It’s the most wonderful time of the year. It can also be a huge headache! When feeding the 5,000 over the festive period there is, more often than not, a myriad of things to factor in, usually surrounding timing, preparation and kitchen space. So, here are a few hacks to keep your cool while catering for the masses.
If Peeling’s Your Pet Peeve...
Being confronted with a mountain of fresh produce to peel can suck the Christmas spirit out of anyone – there’s a reason why this job is reserved for prison inmates and commi chefs.
Take the sting out of peeling potatoes by not peeling them at all. Instead, cut a thin line around the circumference of each and boil until tender. Transfer your potatoes to a bowl of iced water and, once they’ve cooled down, slide the skin off.
Peeling apples for your pie can be just as much of an annoyance which can be remedied by the use of power tools. Attach a boring bit to your drill and skewer your apple with it. Set the drill to a relatively slow rotation and use a Y-peeler to remove the skin.
Out of Space
Unless you have a kitchen large enough to make Gordon Ramsay blush, then ‘space’ always rears its head as an issue when cooking in quantity. One way of freeing up one of the burners is to make and serve mulled wine from a slow cooker. The added bonus with this is that it infuses the flavors from the spices more gently than when boiling up the concoction over a stove and keeps it at perfect drinking temperature.
Ovens are also invariably tight on space, given the amount of roasted food we traditionally eat this time of year. So, cook your meat in a cooler. Place your cut of ham or beef in a Ziploc bag, squeeze out the air and tie with twine before putting in a medium-sized cooler. Fill with enough water to keep the meat submerged and, using a thermometer, keep an eye on the temperature until it reaches 130º F for ham, or 135º F for beef. Close the lid and monitor the water temperature every hour to see that it remains constant for four to six hours, after which you can glaze the ham or sear the beef in a pan. Granted, this is labor intensive, but it works!
Ice-cream, You Scream, We All Scream
Your freezer will be working overtime and the likelihood is that it will be almost too effective at keeping everything frozen, which may mean the ice-cream you intended to serve with dessert ends up rock solid. To prevent this from happening, place the tub in a Ziploc bag in the freezer and your ice-cream should stay soft enough when it comes to scooping it out.
No ice-cream? No problem! Combine one cup of half-and-half cream, two tablespoons of sugar and half a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract in a Ziploc bag and push out the excess air before sealing. Into a larger sealable bag, add three cups of ice and a third of a cup of salt then place the small bag of ingredients inside. Shake vigorously for seven to ten minutes until the ice-cream has hardened.
“What can I bring?” is a great problem to be confronted with and one you’re likely to hear from any polite visitor. So, give it to them straight. More often than not, people genuinely want to contribute if you’re hosting a party and quick, practical and easily transportable offerings usually come in bottle form, particularly around holiday season. If you’re supplying the wine and beer, make a list of who can bring which specific liquor to grow a fully stocked bar organically. That way you just have to make sure you’re stocked up on mixers.
Bonnie Taylor, originally from London, moved to Singapore in 2014. She graduated with a BA in English Literature, an MA in Photography and, after ten years in the business sector, picked up her camera and started exploring. When she’s not wining and dining in exotic locations, she freelances as a photographer and writer.
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