03 Jan All About Timing
All About Timing
(or, Timing: My Mortal Enemy)
Timing is one of the biggest challenges for a cook (at any level) when entertaining any size group. Getting your dishes to the right temperature at the right time for your guests is super stressful and tough, and it is something that only gets easier with time and practice. Even though I still struggle with it (often), I have put together some of my simple tips and tricks to help make your dinner party a stress-less and perfectly timed success!
WRITE OUT A MENU AND A SCHEDULE
I can’t tell you how many times I have forgotten to serve one of my dishes, or missed the finishing step on a recipe because of the inevitable chaos that surrounds serving time. Making a menu for yourself with notes and timing will keep you focused, organized, and will save your butt time and time again. I usually scribble it out on paper and stick it on the fridge so I can’t miss it (see my chicken scratch from New Years eve here), but if you are more organizationally inclined than I am you can use a task app or doc on your phone/tablet/laptop that you keep close by.
TEST YOUR RECIPES
Unless you cook at the pace of a test kitchen chef, try not to make anything for the first time for your guests. Something may say 30 minutes start to finish online or in a cookbook, but in reality it could take you twice as long to finish it at your pace
KEEP IT SIMPLE
Try to avoid 20 step recipes with 30 ingredients, simple is better when trying to juggle the timing of multiple dishes and get them all perfect. Let the quality ingredients shine, and you can always make a simple dish fancy through garnishes and presentation style.
BUILD IN BREATHING TIME
Allow time to take breaks. Dance around the room, stretch, watch your favorite TV show, read a magazine, shower and get pretty. Your dishes will come out better when you approach them with a relaxed attitude and a fresh body and mind. Plus, answering the door sweaty and with your hair standing on end is never a good way to set the mood. A calm and happy host makes a comfortable guest.
WORK WITH YOUR COOKING SPACE
Make sure you have enough burners, oven racks, and counter space to cook every dish. In other words, don’t pick dishes that all require the oven or the stove all at once- you simply won’t finish cooking the complete meal in time. Plan your menu so it diversifies raw, stove-top, broiler & oven methods.
DO ANYTHING YOU CAN AHEAD OF TIME
Whether it is a day before or an hour, complete whatever you can ahead of time. Get a head start with all your chopping, shredding, grating, slicing, mincing, peeling and place them in organized containers. Caramelize those onions, blanch your veggies, marinate your meat, bake desserts, assemble your appetizers. Clean and set your table before you start cooking, it’s the first thing your guests will see when they arrive- you can always finish cooking while they’re there but if your table and your place is a mess you’ve botched chance for a fabulous first impression. All of these will allow you not to rush during crunch time and thus lessen stress of doing a million tiny things as the clock ticks down. You will also be able to enjoy your dinner with your guests instead of being stuck in the kitchen.
UNDERSTAND THAT PEOPLE WILL SOMETIMES BE LATE
Make sure you don’t overcook things while you wait for late guests to arrive. Be flexible. If you see you’re going to start later than expected- take things out of the oven that are warming and put back in when you see that the dinner is back on track. Wait for the finishing touches until you are sure you are ready to serve. (Also, don’t stress if YOU are the one who is late. Make sure you have drinks and a few appetizers out to appease your guests and they won’t mind the wait.)
HAVE A BACKUP PLAN
Have something quick and easy in the fridge to serve in case something goes terribly wrong. We all mess up (especially in the beginning): our burners mysteriously won’t ignite, we burn our main course because we had an urgent call from the office, the turkey is still raw when guests arrive even though we followed the recipe timing to a T. It happens, and unless you want your guests to go hungry, you need a backup plan. My go-to is a fresh package of ravioli that you throw in a pot of boiling water and high quality jarred sauce that you heat up in under 15 minutes. Or keep a slew of delivery menus close at hand. And remember, if it does come to this, laugh and tell yourself it will make a great story someday 🙂
I would love to hear from you! Any questions you would love answered? Want to share your own tips and tricks for battling our nemesis, Timing? Or just want to give me some Luv? Comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org