nyf 2002 - cheat sheets

So - you've seen the menu. You've seen the photos & a bit of commentary. Soon you will see recipes. Today? Today you will see some of the non-cooking process i use to put one of these things together. Heidi, in reference to a kickass birthday brunch she hosted a few years ago, mentioned "...not for another couple of years. Meriko, i don't know how you do it." This entry is dedicated thusly to Heidi and Heather.

New Years Feast is a treat - i start musing on the menu, plotting, reassigning, mucking about, and finally deciding what i'll serve a month in advance. I take it as part of the treat about NYF; it's definitely a once-a-year thing. Once i have the menu in my head, i'll sit down with all the cookbooks housing the relevant recipes, and make up a shopping/ingredients list. I march that into the kitchen, and it becomes my shopping list.

Next i develop something i call the 'component' cheat. It's an in-between step; it rarely gets printed, and it's definitely a stepping-stone to getting a timeline in place. The component sheet lists the major components for each dish/course, and takes a guess at how hard or long a task it is - and whether it can be done in advance. You'll see me add "a la minute" to the ends of tasks; it means that that item CANNOT be done in advance, but has to be done during service. I definitely try and minimize non-plating cooking tasks during service, so if there are too many of these? It's a signal to move around the menu or look for some substitutions.

The component cheat feeds directly into the timeline - which is key. This is probably my most important non-cooking tool during NYF. I double-check recipes, and try and draw up a reasonable schedule for my cooking tasks. (The cleaning timeline goes up on the whiteboard, where it can be quickly eliminated from guests' view!) As i finish each, i cross it off; this helps me keep on top of what is being done, has been done, and needs to be done - it also helps anyone Russell and Beca be efficient sous chefs. Much of what they need to know is up on that timeline. Once i paste the timeline up on the cupboard, i add to it in pen; this year i added plating information a few hours before the guests arrived - what dishware & garnishes each course should use.

Finally, i construct my recipe cheat. At this point, i'm very familiar with the recipes i've chosen, even if they are new to this meal. I transcribe just enough of the recipe to keep me from needing the cookbooks in the kitchen during work hours. You would be hardpressed to cook from these unless you were already familiar with the recipes and techniques, but they're great to have on hand when you're firing each course.

(And i say i'm not a control freak. sigh)

Posted by shock on January 05, 2003 | TrackBack

Wow, with it all spelled out like that, you make it look like anyone could do it. What an -astounding- amount of work you put into that...

I've been trying to use a bit of planning when cooking my weekday dinners lately, and it has really helped with my frustration levels. But I'm only ever thinking about 2-4 things to keep an eye on.

Posted by: heather on January 6, 2003 9:31 AM

I can attest that these lists are incredibly helpful -- and not really that difficult to do. They certainly have a high reward to effort factor. The two huge rewards (for me) are keeping me on track in the middle of the day, and keeping me from forgetting last minute things (such as garnishes, or entire tarts I once forget to put out :-) )

I basically do the same thing as meriko in that I list first by recipe and then twist it into a timeline. With a word processor this is pretty trivial.

Posted by: poubelle on January 6, 2003 10:10 AM
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