Kitchen envy: 9 tips for a big holiday dinner in a small space
Food • Planning ahead and being organized is the key.

By Kathy Stephenson

The Salt Lake Tribune

Published: November 20, 2013 01:32PM
Updated: February 14, 2014 11:40PM
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This Oct. 21, 2013 photo shows a "back to basics" turkey in Concord, N.H. The recipe is so basic, it calls for just four ingredients. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

Around Thanksgiving it’s easy to look at the gourmet magazines and get a case of kitchen envy: Here are sleek double ovens for simultaneously roasting the bird and baking rolls; industrial-sized refrigerators that hold salads, vegetables, dips and the leftovers; and center islands where guests can gather with nary a dirty dish or soggy towel in sight.

Reality check — kitchen size doesn’t matter.

Producing the big holiday dinner with an average stove, minimal counter space and a refrigerator that barely holds drinks — let alone a brined turkey — is possible.

“People all over the world cook delicious and impressive food in tiny surroundings,” said Diane Sheya, owner and director of the Salt Lake Culinary Center (formerly Viking cooking School). Sheya and three other local chefs offered nine tips on how to prepare a big holiday dinner in any size kitchen.

Have a plan • Create a list of everything you need to do for the meal. Start with the big things, like shopping and roasting the bird; and continue through to little details, such as washing greens, chopping garlic and deciding what platters and serving spoons to use. Check things off as you get them done.

“It’s especially important in a small kitchen to be hyper-organized,” said Ryan Lower, chef/owner of Copper Onion and Plum Alley restaurants. Lowder, who served several Thanksgiving dinners from a tiny New York apartment, said home cooks should follow the French culinary mantra, “mise en place” or “everything in its place.”

“When you’re organized and everything is in its place, it goes so much easier,” he said.

Select appropriate recipes • Since a whole turkey dominates the oven space for several hours, look for side dish recipes that can be made the day before and rewarmed just before the meal or that can be kept at room temperature. You may also want to think about cooking a turkey breast, which won’t take as long, says Mollie Snider, a chef instructor at the Salt Lake Culinary Center. One trendy option is to butterfly or “spatchcock” the bird, which cuts cooking time to about 90 minutes for a 14-pound bird. Ask the butcher to butterfly the turkey for you. (See accompanying recipe.)

Clear the decks • Get everything off the counter so you have as much space as possible, said Sheya. Box up the stacks of papers and put it in another room. Do the same for any appliances you keep on the counter but won’t be using on the big day. Create a few extra feet of work space by putting a cutting board or large pan or tray over one-half of your sink.

Use other appliances • Don’t have a double oven? No problem. You probably have plenty of other appliances at your disposal, added Snider. Cook your turkey on the grill or in an outdoor smoker; use the slow cooker to make the sweet potatoes or warm the stuffing.

Make dishes in advance • Much of the holiday meal can be made the day before, including fresh cranberry sauce, appetizer dips, stuffing, sweet potatoes, gelatin salad, rolls and pies. “Get as much of the cooking out of the way as possible,” said Snider.

Clean the refrigerator • “Refrigerator space at my house is a big issue,” said Bill McArthur, the executive chef at Market Street Grill in South Jordan and the owner of a tiny home kitchen. “It’s a good time to clean out all of the things that have been hanging around since summer and you’re not using.” Besides, guests open the fridge a dozen times throughout the day so you don’t want to scare them with moldy mystery containers.

Ask for help • You don’t have to do the meal by yourself. Ask guests to contribute a dish or two. But be sure assign them something specific or you’ll have five cheese plates and no vegetables. Sheya said she asks guests to bring something that is a tradition on their family’s traditional table.

Clean as you go • Clean counters and stoves is crucial. It helps you go from one task to the next with ease. “If you have limited space, you don’t want messes piling up,” said McArthur. “When I do Thanksgiving, I run the dishwasher a couple times during the day just to keep up.”

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Rest the turkey • After you remove the roasted bird from the oven, “let the thing hang out for 45 minutes” without covering it with foil, said Lower. Use the resting time to finish the mashed potatoes, dress the salad and make the gravy. You can also put stuffing, sweet potatoes and other side dishes back in the warm oven to reheat. Besides freeing up the oven, letting the bird rest allows the juices to redistribute, Lowder said. “Slicing the bird will be easier and it will look prettier on the plate.”

