A Cook's Diary

Cooking for a carnivorous bunch

We’re having a family get-together tomorrow. Speedy’s youngest brother is in the country, he hasn’t been home in something like two years and it’ll be the first time he’ll be visiting since we moved to this house a year and a half ago. What’s on the menu? It’ll be a carnivorous meal, I tell you. Why? Because everyone in my husband’s family is super carnivorous. I don’t want them to go hungry and unless I want to deal with too much leftovers, I ought to cook some very meaty dishes, don’t I?

casaveneracion.com lasagne with meat sauce, honey ginger chicken, grilled lamb chops and potato salad

And because my two brothers-in-law are pasta fiends too, we’re having lasagne with meat sauce. To go with steamed rice, a variation of the Vietnamese style honey ginger chicken. On the grill, lamb chops to be served with potato salad. What I haven’t decided on yet is dessert. And if you’re wondering how in the world I can cook all that, let me assure you that I do follow my own advice. The trick is to spread the preparation over several days. Choose dishes that will not require Herculean effort to prepare. And make sure that there is division of labor.

My cooking schedule

Four days ahead:

Speedy and I bought all the meat, potatoes and other not-so-perishable items.

Three days ahead:

I checked what else we lacked. Cooking would start the following day so everything has to be on hand. Nothing lacking so I met my girl friends for dinner. Nice.

Two days ahead (today):

In the morning, I worked (I had to submit tomorrow’s op-ed column). Right after submitting it, I started cooking. I made the lasagne sauce. I also boiled two chicken breasts for the potato salad. I also marinated three packs of chicken thighs in a mixture of patis (fish sauce), lime juice, finely sliced chilies and ginger.

On the day of the party (people will arrive at 4.00 p.m. and the party’s expected to last late into the night):

In the morning, at around 8.00 a.m., the potatoes will be boiled and cooled. The chicken breasts will be deboned and diced.

By 9.00 a.m., the tables will be laid out in the garden. The plates, flatware, drinking glasses and all that stuff will be taken down from the cabinets, rinsed and dried. The napkin holders will be replenished.

At 11.00 a.m., the salad will be tossed with mayo and all the trimmings (crushed pineapple, chopped carrot and pickle relish). It will chill in the fridge until serving time.

Then, I’ll prepare lunch. Something simple and light — there’ll be so much food later.

At 1.00 p.m., I’ll make the bechamel sauce and assemble the lasagne. By 2.00 p.m., it should be in the oven. By 3.00 p.m., it should be done and it’ll have an entire hour to rest before serving. That way, it’ll have to firm up a bit so that the layers won’t disintegrate when sliced and served.

While the lasagne bakes, in the other oven, the honey-ginger chicken will be baking. It won’t need much work at that point except for the addition of honey. How difficult can that be, right? The chicken should be done at about the same time as the lasagne.

Ergo, by 3.00 p.m., I should be having a nice bubble bath to relax so that I won’t feel like a stressed-out hag by the time our guests arrive.

Grilling ain’t my assignment; it’s Speedy’s. The drinks aren’t on me either — that’s his domain.

Now, about dessert… let me see…

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