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Nick’s Tip: Timing It All Out

by Nick Vitrano

Holiday gatherings are kind of unnatural events – not for the assemblage of friends and family, but for the sheer dimension of the assembly.  First of all, it’s way more people than for which the size of a home is constructed.  No matter the open concept, most people’s kitchens and living rooms and sometimes even dining rooms are not adequately zoned for holiday traffic. 

Then there’s the gluttonous spread of eats.  We prepare a main dish and 10 side dishes, hoping to get them all on the table, all warm, at the same time, planning to have all gathered sit down nicely to say our prayers of thanks.  Yeah…about that.  There are only so many burners and so much room in the ol’ oven to handle everything.  Complicate that with the fact that the bird, the bean bake, the sweet potato casserole, the rolls, the stuffing…they all require different temps for optimal preparation.

It’s stressful just to plan and clean and get ready.  It’s stressful to entertain a lot of people.  It’s triply stressful to try to get everything on the table at one time. 

I can’t clean your house for you.  I can’t make it easier to pack everyone in your living room.  But I can ease the stress of the meal timing with three items that everyone’s got, but many fail to utilize.

#1 – The cooler.  The old tailgate beverage holder is great for keeping everything chilled on game day.  But it’s a massive misnomer.  It’s a temperature box, not a cooler.  The same insulation that locks in the cold traps in the heat.  Don’t count on your Igloo to bake your items, but it will keep them warm for a decent chunk of time.  Stacking helps, and remember, heat rises, so use a microwaved rice bag or a hot water pack on the bottom of the “cooler” to act as a pre-heater and help the temp to stabilize.

#2 – The slow cooker.  It’s not just for setting and forgetting while you’re away at work.  The slow cooker, set on low, is great for keeping dishes like beans and sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes toasty until serving, without drying them out.

#3 – The grill.  Say what?  Oh yeah.  If you can access your grill, it’s a great tool, using low, indirect heat, to keep casseroles warm.  Very low is the key…and indirect is critical.

Have a great Thanksgiving and don’t sweat the meal prep.  Even if the potatoes are a little cool, it’s all about the family and friends.  Worse comes to worse, just nuke it for 30 seconds!