The Perfect Meal Is All About Timing
Professional chefs have crews working for them, and there are four people getting the food on the plates. If you go to a catered affair, there is an entire staff getting everything ready, so don't feel as though these professionals have a skill you are lacking. It's the home cooks who get everything ready at the same time that should be admired.
Here are some suggestions for getting all the food to the table hot:
Before you begin to cook, read through each recipe so you have a true sense of what's involved and how long each dish will take to prepare. If you know that the roast takes two hours in the oven and the casserole takes 25 minutes, use simple arithmetic to determine when it should join the roast in the oven. When you put the roast in, don't set your timer for the full two hours because you might forget when you're supposed to put the casserole in. Instead, set it for 1 hour 35 minutes. When you put the casserole in, reset the timer for 25 minutes. Both dishes will come out at the same time. Remember that all roasts, whether turkey, beef, lamb, or ham, need to rest 15 minutes before being carved. If you want your casserole to be eaten piping hot, you'll need to adjust your timing so it comes out of the oven after the roast. Once the roast is resting, you can warm rolls in the oven while you're getting other things ready or making last-minute gravy.
At a big family dinner, get some help. Remember that restaurant chefs all have helpers. Enlist three people to carry food to the table so you aren't running around too much. If your kitchen is small, just have your helpers stand at the door so you can pass them platters and bowls to carry to the table or buffet. Make good use of the microwave. Make mashed potatoes early in the day and then warm them on 50-percent power to reheat in the serving bowl. If you prefer to reheat your food in a storage container, you can transfer it to the serving bowl once it's hot. However, warming in the serving bowl saves time at the last minute.
Make a simple green vegetable such as broccoli or green beans. To cook, just drop into boiling, salted water. Anything you need to sauté will take time at the last minute. Draining a veggie and putting it into a bowl with some butter, salt, and pepper is really easy. A few quick snips of fresh herbs such as parsley or dill add an elegant touch.
Think of one thing you can serve that isn't hot. This is usually a salad, but it could also be a fruit relish or a Jell-O mold. Either way, make it in advance. Although if it's salad, don't dress it until the last minute to prevent greens from wilting.
Don't forget to relax. The people you invite to your house are your family and friends and they'll forgive you if the meal isn't perfect!