Holiday Cuisine made simple

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Perhaps I am just getting older but did I not just finish scrubbing the roasting pans, boxing up the last of the holiday china and decorations and storing the extra serving pieces and gravy boats? Could it be that time of year where we must begin to make the culinary countdown? The endless shopping and errand lists, the files of confirmation numbers on our fresh turkey and pumpkin pies seem to clutter the sides of the refrigerator once more. It is approaching that time of year and if you are the one hosting the major culinary feasts, I have a few pointers to lessen the load

First and Foremost:

Delegate:. Delegating during the holidays is essential to give you time to enjoy, if not the main event, than certainly the roast turkey and stuffing sandwiches that follow later that evening. Have friends and relatives bring the appetizers and desserts

· Buy a second refrigerator or become very good friends with your neighbors the more that you can prepare the night before, the easier the main event will be.

Have a well thought out plan:. Set and decorate the table 2 days before the holiday meal. Using boxes or small crates underneath your cloth gives the “caterers” style of height and depth to the table. Center a teak salad bowl filled with granny smith apples. The bowl can remain on the table for desserts and cheeses, simply add two sharp knives and place a small cutting board alongside the bowl

Prepare side dishes 2 days before, ready in casserole dishes to be placed in the oven.

Select simple, elegant accompaniments. Homemade cranberry sauce with fresh ginger and mandarin oranges takes almost no time and sets a gourmet look next to the entrée.

Crisp dark green salads with herbed goat cheese and sliced granny smith apples or Bartlett pears and candied pecans tossed with dried cranberries adds crunch and texture. Add the dried cranberries and crushed pecans to brown sugar and use as a streusel topping for sweet potato casserole.

If you have to turn the oven on anyway, add a roasted pork loin with fennel seeds, Dijon and parmesan cheese to the entrée selection. It only needs basting twice during the cooking process and offers a hearty alternative.

If you can get away with not serving mashed potatoes, roasted red and sweet potatoes with fresh herbs are simple and leave you with less pots to clean

There is nothing wrong with omitting the 15 dessert selections and opting for a holiday themed crème brulee (eggnog, ginger or pumpkin- maple are sensuous after a full meal. Followed by a small crystal dish filled with chocolate truffles and of course a nice tawny port.

Turducken: Available by special order at Karl Ehmer’s Meats

Standing Prime Rib Roast: available with seasoning and cooking directions at Fresh Market and Gieres Sausage Kitchen serve with homemade herb popovers for an extra holiday treat)

Pumpkin Custard Pie: For the creamiest pumpkin custard, order from Yoder’s on Bahia Vista

Cheese displays make holiday entertaining extra special.

My parents often commented that my tuition at Johnson and Wales was well worth the cost due to my flawless turkey gravy. For best result, use chicken broth with 1/3 cup of pan drippings mixed in. heat to a low boil, add 1 teaspoon gravy master. Slowly whisk in a light roux (equal parts of melted butter and flour, whisked until a thick paste. Continue whisking until thick and smooth. Add ¼ cup cream for added flavor and shine.

Light and healthy mashed potatoes

Use 99% fat free chicken broth, low fat sour cream and yes, real Irish butter to make light and fluffy mashed potatoes. Put a gourmet spin on the classic holiday side dish by drizzling white truffle oil over the mashed potatoes before serving.

Side tip

Votive candles and fabric laced table runners set the mood for elegance, while filling a large table that may seem too much for a small buffet.. A simple holiday supper of whole smoked salmon with capers, osetra caviar and crostini topped with crème fraiche, served with scalloped potatoes and roasted Cornish game hens with apricot-mango chipotle glaze (Kozlowski farms) and wilted fresh spinach with pancetta illuminates with the brilliant glow of the small candles