Kitchen Tips, Tricks and More for the Holiday Season
With the holidays swiftly approaching, it can become overwhelming for everything to run seamlessly. We asked our team to send over some of their favorite kitchen tools, tips and tricks in preparation for the season – and they delivered!
We hope these tips, tricks and recipes can help your holiday season run as efficiently as your plant floor.
How to Choose the Right Wine by Steve Deas
It seems like Thanksgiving brings on a higher level of angst around wine pairings than any other “Big-Deal Meal.” Maybe it’s the cornucopia of flavors. The turkey is at center stage, and if you are cooking the bird, you have control over the flavors, but then there are the side dishes, many of which arrive with friends and family. Great Aunt Sophie’s famous Marshmallow Sweet Potatoes and sis’ Bacon Brussel Sprouts are miles apart in taste and texture, not to mention desirability.
In our house, we will be serving a Dry Riesling from Alsace, France. There are many to choose from and they aren’t expensive. Why this wine? This is not a sweet Riesling, it’s dry with a good acid structure that will go well with the many different flavors on the table.
If you can’t find that in your local store, go for a Sauvignon Blanc. Look for one that has more citrus flavors, rather than herbal. The back label can help you sort that out. One (or both) of those will cover your white wine for the day.
For a red, we like a fruit-forward Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. This should be easy to find, as well. If you want a “bigger” wine, look for a Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel. It’s the lush flavors in these wines that make them fit in with the turkey, dressing and cranberry sauce.
But, always remember, there are no wrong choices. Drink what you like! If you want to pop open a bottle of Champagne or pull the cork on a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, don’t let anyone stand in your way. It’s Thanksgiving and everyone should be enjoying the day, giving thanks for the bounty of the harvest and not worrying about the wine pairing nor the calories.
Speed up the Cook Time of your Turkey
Are you on a cooking time crunch and need to get your turkey on the table in record time? Matt Burdelsky recommends spatchcocking your turkey, speeding up the cooking time significantly. This process is a little more hands-on but results in a quick and juicy bird. Watch this tutorial by Taste of Home to learn how to spatchcock your turkey.
How to Get That Golden Brown Turkey Skin
Sharona Salzman says, “the absolute easiest way to get a deep golden brown, slightly crispy, skin on your turkey is actually quite easy! Grab a jar of Best Foods mayonnaise from the fridge and apply a thick layer of it directly on the bird right before it goes into the oven! You can even use a mayo that’s been infused with roasted garlic. Voila! It will be the star of your Thanksgiving table!”
Mike’s Homemade Kitchen Stock
“Mike Llapitan’s homemade chicken stock elevates Thanksgiving gravy to the next level and is great for most soups.
Even better, it can cost almost nothing to make! Simply save and freeze all your leftover chicken bones/scraps (i.e. from chicken legs, rotisserie chickens) in a 1-gallon zip lock bag, along with leftover vegetable scraps including onion, celery, and carrots (roots and skins as well).
Once the bag is full, add the contents to a stock pot or Instapot and fill it with water. Add salt, pepper, garlic cloves, a lemon cut in half, poultry seasoning, a bay leaf, and thyme. Simmer for 3 hours on the stove or use the Soup setting on the Instapot for 30mins.
Let cool and strain with a colander into a pot. Transfer to mason jars or Tupperware and refrigerate until needed.
Wishing you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving and may all your Gravy dreams come true!”
Homemade Pasta for the Holidays
Jeff Harig’s favorite kitchen tool is the Spaetzle press and he has many tips and tricks on how to make the perfect homemade noodles and pasta!
“I make homemade noodles/pasta and my specialty is German Spaetzle. It’s quite simple to use and easy to get hurt. I make a large batch of Spaetzle dough in a bowl and scoop the right amount into the press and squeeze over a boiling pot of water. That’s the easy-to-get-hurt part. Typically, this is served with Rouladen. The beef is pounded flat, rolled with bacon, onion, salt, pepper and sometimes a pickle inside. Browned nicely until cooked through, then a gravy is made at the end with the remnants. Pile up the Spaetzle on a plate, place a Roulade and some gravy over it all and serve.
