One-oven strat­egy

Make-ahead dishes, other ap­pli­ances help pull Thanks­giv­ing meal to­gether

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - FOOD & DINING - Anna Thomas Bates Spe­cial to the Mil­wau­kee Journal Sen­tinel USA TODAY NET­WORK - WIS­CON­SIN

Cook­ing Thanks­giv­ing din­ner is a for­mi­da­ble task in a spa­cious kitchen. But host­ing the big­gest hol­i­day meal of the year from a kitchen with a sin­gle, stan­dard-size oven can seem like a Her­culean chal­lenge. Take heart. Hot food from the oven is not the only path to get­ting this fes­tive din­ner on the ta­ble. Make-ahead recipes and use of al­ter­na­tive ap­pli­ances are strate­gies that can help pull to­gether a com­plete Thanks­giv­ing din­ner in the lowli­est of kitchens. All four of the side dishes and both desserts we sug­gest here do not re­quire any space in the oven (at least not on the day of the big din­ner).

Tim­ing and tem­per­a­ture

The loveli­est thing about roast­ing a whole tur­key is that when it comes out of the oven, it needs in the neigh­bor­hood of 45 min­utes to rest and let the juices re­dis­tribute be­fore slic­ing.

This presents a golden op­por­tu­nity, with an al­ready pre­heated oven, to cook off any­thing pre­vi­ously pre­pared. This is the time to bake rolls, dress­ing or any gratins or casseroles (think sweet pota­toes or green beans). Your side dishes will be hot from the oven just as you fin­ish carv­ing.

Dave Swan­son, chef and owner of Braise Restau­rant, 1101 S., 2nd St., re­minds us that not ev­ery­thing needs to be served pip­ing hot. Swan­son plans a few sides and sal­ads, such as a wild rice pome­gran­ate salad, that can be made ahead, re­frig­er­ated and brought to room tem­per­a­ture be­fore serv­ing.

Hearty grain-based sal­ads, corn bread and cheese boards are all at their best when not too hot or too cold. Green and raw sal­ads can be kept in the re­frig­er­a­tor un­til the last minute, as some­thing cold and crisp, and is a good foil to hot, soft foods. So is that all-im­por­tant cran­berry sauce.

Just keep in mind the USDA “dan­ger zone” for per­ish­able foods. Any foods be­tween 40 and 140 de­grees Fahren­heit can be­gin grow­ing dan­ger­ous bac­te­ria. A good rule is sim­ply to not keep any per­ish­able food out of re­frig­er­a­tion longer than two hours.

Oven al­ter­na­tives

Many side dishes can be cooked on the stove­top, al­though burn­ers can be used up fast, so think strate­gi­cally. Con­sider items that can be cooked ear­lier over a burner, such as sweet potato puree, mashed pota­toes and dress­ing (see recipe be­low) and then kept warm in a slow cooker or chaf­ing dish un­til serv­ing time.

Al­ter­na­tive cook­ing ap­pli­ances such as slow cook­ers and pres­sure cook­ers can be em­ployed to make tasks more hands-off — and in the case of the pres­sure cooker, much faster.

“For years I dreamed of hav­ing a se­cond oven,” says Leigh Anne Wilkes, au­thor of “Hol­i­day Slow Cooker” (Page Street Pub­lish­ing, 2017). “Lit­tle did I know that one was sit­ting on the shelf in the back of my coat closet!”

Her book be­gins with a chap­ter on Thanks­giv­ing and weaves its way through Christ­mas, New Year’s Eve, Easter, July Fourth and beyond.

For Thanks­giv­ing, she of­ten cooks the tur­key in the oven but uses her four slow cook­ers for all the sides, from sausage corn-bread stuff­ing to pecan and brown sugar sweet pota­toes. Here, you'll find her takes on roasted gar­lic and herb mashed pota­toes and a spiced pump­kin pud­ding cake.

Pres­sure cook­ers are mak­ing a come­back, too, but these aren’t your grand­mother’s slightly scary stove­top cook­ers. The In­stant Pot is an elec­tric “mul­ti­cooker” that has a sauté func­tion but that also can work as a slow cooker, yo­gurt-maker and pres­sure cooker.

The In­stant Pot was Ama­zon’s best­selling item in both the U.S. and Canada dur­ing the site’s 2017 Prime Day event in July (with sales big­ger than Black Fri­day and Cy­ber Mon­day). It’s be­come such a pop­u­lar small ap­pli­ance that there is now a large se­lec­tion of In­stant Pot- or mul­ti­cooker-spe­cific cook­books, from veg­e­tar­ian to pa­leo to In­dian-themed.

Melissa Clark, food writer for the New York Times, was given an as­sign­ment to write about the new phe­nom­e­non. Two hours af­ter open­ing the box, she was eat­ing the best short-ribs she had ever made and was a con­vert.

Her new­est cook­book, “Din­ner in an In­stant” (Clark­son Potter, 2017) is a col­lec­tion of 75 recipes. And these aren’t recipes that you can make in the In­stant Pot, these are dishes you should make in the In­stant Pot be­cause “the elec­tric pres­sure cooker does it bet­ter — faster or more fla­vor­fully, or with less mess and/or stress,” Clark says.

There are a va­ri­ety of hol­i­day-wor­thy dishes in Clark’s book, in­clud­ing Wild Rice Salad with Pine Nuts and Cle­men­tines, Tan­ger­ine Car­rots with Ricotta, Chives and Wal­nuts and Bread Pud­ding with Dried Cher­ries.

Here we share her recipe for Wild Mush­room, Pancetta and Pea Risotto. A risotto nor­mally would be out of the ques­tion on a day like Thanks­giv­ing, as it needs con­stant at­ten­tion for up to 40 min­utes. How­ever, in the mul­ti­cooker, ten­der Ar­bo­rio rice col­lapses into creami­ness in about 30 min­utes, and half that time is hands-off.


With a bit of strate­giz­ing, a full tur­key din­ner with all the trim­mings can be pre­pared in a kitchen with just one oven. This spread is from "Hol­i­day Slow Cooker" by Leigh Anne Wilkes.

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