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Artisan Cuisine: Start early and stay stress free

Artisan Cuisine is published monthly. 

Roasted Brussels sprouts employ the bounty of the fall harvest and keep holiday meals from becoming complete carbohydrate-fests.
Roasted Brussels sprouts employ the bounty of the fall harvest and keep holiday meals from becoming complete carbohydrate-fests. Courtesy Anne Boulley
Don’t stress about Thanksgiving dinner, or any large dinner, for that matter.

First, make as much ahead of time as you can. This is your preparation work and should include chopping onions, celery, carrots (aka mirepoix) and any other vegetables that won’t brown. Have components of your dishes prepared so that cooking is minimal on turkey day.

Want homemade cranberry sauce or compote? You could prepare that days in advance.

Bake rolls in advance and freeze. They reheat in a warm oven beautifully.

Doing a lot of the work ahead means you can have more dishes or, if you’re like me, you can concentrate on several of your favorites and make sure they’re jazzed up and taste even better than usual.

Garnish your dishes with fresh herbs, homemade cultured butter or homemade caramel sauce.

This is why prepping ahead is my favorite piece of advice. When you wait, you get too busy to do the little extras that can really make your meal memorable.

Other advice I’d like to share includes using a thermometer. Check its calibration by testing the temperature of water at a rolling boil. It should read 212 degrees. If not, keep the degree difference in mind so you can use it accurately.

Don’t cook your turkey for so long it dries right out. The safe temperature for turkey is 165 degrees, not 180 degrees, which used to be the standard rule of thumb. 

Use the heat setting on your dishwasher to keep plates warm before dinner starts. For desserts that are cold, chill the dessert plates.

Use quality ingredients whenever possible. I like to pull out the flaky sea salt, real whipped cream toppings, etc.

Include some of fall’s best vegetables to keep it from being a total carb fest. My current favorite is roasted Brussels sprouts.

Here’s the recipe I use:

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Balsamic and Shallot

4 cups Brussels sprouts cut in half

½ lb bacon, chopped into matchsticks

2 bulbs shallots chopped (or onion)

2 tbsp olive oil

salt, pepper

balsamic reduction (¼ cup or more to taste)

Saute bacon in pan till nearly done, then add shallots. Cook until softened (3 minutes) and bacon is crispy and brown. Collect bacon and shallots from pan and set aside.

Place Brussels sprouts in pan, cut side down and brown them (2 minutes).

Place Brussels sprouts and a little olive oil into a roasting pan, sprinkle salt and pepper then give them a shake and roast at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or so. Pull out and add bacon and shallots to pan. Drizzle with balsamic reduction and serve.

Balsamic reduction is easy and should be made ahead of time. In a saucepan, empty a bottle of balsamic vinegar. Add 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, stir and then bring to a boil. Let cook until it is reduced by half. It will coat the back of a spoon. Place any leftover reduction in a squirt bottle to add to salads, etc. 

Prep ahead, add special touches and enjoy your Thanksgiving instead of feeling stressed.

It’s supposed to be a special day. Make sure it is for you too!

Anne Boulley is a local chef and culinary instructor with a passion for artisan foods. For more information about her cooking classes and catering services, go to thegourmetguide.com.

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