Looking back to Thanksgivings past, I remember too many people in the kitchen, side dishes and pies jockeying for position in the oven and a very stressed-out hostess too exhausted to enjoy the meal (a.k.a. my mother). Now I am the host of Thanksgiving. I’ve learned how to embrace the true meaning of Thanksgiving as an opportunity to connect with friends and family and enjoy the meal. How? Letting guests participate and embracing wood fired cooking.
Delegate to Share the Load
The Thanksgiving meal tends to be very stressful for the cook because everything tends to cook at the same time, finish as the same time and require to be served at the same time. There is also an implied requirement to have too many side dishes, often requested by guests to fulfill specific memories of childhood Thanksgivings. This is where guests can become helpers.
Look to your guests to lighten the load. Try assigning specific courses of the meal, such as appetizers and/or desserts. Side dishes are perfect for guests to bring, especially when they require lots of ingredients and complicated cooking methods. Bonus, are side dishes brought in a crock pot, eliminating the need to “make room” in the already overtaxed oven.
When talking to invited friends/family, you will probably hear something like “We always had sweet potato casserole growing up”. This is the perfect opening to delegate! If someone asks if a particular dish will be made, the policy should be “whoever said it, makes it”. Voilà, time/effort saved for you, the host.
Cook Inside and Outside
Always roast your bird? Lets face it, the oven is the traditional cook source for Thanksgiving, but it certainly doesn’t have to be. When cooking for a large number of guests, the burden placed on the oven as the main cook source is great. There often is not enough room for all of the sides and desserts that need to be cooked. This is where wood fired cooking can help.
Ever brined and then grilled a turkey? It’s delicious! How about smoked a turkey? If not, the time to try it is this Thanksgiving. Not only will the flavor of meat be enhanced with smoke, it might just become the preferred method for what is traditionally an easy to dry-out meal.
What about the sides? Instead of a corn casserole, roast corn on the cob, creating a lightly charred and healthier version of a traditional side dish loaded with fat and calories. You’ll also get one more person out of the kitchen when assigning a guest who asks “do you need any help” to the grill outside. Ah, more room to cook.
Whatever you decided to do in order to alleviate the stress of being the Thanksgiving host, always remember to look to your guests and embrace wood fired cooking as a viable cook source.
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