Friday, December 19, 2008

12/19/08 - Positively Successful!

Mission accomplished! Dinner last night was delicious and spirits were high! I’ve had several requests for the menu so here you go…

­Whole Chicken
My mom swears by this recipe. Super easy and the chicken was moist and flavorful. It didn’t even need gravy!

1 lemon (size of lemon should be determined by size of chicken)
¼ cup of orange juice
¼ cup of olive oil
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
1 teaspoon of paprika

1. Place whole lemon inside chicken
2. Mix OJ, olive oil, kosher salt and paprika in small bowl. Rub chicken all over with mixture
3. Cook chicken as directed on package or 20 minutes per pound at 350
4. Relax and have 3 sips of wine

Sweet Potatoes with Apricots and Bourbon
This is one of my dad’s favorite holiday recipes. I believe he got it from Sunset Magazine. I made the sweet potatoes the night before which was a huge help.

1/3 cup bourbon
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
5 pounds red garnet or jewel sweet potatoes (sometimes sold as yams)
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. In a small bowl, pour bourbon over dried apricots.
2. Scrub sweet potatoes and pierce each in several places with a fork. Place potatoes on oven rack or in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in a 350° oven until potatoes are soft when pierced, about 1 1/2 hours. Let stand until cool enough to handle, about 20 minutes.
3. Peel the sweet potatoes and place in a large bowl. Add brown sugar, butter, and vanilla to the bowl and mash with a potato masher or a fork until mixture is only slightly chunky. Stir in apricots and bourbon. Spoon into a shallow 2 1/2-quart baking dish and spread level.
4. Bake, uncovered, until hot in the center, about 30 minutes. Serve warm. (I heated them up the night of the dinner)

Matt prepared his famous asparagus. He places the asparagus on a baking sheet, drizzles it with olive oil and salt; cooks it for 10-12 minutes at 350; sprinkles with grated Parmesan before serving.

More Potatoes
We also made mashed potatoes. Everyone seemed mortified at the idea that I was making two starches but as I have mentioned, I love potatoes. And if you can’t have two starches at Christmas, when can you, dang it!?

I think dessert was the highlight of the meal. I had charged our friends with providing dessert and they rose to the occasion! They picked up a Mille Crepe, which is about 20 stacked crepes with a light, creamy custard in between each layer. They served it with raspberries. The Mille Crepe came from Lady M Confections on the Upper East Side of Manhattan Check it out!

I was comforted to know that so many of you get stressed while cooking as well. Not that I can consider myself an expert after one successful meal but I do think that there are a few tips that really will help alleviate some stress:
1. Do what you can in advance. Tackling the sweet potatoes the night before was a lifesaver because I have never tried that recipe before. I was able to focus on the directions and I didn’t feel rushed.
2. You may have noticed that all the dishes needed to be baked at the same temperature. This is a huge help for novice chefs like me. When the chicken was almost done cooking we threw in the asparagus and reheated the sweet potatoes. No worrying about over cooking or having to recalculate cooking time.
3. Don’t hover or critique. Matt helped peel some of the potatoes. I just didn’t look and before I knew it, I had a bunch of beautifully peeled potatoes. I don’t know how he peeled them and I don’t care.
4. If friends offer to bring something, let them! Having to make one less trip to the liquor store or not having to make dessert can be a total life saver when trying to put together a big meal.

I can’t wait to hear about all your holiday cooking adventures!

I received an excellent suggestion for today's song. Please enjoy Lionel Richie's All Night Long.

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