Preparing a large meal for family and friends can be a daunting, and sometimes exhausting task. Some of us love the intricacies of shopping, scheduling and preparing a meal to remember, and others — not so much. If you feel emotions like trepidation, dread, or resentment when it’s your turn to host, we have local experts in the community who can help.
Whether you’re looking for a traditional Sunday roast, or something unique and unexpected, the first step is to figure out what type of meat to buy. Your local butcher has a wealth of information about what and how much meat you should purchase, and can make suggestions that cater to your needs and budget. He or she can also tell you exactly how to cook your roast.
Tony Rotondi of Micatoni’s Food and Butchery in Oak Ridges says that purchasing good quality meat is the place to start (they sell only AAA or higher grass-fed beef). Prime Rib is his first choice when it comes to flavour. If you order your roast in advance you can arrange for the shop to prep it and season it, so that all you need to do is throw it in the oven. His second choice is beef tenderloin, because it is less fussy. “A common mistake that people make is forgetting that the roast needs to be taken out 20 minutes prior to serving,” says Rotondi. “The roast will continue to cook during this ‘resting’ phase, so if you want it medium-rare you need to take it out when the thermometer is about ten degrees short of medium-rare. Otherwise, it will be over-cooked by the time it is ready to eat.”
For those who love turkey, but don’t enjoy the process of bathing, cleaning out the cavity, preparing the stuffing, trussing, and buttering, you can order your bird ready to pop straight in the oven. Think of all the time you could free up, and no one but you and your butcher needs to know.
Linda Maunder of Maunder’s Food Shop in Aurora suggests that you plan your dinner based on whatever your family’s favourite food is. Once you have decided on your “main,” she can help you build out the menu, and offer great short-cuts in the form of “kits” and mixes. For example, she carries a variety of condiments and sauces that can take your cheese platter from meh to magnificent.
Maunder recommends planning and ordering your main course well in advance so that all the moving pieces come together. For example, your turkey may need the whole afternoon in the oven, which may scuttle any plans to serve warm appetizers. She states: “The biggest mistake is to underestimate how much time you need or to leave menu decisions until the last minute. If you want a beautiful presentation, decide on your decorations, table cloth and napkins and set the table well before.” Once your guests arrive you’ll be free to enjoy a glass of wine and savour the aroma of your soon-to-be-perfect roast.
One of Maunder’s favourite delights is Cornish hen. She sells them “oven-ready” and they don’t take long to cook. You can order the sauce to go with them, and plate them with some holly for a delicious and show-stopping main course.
Regardless of your culinary skills, you can pull off an impressive holiday dinner without much stress or hard labour. Our local experts can help you, you just need to ask.
by Elaine Jackson
Micatoni’s, Oak Ridges
Maunder’s Food Shop, Aurora