for your guests during the meal, and the second is for you to drink during your preparations. And perhaps after. And maybe you might want a little for the night before.
What are your tips for hosting a holiday meal? Share them by commenting here!