If you’re the kind of person who likes to go grocery shopping without a list, throw together meals on the spur of the moment, and avoid planning, you probably have lots of entertaining stories about major holiday dinner disasters of the past. As enjoyable as it may be to wing it most of the time, when you’re making a complex meal that requires you to share the oven or other appliances among multiple dishes and still get everything done at the appropriate time, you’ll probably benefit from planning at least a little. This does not mean you have to nail down what you’ll be doing for every second of the preparations, but you do need to have a general idea of what you’ll be doing when.
Tell me if this has ever happened to you. You put your turkey in the oven in the morning. This would be the turkey that has to roast for three and a half hours. At approximately the two-hour point, you realize that it’s time to put the pie in the oven, but hey—you only have one oven, and it’s got the turkey in it, consuming every cubic inch of available space. What are you going to do? You’re either going to skip making the pie or make it late—possibly while your guests have already arrived and are sitting down to enjoy their turkey dinner. So you’ll be missing the meal you’ve worked so hard to enjoy with your guests, because while they’re eating and having a good time, you’re in the kitchen making a pie. You don’t really want to do that, do you?
So here’s what you can do, and it’s not hard. Make two lists. On the first list, you put every dish you’ll be making for your meal, in the order you’ll be serving them. For your second list, identify which items go into the oven when. Here’s an example:
List of dishes to be made:
Oven time list:
• 8:00 Turkey in oven
• 11:30 Pie and covered dish of stuffing in oven
If any of your other appliances or kitchen gadgets have to do double duty for this meal, add them to your list.
What you end up with is a bulleted list that shows you what time you’ll be preparing each dish and when it is scheduled for its turn in the oven or other appliance. Plus, if you check your list of all the dishes you’ll be making before serving time, you won’t find that you’ve left one of them in the refrigerator or the microwave. Everything you’ve prepared can reach the table. Now you can just follow your list step by step until everything is done, and there will no oven time conflicts or other scheduling snafus. You’ll be able to sit down with your guests instead of panicking over last-minute crises.
You’re welcome. And have a happy Thanksgiving!