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Spatchcocked Turkey

1 (14-pound) turkey

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

3 carrots, roughly chopped

4 celery ribs, roughly chopped

2 yellow onions, quartered

Several thyme sprigs

2 bay leaves

Equipment

Heavy-duty roasting pan, a large rimmed baking sheet or, if all else fails, a large rectangular casserole dish.

Instant–read thermometer

Large skillet

Tongs

Aluminum Foil

2 Bricks

Preheat oven to 375 degrees or preheat grill to medium-high.*

Double wrap two standard size bricks in aluminum foil and place in the oven as it preheats.

Place chopped vegetables along with thyme sprigs and bay leaves in bottom of pan.

Remove giblets bag and neck from turkey’s cavity. Rinse bird and pat dry with paper towel, inside and out.

Place the turkey, breast side down, on a work surface. With kitchen shears, cut through the bones along both sides of the back bone and remove it. Trim off any excess neck skin.

Spread the bird open, skin side up, on the cutting board and press down firmly against the breastbone with the heel of your hands until the bone breaks and the bird lays flat.

Tuck the wing tips back and under the wings so they lie flat against the breast.

Rub the turkey all over with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add oil to the skillet to coat.

Place the turkey, skin side down, in the pan. Cook until the skin has turned a deep golden brown. About 10 to 12 minutes.

Remove the turkey from the skillet and place on top of your cut vegetables in your baking vessel skin side up.

Carefully place the two oven-heated brinks on top of the turkey breast and place in the oven.

Roast for 75-85 minutes or until breast meat has reached 160 degrees. Cooking time will vary depend on turkey size and oven. Begin taking thermometer reading 30 minutes into the roasting process.

Place turkey on a carving board, tent with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for at least 20 minutes.

Carve and serve.

*To grill: Follow recipe above, omitting the vegetables and herbs. While the grill is preheating, heat your aluminum wrapped bricks on the upper rack of your grill. Place your prepared turkey skin side down on the grill. Cook covered until the skin has turned a deep golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Turn bird. Place the two preheated bricks on top of the turkey breast to weight. Close cover and cook until your instant-read thermometer reaches 160 degrees.

Remove turkey from the grill, transfer to carving board, tent with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for at least 20 minutes.

Carve and serve.

Servings • 10-12 with leftovers

Source: Salt Lake Culinary Center

Thanksgiving cooking classes

Here are a few cooking classes to help you get prepped for the holiday meal.

Perfect turkey • Wednesday, Nov. 20, 6:30 p.m. $30 Harmons Station Park, 200 N. Station Parkway, Farmington.

Non traditional holiday meats • Friday, Nov. 22, 6:30 p.m.; $50, Harmons Bangerter Crossing, 125 East 13800 South, Draper.

Holiday pies • Saturday, Nov. 23, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., $55; Salt Lake Culinary Center, 2233 S. 300 East, Salt Lake City; 801-464-0113.

Holiday pies and desserts • Saturday, Nov. 23, noon, $40; Harmons Bangerter Crossing, 125 East 13800 South, Draper.

Simple sides • Friday, Nov. 22, and Monday, Nov. 25, 10 a.m., noon and 4 p.m., $5 per person; Sur La Table, 10 Rio Grande St., Salt Lake City; 801-456-0293.

Pleasing pies • Saturday, Nov. 23, 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.; $5 per person; Sur La Table, 10 Rio Grande St., Salt Lake City; 801-456-0293.

Sides made easy • Monday, Nov. 25, 6:30 p.m.; $100; Sur La Table, 10 Rio Grande St., Salt Lake City; 801-456-0293.

Take-and-bake pies • Tuesday and Wednesday, Nov. 26 and 27, 11 a.m.; $85; Sur La Table, 10 Rio Grande St., Salt Lake City; 801-456-0293.

Last-minute holiday help • Borrow a kitchen in two-hour blocks and get help from a chef to prepare holiday sides; Wednesday, Nov. 27, 3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m.; $60 Harmons Bangerter Crossing, 125 East 13800 South, Draper.