From baking cookies to preparing the main dish, holiday cooking will be easy this year, thanks to advice fromÂ Joliet Junior College culinary arts professors. Several chefs have teamed up to share their best tips and secrets for cooking and baking at home during the holidays.
JJC Culinary Arts Professors suggest:
1. When roasting a turkey or chicken, or making a pork roast, let the meat rest in a homemade brine for 6-8 hours before cooking. Brining allows the protein to absorb moisture and retain it during the roasting process. The moistness, tenderness and the flavor will be far superior to the same item not brined. â€” Chef Michael McGreal
2. Make all your cookie dough ahead of time and put it in the freezer. Take the cookie dough out a day prior to baking. Let it thaw before cutting and baking. The shopping, scaling, and mixing can be done weeks prior making the actual baking day a lot less stressful. â€” Chef Michael McGreal
3.Â When selecting a holiday wine, mirror the body, weight (or overall intensity) of both the wine and the food to ensure neither one overwhelms the other. Heavy or rich foods should be paired with heavy or rich wine, just as light or delicate foods should be paired with light or delicate wine. Ask yourself: How does the wine feel in your mouth? If it feels like water, it is a light body wine. If it feels like 2 percent milk, it is a medium body wine. If it feels like whole milk, it is a full body wine. â€”Professor Eric Bell
4. When making sweet potatoes or squash, roast them in their skins. Wait for them to cool before peeling. To use them in a pie or side dish, roasting them in their skins brings much more natural sweetness into the potato, and then you donâ€™t have to add as much sugar and unwanted calories. â€”Chef Kyle Richardson
5. When making fresh mashed potatoes, boil or steam the potatoes until just tender. Then use a ricer or food mill to mash the potatoes while warm. The texture will be notably smoother. Pre-heated milk and butter can be added to keep the mashed potatoes smooth. â€”Chef Kyle Richardson
6. Give a homemade baked gift during the holidays. Pick something that is your specialty or that you take pride in and it will mean so much more than a store bought gift. â€”Chef Mark Muszynski
7. Weigh out and measure ingredients a day ahead of time and the job wonâ€™t seem as time consuming. The next day, youâ€™ll be off to a much quicker start. â€”Chef Mark Muszynski
8. For a flavorful and lump-free gravy, take the drippings from a roasted item and add them to a heavy bottom saucepan. Let the drippings simmer over medium heat until the juice evaporates and only the fat remains. At that point, add an equal amount of flour to the fat to make a roux and cook it until it is nutty smelling and smooth (2-3 minutes).Â Whisk in the broth, while also cleaning the edges of the pan with a rubber spatula to remove any roux that gets caught in corners. Let the mixture simmer for 20 minutes. Season and strain. â€”Chef Tim Bucci
9. Remember to prepare food safely and use a meat thermometer for proper internal temperatures. Poultry and casseroles should be 165 F; hams should be 155 F; beef, pork and lamb should be 145 F. Store your meats properly in the refrigerator and never in a garage, on a porch, or on the counter at room temperature. Raw meats should be at a constant 41 F or lower. â€”Chef Keith Vonhoff
10. Try using red cranberries for more than just Thanksgiving dinner. The beautiful color and flavor make cranberries a wonderful addition to all the Holiday meals.Â Here is a simple but very flavorful recipe:
- 1-bag of fresh cranberries
- 6-granny smith apples, peeled, cored and diced into 1-inch cubes.
- 1-cup of organic apple juice
- 1/4 cup of organic honey
- 2-T. Coconut oil
- 1 tsp of pumpkin spice
In a non-reactive SS pan over medium heat, place the coconut oil and full bag of cranberries. Lightly cook until the cranberries begin to split. Add the apples and cook slowly for 10 minutes. Add the pumpkin spice, honey and apple juice. Simmer and stir occasionally for 10 minutes. Serve warm or cold to your preference. â€”Chef Paul Bringas
For more information about the JJC Culinary Department, log on to http://www.jjc.edu/academics/divisions/career-technical/culinary-arts/Pages/default.aspx, or contact Mike McGreal, department chair, at 815-280-2639 or e-mail email@example.com.