Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Making a List, Checking It Twice

I decided to document the rather odd process I go through anytime we are cooking for guests, and especially for holiday dinners. My last post outlined a bit of it. Basically, there are several lists.
  • List one: Household chores that need to be done prior to the cooking. This list gets started two weeks ahead of the event.
  • List two: the menu. Gotta know where you are headed.
  • List three: The shopping list, one page, several days of errands, all on one sheet of paper. Don't lose this list.
  • List four: All the recipes printed out (if possible) or gathered.
  • List five: The chop list. This one takes all the various vegetables that are needed, quantity, type of chop, etc. and puts all the prep work together. Sounds odd, we all think of recipes one at a time. For big meals, it makes more sense to combine prep work. For example, the gratin and the green bean casserole both use two chopped shallots. On the list, put down one line item for four chopped shallots and do the prep all at once. It is also a great list in case you have kitchen help or a spouse that likes to chop. You can hand them the list and work on other items. And, yes, do all your chop and prep the day ahead even if you can't complete the recipe. You'll be amazed at how much easier it makes life the day of.
  • List six: Yes, I know, I am anally-retentive. I said it. This one is important. The oven list. This list tells you what temperature the oven needs to work at, when each dish needs to go in (and out). The timing works backward from meal time. This list is important for everything to hit the table in sync. You can go a bit further and add the stove items and all the steps you have to do on the day of (in order) before meal time. It sounds crazy, but kids, there is a reason I got a rock solid A on my practical exam in culinary school. I had a list. One person, five dishes, 90 minutes. No special talent, just a list.

I'll post the sample lists once the holiday is complete. Christmas dinner is coming, and I hear that's the best time of year to make lists and check them. I'll post the final menu and the lists for next Thanksgiving as well.

By now, you menu is set and you are headed to bed to get some rest. Big day of pie making tomorrow. Have a wonderful holiday!


Anonymous said...

Wow. Do you have a master list of lists and check each list off as you complete it? ;-) I'm fairly confident I'd lose a list or two before the big day, but congratulations for finding a system that works for you.

Anonymous said...

Hey, it's Erin from MotherTalkers. Can I make your sweet potatoes with aged gouda tonight and bake it in the morning? I realize that it's kind of short notice and you may not be able to respond, but I thought I'd give it a try. If I don't hear from you, I'll air on the side of caution and make it in the morning.

JessTrev said...

Wow, this is all kinds of awesome. Never have hosted - my bro owns the day. But also never have been that organized! Thanks for that peek into yr brain! Happiest of Thxgivings.

ExpatChef said...

Yes you can! I was going to make mine ahead yesterday as well, but ran out of time. Most of these items you can make ahead. Sorry, I crashed out last night, long day in the kitchen!

ExpatChef said...

Heh. The organization helps a lot. We crank out three pies and eight dishes for the event. My spouse looks to me to do all the planning and guide him on what to do. Lists help!

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