Plan ahead: Prevent a holiday cooking breakdown with helpful advice from Chef Dave Woodall of Red Herring in Los Angeles.
In planning for what is usually the bigger of the two holiday meals, preparation for Thanksgiving can overwhelm even the most seasoned home cook. To that end, Dave Woodall, chef and co-owner of Red Herring in Los Angeles, offers C&I readers tips for a top-notch gathering. Check them out below.
- Woodall’s most important piece of advice: “Timing is everything when it comes to putting on a successful Thanksgiving dinner!” Plan ahead.
- For the best flavor possible, the turkey needs to be out of the oven (or smoker or fryer) at least 30 minutes before you plan to carve it, so it has time to rest before serving. Once you have that “out of the oven” time set, figure out your cook time based on the size of your bird and your preferred cooking method so you know when you need to start “the big cook,” as Woodall puts it. “Since I usually smoke my turkey, that means I start my bird about 6 hours before my out of the oven time.”
- Break up Thanksgiving prep over a couple of days so that when guests arrive they are not treated to the frantic scramble of trying to pull together everything at once. Chef Woodall says, “I’ll usually do my sauces and cold prep two days before, bake my pies the day before, and assemble all my casseroles to be cooked the next day.”
- Just because you are hosting does not mean you need to do all the cooking “I like to open the table to my guests and when sending the initial invitation, give them the opportunity to bring something of their own,” he says. “This always adds to the sense of community and sharing that I think are essential facets of the holiday.
- Finally, make sure the bar (or wine, beer, or batched punch like the spiced cider below) is set up before the first guest arrives and be ready to raise a cup yourself. “After all, you are the host, and your friends want to see you having a good time as well,” Woodall rightly notes.
Recipe courtesy of Red Herring
3 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
2 teaspoons whole clove
5 whole allspice berries
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1½ gallon of fresh apple cider (no sugar or spices added)
¼ whole vanilla bean
Peel of half a small orange
Place dry spices in a 4-quart sauce pan and heat for a few minutes until fragrant. Add the apple cider. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise. Add it and the orange peel to the cider mixture. Heat on low for 30 minutes, then strain and serve.
Share your own holiday planning and cooking advice by emailing me, José R. Ralat, food and drink editor, here. I’ll be sure to post your tips online.
For more information on Red Herring or to make reservations, visit the restaurant’s website. Photography: Bread & Butter Public Relations.
Subscribe to the forthcoming monthly Taste of the West e-newsletter below.