The first piece of advice was passed on to me through a story a friend shared with me. Her elderly father told her he did not have many regrets in his life. He had lived a full and happy life and at the end of the day he would often sit down and have a scotch. He told her all those years of drinking scotch, he always bought the cheap brands. As he aged and he had time to reflect, he lamented to her, that he regretted never treating himself to the “good” scotch. This story is a great reminder to savor time with family and to treat yourself once and a while to the very best.
Heeding his words might actually make life easier for you in the kitchen too. It is a fact, the best ingredients make the best food. If you take the time to purchase better quality ingredients, it will save you time. Whole foods and quality ingredients often need very little preparing or handling. The best way to serve these items is whole, simple, and rustic. Let the ingredients speak for themselves. An awesome example of this is a charcuterie board which can include whole cheeses, specialty meats, fruit, chocolate, herbs, and artisan bread.
The reason good restaurants can operate and produce food at the level and volume they do is simple - prior preparation. Behind every dish is a weekly order list, a recipe index, a weekly prep list, broken down into a daily prep list, and an intuitive sense of mise en place, which in French means “everything in its place.” All of that for one dish. At home, you will hopefully only be making one Christmas meal. My advice is make dishes that you can prepare in advance and write down your menu and break down what you can do in advance. Some classic food ideas are chicken liver pate, tourtiere, or chocolate almond bark.
Lastly, remember to enjoy yourself. Whether you are trained chef or cooking your first Christmas meal, food is love and it is meant to be shared with your family and friends. Cheers and happy holidays!
Smoke cranberries for a smoky, tart, and peaty flavor profile. Pairs well with turkey, tourtiere, or pate. The smoke adds complexity and depth to the sauce and almost has scotch like qualities.
If you have kids keep them busy outdoors. Skating, building forts, hikes, and wild foraging for table decorations and drink garnishes is always fun. Plus, the cook will enjoy the peace and quiet.