We like to call this "The epitome of hotness." (Courtesy)
Chef Cat Cora, the first female member of the Culinary Hall of Fame and a member of Macy's Culinary Council, stopped by North Star Mall for a holiday entertaining demonstration this Thursday, November 14. The Current talked to the chef about why people stress out over the holidays and what they can do to avoid a meltdown.
What do people do wrong when it comes to holiday entertaining?
They try to do too much. We all want to impress friends and family and I think people that end up having issues or are overwhelmed when they try to do things that are way out of their lane, or they haven't done enough planning, or prepping ahead of time so (they) can actually enjoy their event.
How much is too much?
It depends on the person. Not that many things are too much for me, but I tend to overdo it. I also have 25 years of experience of doing this. If a person cooks once or twice a year for the holidays, six courses can be overwhelming. You have to stick wit your comfort zone; most of us know instinctively when we're going overboard or if (cooking) will be overwhelming.
What can home cooks do to avoid that?
I like to plan ahead and make lots of lists. I still make tons of lists, maybe two or three times leading up to the event, I'll make a list a week out with a menu and a grocery list of things I should buy, then another of things I can prepare three days out or one day out or day of–you have to be prepared. Think of things you can prep ahead of time like chopping vegetables for crudite or making hummus or other dips, which will taste even better two days out. You'll want to keep the perishables, your proteins, tossing salads for that day. If you have a recipe for a great roasted chicken, maybe try changing one or two ingredients-that's it. Try a glaze or a 5-Spice, something you're not used to. The holidays aren't a time to practice and get very adventurous.
How can someone make the holidays healthier?
You have to mix it up. The holidays are a time to make your favorite things, and families always have their favorites like the white chocolate pecan pie that's been in my family for years. It's a more indulgent dish, but I'm also making healthier wild greens and kale with spinach, Meyer lemon and toasted garlic. It's a balance. People are trying to make healthier dishes by replacing butter with olive oil in stuffing or adding more veggies and less bread. Add a great salad on your table to balance out the carbs.
What's your biggest takeaway from being part of the council?
The camaraderie. It's the 10th year for the Macy's Culinary Council and they're all longtime friends that I've known for 15, 20 years. We cook together at different events and we cross paths a lot. Macy's does a great job of bringing just together, whether it's an event with food trucks or elevating a home cook experience.