Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Minor Kitchen Victories: Timing the Meal

     This is one of the hardest skills I've had to learn in the kitchen. It's one thing to cook a bunch of dishes over the course of a night. It's another thing entirely to cook them so that they all hit the table exactly when you want them to. It does not come easily. It requires organizational and juggling skills that don't always come naturally.

Sometimes, things can go wrong.
     So how does one achieve this goal of a perfectly synchronized meal?  One where all the courses come out at exactly the perfect times? I haven't found any hard and fast rule for how to make that happen. What I do know is that solid prep work will help everything go as smoothly as you can hope. For the jalapeno feast I talked about on Facebook, I made sure everything that could be prepped, was. I did the ice cream the night before.  I had the corn pudding batter poured and ready to go in the oven exactly when I needed. I had everything but the pasta done in advance for the mac and cheese. When the time came to fire it up in the kitchen, all I was really doing was simply applying heat. The chicken and cream sauce was the only thing I really made start to finish in once shot. What helped me was making sure I had plenty of time for prep. I started getting ready about 90 minutes before the dinner was to be served. The appetizer and a bottle of nice Pinot came out to start. That bought me the time I needed to make sure everything came out on target.

     The big trick is to make sure your mains and sides come out at the same time. Making sure you have appetizers and wine will make sure everybody is happy while you are staging everything for the remainder of the meal. You're not going to get it right every time. Sometimes the main is going to take longer to cook than you expected. You may forget that a dish needs to sit for fifteen minutes before serving. These things happen.  What can you do? Stay calm and open another bottle of wine. Enjoy.

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