I love this time of year. For me it’s a time to reflect back on my year and think about all the family / friend commitments I need to rekindle or get back to. For those of you who know me… know that my weekdays are totally committed to work and my weekends are serious decompress time in Palm Springs with my Spouse and my little pups Madison and Chester. Now that the Season has officially started in Palm Springs we will spend most of our time here in Los Angeles because we use our Palm Springs place as a vacation rental. This year we will have both Thanksgiving and Christmas at the JACPAC maison. I’m looking forward to the season and how we’ve planned on sharing it with the people closest to us.
With the chatter that’s already started with complaints of Christmas commercials happening before Thanksgiving and all the impending high level stress the holiday season brings. It’s interesting to me to listen to my friends and family talk about what’s important to them. I also think it’s really interesting to hear about all the self imposed stress one might have with preparing meals and hosting family members they’d rather not see. Inlaw stories are always funny, especially when imitation re-enactments to accentuate a story start to come alive.
For the last few years, my partner and I have found a new way to celebrate Thanksgiving. There’s no more stress in the meal preparation. We all get to enjoy the meals we prepare. And, there is lots of time for movies, chit chat and private reading time. I have to thank my sister-in-law Pam for being so creative and inovative when it comes to sharing holiday time and duties. Pam introduced us to this idea and well, it stuck. It always seems that Pam is one or two steps ahead of everyone else and looking to always enhance holiday time making it fresh and fun.
So the secret sauce is really quite simple and truly delivers the best results for everyone involved, inlcuding the kids. So here is the secret to having a wildly successful holiday with your family and friends that can encompass dinner a movie with a late afternoon, early evening read. Count your guest list. I know it seems overly simple but you’d be amazed at how many people don’t really factor the true number of guests before they make a meal. Most of the time it seems as though too much food is prepared and as we all know the extra prep time can kill your timing and there’s nothing worse than too much food that gets wasted because you can’t ea it all. I like having enough food for all to be hapily fed with a small left over bag of my fave dish for the late night or next day jonsing. Anyhow, as the host or hostess, you’ll need to take the lead and figure out your theme and main course. Simple enough right!?
Now that you have your theme and main course decided ( usually best to do this with your spouse and keep guests out of this decision making process. Too many chefs brings too little action – just sayin ) assign a section of the meal to be prepared by your guests. Let the guest choose what dish would compliment your theme and main course. In our family we usually assign a meal segment to each couple. For the single guests you may have, you can always add team mates to a dish. It’s really important to keep everyone involved. In our family we are very competitive about what we create and prepare for our segments. Now that Top Chef and other shows alike have reached our living rooms, we all feel as though we are latent chefs. I know I am! Okay, now I digress. Since we’ve been doing this now for a couple of years, we know we are responsible for the purchase, preparation, presentation and clean-up of our course. So with that said, it quickly becomes clear to understand that everyone can be involved, watch a favorite movie, read or play games while having an amazing 4 to 8 course meal stretched over the day. No huge commitements to the kitchen and it’s easy to keep that pesky in-law out of your way when you need to have control over your time slot in the kitchen.
We like to have a course about every hour. You don’t have to abide by our timing however, at some point you do want to be finished with your food packed day and get your movie screener in the DVD player. Being we have a large group we tend to have roughly 6 to 8 courses. I’m laughing right now because I’m realizing that the math just hit some of you. That’s right we have a real family meal, with real conversation and excellent courses that span the late morning to early afternoon. I can hear some of my friends now saying that’s crazy. How can you eat for 6 to 8 hours. Well, it’s really quite simple. Your not having a huge stuff your face meal all at once. With our holiday plan, we have several canapes on the hour centered around a main dish, usually a protein like turkey. Coming from the competitive bunch I do, the tasting comes with a description, a brief overview of preparation and an ingredients list.
Each course is truly a mouth watering experience. I look forward to it every year now and can’t wait to out-do my competitors. We don’t take ourselves too seriously either – that takes the fun out of it – so step back from serious and have fun with it. Know how to laugh at your mistakes and move on. By the way, our format certainly stems the tide for spin dishes. I love spin dishes because you really do have a group of people in front of you that are your biggest and best test audience. If you like to home chef as I do, you can certainly appreciate a test audience and hopefully receive instant gratification when the accolades roll in. That of course, is my favorite moment. I’ll admit it, I’m a ham.
I’ve stolen many dishes from my sister-in-law that I’ve spun. For instance, Pam introduced us to this must have stuffing. I call it $100 dollar stuffing but really it’s a cornbread stuffing with about 10 ingredients. Now, I make this every time I have the opportunity and my spin is the Jalapeno juice that I let soak in it overnight, so each bite has a nice zesty spicy taste to it. If you know me, you know I have to represent, so I always put a twist on the fare. Usually, it works out well and sometimes, well… you know how a bad idea just gets worse and nosedives right on you. Yup, it’s happened many a time.
So, if you decide to take a page from our family book, then I suggest letting go of your need to feel so overwhelmed and try a new dining experience. The prep time is far less, the clean up is hardly nothing at all and the overall holiday rating will shoot up 1000 fold – especially for the hosts – I guarantee it! Trust me when I say, this is a real treat for everyone, especially the martyr. Don’t forget to include the little tikes and princesses. This shared cooking experience keeps them busy and out of your hair. Remember, idle hands are the devils workshop ( I know corny, huh) . Seriously though, having the kids involved keeps them in the conversation and makes the feel good too. No little kids tables at our house. Each little one, is right there with the adults and is directly involved in the celebration.
By the way, the main course can be anything you want it to be. We still have a meat as the main course. I love my turkey and need it on my Thanksgiving holiday as I’m sure most of you do. This plan doesn’t exclude a fantastically cooked turkey or ham. This year Tim and I will be brining ours. If you want to learn more about brining here’s an excellent link that you’d enjoy. Because nobody knows better than Martha Stewart in my book. http://www.marthastewart.com/274421/thanksgiving-side-dish-recipes/@center/276949/everything-thanksgiving?xsc=goo_thanksgiving .
I hope you have an amazing feast and if you’ve tried this idea out, I beg you, please let me know how it went. I’m always curious to know, who’s a joiner and how the idea worked out.
Turkey Image courtesy of Martha Stewart
Stuffing image courtesy of Food Network