The recipe for the Spaetzle? Ingredients are simple. Flour, Eggs, and salt. Amounts of each? No real clue. I make it the way my mom and Oma did. When it feels right, looks right it is ready. Typically in our house, I make this for Holidays, birthdays, and of course Octoberfest!” – Jeff
A Boozy Bird is a Juicy Bird
For a moist, delicious turkey use a poultry syringe and a bottle of buttery white wine, a chardonnay should do the trick, don’t worry – there will be some left for the chef! The night before, inject your turkey with about 3/4 of the bottle of wine. Place the turkey back in the fridge to soak in all those juices and wine and enjoy the rest of the bottle – you earned it! The next day, cook and prep as you normally would and enjoy. This tip was brought to you by Linda Mandala.
Elevate Your Frozen Pizza Experience
The holidays can take a lot out of us in the kitchen and sometimes cooking dinner the night before gets lost in the shuffle. Luckily, Rick Krey has the perfect tip to ensure you have something tasty in just a few steps. “I don’t know about you but I like to get frozen cheese pizza on sale and add my own toppings! The key to not getting a soggy crust is to use a cast iron pan and heat on high broil until very hot, then add the frozen pizza. Keep an eye on it and when bubbling, take it out and add your favorite sauce and toppings (either already sauteed or raw) and of course, more cheese. Then, turn the oven to low broil (or 400 degrees) until the toppings are hot or cooked. Enjoy!”
Save Time and Effort with this Meat Chopper
This meat chopper is a favorite kitchen tool of Kelly Kane’s and makes prep work and cooking a breeze. Used weekly to make tacos, this tool is great at crumbling meat, but can also be used to mash potatoes, turn berries into a sauce, imprint cookies, vent pie crust, and more.
Trust Your Thermometer
Have a tough time not overcooking your turkey? Chris Baldwin recommends ignoring the pop-up thermometer that comes with your turkey and using a probe or instant-read thermometer for a more accurate temperature reading.
Faster Mashed Potatoes
Running out of space on the stovetop? Don’t want to keep an eye on the boiling pot? You’re in luck! Adam Bush’s tip is to use your microwave to cook your mashed potatoes. Whole potatoes take about 12-minutes and cut-up takes about 7-8 depending on the size. An added benefit is you can use the same bowl or container to mash and add whatever ingredients you like and serve! (Who doesn’t love fewer dishes at the end of the night.)
Thanksgiving and Holiday themed fun
“It’s always a nice and positive way to start the Thanksgiving feast by going around the table and saying something you’re grateful for but why not add other ways to make Thanksgiving memorable? Enjoy paper games and activities! Free Thanksgiving-themed word scrambles, mad libs, bingo, charades, and family feud are super easy to access online and print out for everyone. Thanksgiving Minute-To-Win-It games and “Would You Rather” (Would you rather walk around with mashed potatoes on your head or stuffing in your pockets? Pull the wishbone or eat a drumstick?) will have your friends and family up out of their chairs, moving and laughing. You can even provide prizes like first dibs on the leftovers, being the first one served, or real prizes.” This tip was provided by Sharona Salzman.
The Bialetti Moka Express is Luke Iknadosian’s favorite tool this season. “It is great for making “espresso-like” coffee after you eat your Thanksgiving feast! Something to stave off the food coma and keep the party going! Also, great for making Affogato (one of my favorite desserts).” – Luke
Let the Machine Mash For You
Are you serving mashed potatoes? It can be a real pain timing everything if you are a one or two-person cooking operation. One of my favorite tricks to save time, energy and not work up a sweat is to bust out an electric mixer. CAUTION: You will want to use a low speed or you may find yourself in a hot splash zone. Using an electric mixer does all the work for you and you get perfect potatoes in minutes.