After traipsing through six different grocery stores to be prepared for my company for Thanksgiving Day, I realized why many folks dread holiday cooking. The food shopping can be overwhelming on a number of levels, from worrying about who likes what, how do cook what, how to get it all done and how to afford it.
I’ve done this many times, over many holidays and this year decided to keep it simple, affordable, intimate and sane!
Here are some tips for a sane cooking holiday experience.
- Assess the reality of your home economics. It’s not necessary to spend $300 to cook a turkey dinner. Set a food budget and stick to it.
- Choose the menu based on what makes sense for your region. Shop at your farmer’s market, and get to understand what your local farmers are growing and base your menu (as much as possible) on these choices. Many grocery stores will have a section of “locally grown” food. Whole Foods does this.
- Allow yourself only one dish that you have to follow from a cookbook on the day of the event. If you are making everything from scratch, it doesn’t mean that you have to make complicated dishes. The best dishes are often the simplest. If you have to use more than one cookbook, make copes of all of your recipes a few days in advance, writing on the back what ingredients you need to purchase. Have recipes at the ready on day you are cooking.
- If you are making desserts from scratch, do it the day before the event. In fact, do as much as you can the day before, including setting the table and cleaning the guest bathroom.
- Give yourself the freedom to recreate or redesign traditional dishes. The more I cook, the more I am rethinking “from scratch.” It doesn’t mean cooking food beyond its original, recognizable state in a casserole. It DOES mean, preparing it as simply and deliciously as it was meant to be like these roasted beets, brussels sprouts or fennel and orange salad.
- Edit your menu. Once your menu is decided, you may have too many dishes. See what you can edit it down to and make those dishes as delicious as you can.
- Avoid the big warehouse clubs. You may think your farmer’s market is more expensive, but they don’t sell pricey, processed foods. You may think your warehouse club is saving you money, but you will buy twice what you need and more than you will use.
- Don’t spend excessive worry accommodating special picky eaters. WHAT? I’ve been there and have made myself crazy with everyone’s special diets of who eats this or doesn’t eat that. Cook a nice variety of protein and produce and your guests can sort it out for themselves. If you have an array of fresh fruits and vegetables available, you can accommodate almost any diet. (Don’t get sucked into food drama).
- Don’t feel obligated to invite twenty people to your holiday dinner, when a small intimate gathering of eight around the table might be just what you family needs right now. Don’t get sucked into family drama).
- Pull together with family or neighbors to share dessert together in the evening. This may be the most sane thing you can do and the sweetest.
Baked or shirred eggs are a wonderful choice to serve holiday overnight guests. They are decadent because the consistency is like nothing I can describe. Soft and almost custard, they taste like no other egg dish. They are easy, because once prepared, they go in the oven, for 10-15 minutes, giving you time to set a table, pour juice and make coffee.
I like them with rustic pieces of peasant bread which can be placed into the oven during the last five minutes and voila, you can treat your guest to a beautiful breakfast, that will surely make them feel special.
If you are serving these around the holidays, bring out the tangerines, navel oranges, apples, and pears, and just slice fresh with nothing more than a garnish.
Use the freshest farm eggs possible, and just a bit of heavy cream. Some recipes allow for milk or skim milk, but I haven’t found the dish to be the same without the use of heavy cream. Because the dish is so custardy, a sprinkling of nutmeg and white pepper with a touch of artisan sea salt is a perfect mouthful. Feel free to add a smattering of fresh herbs, such as parsley, chervil, tarragon, dill or chives.
White pepper is a favorite seasoning of mine because it brings just a touch of heat to a dish that might otherwise be bland, but is not enough heat to take away from the essence of the dish. I use white pepper for egg dishes, crab cakes, and white sauces, butter sauces, and creamy soups.
You can get creative and bake your eggs in edible shells, such as potatoes, or tortillas. It could be fun to get creative, but today I wanted to give you a very easy recipe so you can enjoy your company and enjoy your own kitchen.
What kind of edible bowl would you like to see your baked eggs in?
Recipe for Baked Eggs
- 2 organic or farm fresh eggs
- Butter (for buttering the baking dish)
- Heavy cream (1-2 tablespoons per serving)
- Freshly ground nutmeg
- White pepper
- Sea salt
- Butter ramekins, that will fit one or two eggs. The above ramekin is shallow and fits two eggs nicely. Top with heavy cream so that all of the white is completely covered.
- Sprinkle with a touch of nutmeg and white pepper.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes, checking in at 10 minutes.
You want the whites completely cooked, but the yellow still soft.