Noche Buena is fast approaching and I’m already a bit overwhelmed with the preparations I’ve put off to the last minute. Where should I get the pernil this year? Do I make rice, black beans AND stuffing? Why not? Black beans and rice are a given but everyone does love my stuffing. So that’s on the checklist. How much to make? I’m not even sure how many people are coming yet, but it doesn’t really matter. “Dónde comen 15 comen 20” is my motto. We have an open door policy so I always make more than enough food. Come one, come all and bring a big appetite.
While these celebrations are a lot of work, I pretty much have it down pat. Make more than enough food and do as much prep as possible beforehand. But for those hosting their first Noche Buena celebration, it can get overwhelming in a hurry, even if your mamá, tia and primas lend a helping hand.
So I’d like to share some tips from the Cooking Basics For Dummies®, 4th Edition that are easy to implement and can save you some time.
Quick Cooking Tips To Help You Save Time in the Kitchen
- Have all ingredients prepared, measured, and set out within reach before you start cooking.
- Precook pieces of chicken or meat in your microwave before finishing them on the grill.
- If you’re using the oven, turn it on at least 15 minutes before you’re ready to roast or bake your dish. Don’t waste time waiting for the oven to heat after you’ve prepared the recipe.
- Buy vegetables that are already washed and cut, if doing so will get you to eat more vegetables or cook more often. Prepared ingredients such as bagged salad mix, stir-fry vegetables already cut to size, and boneless cuts of meat cost a bit more, but saving some time may be worth it.
- Remove steaks and other meats from the refrigerator about 15 minutes before cooking so that they warm to room temperature. They’ll cook faster and more evenly.
- Line the broiler pan with aluminum foil to ease cleanup when broiling hamburgers, fish, steaks, and chops.
- Don’t bother chopping onions, garlic, fresh herbs, and the like for a salad dressing. Instead, use a food processor or blender to save chopping time, add your liquids, and then blend for a quick dressing.
- Place a garlic clove on a cutting board and whack it with the flat side of a heavy knife or a cleaver to make removing the skin easier. The skin should split right off.
- Roll a lemon or orange under the palm of your hand on the countertop to make extracting the juice easier.
- Clean up as you go. You’ll be glad you did when the meal is over!