If the thought of feeding a crowd this Thanksgiving makes you cringe, let Jamie Oliver take the stress out of your holiday meal.
The London-based celebrity chef stresses the importance of planning ahead, advice he admits is rather boring — but it works.
“Build a plan working back from when you see yourself eating your food,” says Oliver. To stay organized, he uses a chalkboard to map out big meals, but knows there’s probably a “clever app” around for those who’d rather hide their handwriting. (A couple or our fave meal-planning apps are The Joy of Cooking app or the Today’s Parent Mealtime app.)
For him, it’s all about giving the host time to enjoy the holidays. “Thanksgiving is definitely a time of year when timing and planning is everything because what it gives you in return is obviously better food and more time to relax with your friends and family,” he says.
Don’t be afraid of your freezer
Being prepared means you can work ahead, and it’s not too late to get started. Oliver’s latest cookbook 5 Ingredients: Quick & Easy, which comes out on October 24, focuses on simple recipes that are easy to make at home, and in advance. If you’re cooking a big batch of something ahead of time, freeze it until you need it. As Oliver says be sure your food cools completely before putting on ice. And don’t just freeze everything in one giant container. To quickly cool your food, and to cut down on waste once it’s defrosted (you don’t want to reheat and re-freeze, as Oliver notes), portion it before sticking it the freezer.
Follow the same rules for leftovers, just be sure to date and label you’re putting away for later. Certain seasonal items — such as butter and pie — freeze particularly well, so don’t fret if you’ve bought too much.
One of Oliver’s new recipes includes a frozen banoffee cheesecake and he recommends a frozen dessert — like frozen s’mores or frozen black forest cheesecake — for an occasion like Thanksgiving. Make it well in advance (and save on fridge space) so you can focus on more pressing matters on the big day — such as cooking a giant turkey to perfection.
Stock up on staples
A fully stocked pantry will save you time on the big day. In Quick and Easy, Oliver shares his five pantry staples: olive oil (for cooking), extra virgin olive oil (for dressing), red wine vinegar, sea salt and black pepper. With these, you can dress a simple salad or quickly roast up veggies by tossing them in olive oil and sprinkling them with salt and pepper just in case someone forgets to bring a side.
In his book, Oliver talks about using a speed peeler, which is essentially a Y peeler. Swap out your regular veggie peeler and make the switch to one of these easy-to-find handheld gadgets to make peeling potatoes, carrots and yams a breeze.