Megan Palmer Rivera, executive chef at Palmer’s Market close to my hometown in Darien, CT, clearly knows a thing or two about preparing a perfect holiday feast. After all, families rely on her to make their Thanksgiving, Christmas and other festive meals special, from hors d’oeuvres to dessert. But that doesn’t mean she can’t understand how stressful this time of year can get. Says Megan: “As a working mom with two small children, the last thing I feel like doing is spending ten hours slaving over the stove after working a 50-hour week. Yet every year I find myself inviting the entire family over!”
Even though she’s a professional, Megan says that hosting always comes with some hiccups. “It all seems well and good until I’m stressed out, burning the rolls, with crying children at my feet and my husband at the grocery store running to get the one ingredient I forgot to pick up,” shares Megan. Here’s how she’s planning on leaving stress off her guest list this holiday season—and you should, too.
Outsource Some Things….
Whether it’s the cleaning before houseguests arrive or catering part (or all) of dinner, taking just a few things off your plate will help dramatically. Megan says she’s practicing a new tradition called ‘Happy Momsgiving.’ “It’s where I give up all my guilt for not preparing every single dish on the table.”
…But Not Everything
If you’re like us, you get joy out of cooking one of two dishes, so just focus on those. “Pick one dish you know you can master and be sure to do as much pre-work in advance as you can,” says Megan.
Set a Fabulous Table—Now
Start early so you’re not cooking and setting your table simultaneously. “You can do it way in advance if you need to and it will make everyone think you’re the hostess with the mostess,” says Megan. “Break out the good china and top it with a cute place card holder and a mini Chocolate Turkey,” she adds. If you want to add some fun to the table, Palmer’s sells traditional English crackers that you “pop” open and each has a joke and a toy inside.
Splurge on the Turkey
Megan recommends D’artagnan organic turkeys. “All you need is a hot oven, salt, pepper and a thermometer (a calibrated thermometer is key!). If your turkey is dry, it is because you overcooked it. 165 degrees is all you need,” says Megan.
The holidays are supposed to be fun, so remember that nobody will remember if the stuffing is a little salty or the tablecloths are a bit wrinkled. Says Megan: “At the end of the day, Thanksgiving is about family. So pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy. After all, you deserve it!”