It’s that time of year again, when families worldwide gather around tables to share traditional Thanksgiving and Yuletide meals. It is also the time of year when our home kitchens become whirlwinds of activity, and good planning becomes integral in order to deliver tasty and timely meals.
Whether you are celebrating U.S. Thanksgiving, Cayman Thanksgiving, or thinking ahead to Christmas dinner preparations, these tips from Frederic Morineau, executive chef at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, may help you create a feast with all of the taste and less of the stress.
What are your top tips for preparing holiday season meals?
Planning ahead is essential and offers the time to ensure you can purchase the finest local and premium ingredients, rather than pre-made sauce or stuffing. There is no substitute for delicious, made-from-scratch comfort food made with fresh products. In addition to ingredients, it is important to be sure you have the cooking equipment you need. My essentials are a sharp knife and a roasting pan large enough for the turkey. I highly recommend avoiding the disposable aluminum turkey platters because the heat distribution is not even.
What is the secret to the perfect turkey?
First and foremost, you need a top-quality turkey. I recommend all-natural, organic, heirloom breed or local turkey and I avoid pop-up turkeys. Take the time to marinate or brine your turkey at least 24 hours in advance, this makes it more tender and juicy. Of course, you definitely do not want to overcook your turkey, so use a thermometer and take your turkey out of the oven when it reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Are there any new or unusual side dishes that could be served alongside the main meal?
There are so many great, flavorful ingredients available to use in the Caribbean. Some of my favorites are locally inspired ingredients and preparation techniques, such as local pumpkin, stuffing made with Jamaican spice bun, and using local-grown Chinese long beans in your green bean casserole. Rub your turkey with jerk seasoning or brine with rum and molasses and swap traditional mashed potatoes for boniato mash or yucca mash.
What options would you recommend to people preparing for vegetarian guests as well?
I am always sure to have as many distinctive, fun sides available so vegetarians can enjoy a full meal with many delicious options.