Not everyone enjoys cooking during the Holidays; in fact many of us approach the mere idea of serving a family feast with great trepidation. For us, the kitchen is a minefield riddled with potential kitchen catastrophe, often so infamous that a tradition is created retelling the tale of culinary woe to all with ears to hear. All is not lost though, and for the most part, the truly embarrassing moments can usually be headed off at the pass long accommodate before the scorch of humiliation is permanently ablaze on ones face
Top on the “to do” list is to have a “to cook” list. Like Santa Claus, make the list and check it twice. Is everything needed to prepare the dish present in the house? Do you have pots and pans large enough to accommodate the dish you attempting? Answering any of these questions with a ‘no’ signals a time for a shopping trip. Attempting to cook food in a pot or pan that is too small is inviting burnt meals and oven fires. If you don’t mind the smell of burning stuffing or the scream of sirens, then completely forget the previous suggestions and continue on a path that angels fear to tread, however if you would prefer your guest’s excitement come from a rousing game of charades, not the rattle of fire hose, then one should err on the side of caution, and be sure the appropriate cooking utensils are present in the house.
When deciding what to prepare, one should do some serious self-assessment. Attempting to prepare unfamiliar dishes on short notice is almost assuredly a recipe for disaster, unless you are Martha Stewart or Paula Dean, you can be almost certain that a full dose of culinary humiliation is headed your direction. Sticking with familiar dishes, or at the very minimum, dishes with simple directions are best for those with limited cooking skills. At this point it is probably worth mentioning that no, that stuff in your turkey is not what you should be serving as ‘stuffing’ nor does a goose come with two necks (an embarrassing mistake I once made). Additionally, simply because the recipe sounds easy to prepare, doesn’t necessitate that it will be easy to prepare, i.e. Soufflé’s are notoriously difficult to create, despite the seemingly limited ingredients, and unless you are willing to serve up something that looks a lot like your grandma’s backside, it’s generally best to stick with mashed potatoes and gravy as side dishes.
Finally, it cannot be over-emphasized to have all of the ingredients available before starting to cook. Suddenly realizing that you are lacking a vital ingredient, and then attempting to add it too late in the dishes preparation can lead to some very interesting results. My mother once attempted to add the sugar to the pumpkin pie after it had already partially cooked. The outcome, though edible was very unattractive, and very much favored the surface of Mars. The result of attempting to stir in the sugar to the partially cooked pumpkin caused it to form a weird, semi crunchy texture. Eventually the disaster pie was pitched, but the lesson was heeded. Thinking ahead and having all of your ingredients at hand along with the appropriate cooking utensils will go a long way to distressing the kitchen zone, and leave you with much more time to enjoy the appreciation of your guests.