So you’ve agreed to host Thanksgiving. It seemed like such a good idea at first. For once, you don’t have to travel. Plus, you get to show off your above-average adulting skills to your family and friends. But in your haste to please and low-key peacock, you forgot just how small and unsuited to holiday food prep your kitchen is. With turkey day quickly approaching, it feels like the walls of your tiny kitchen are closing in around you.
Take a deep breath. To help you pull off your tiny-kitchen Thanksgiving without a hitch, we tapped Nico Russell for tips on prepping meals in small spaces. As the Executive Chef of Oxalis in Brooklyn, Russell crafts meals of multi-course tasting menus and thoughtful à la carte dishes out of a super-small kitchen. He uses the modest space so expertly, the restaurant recently earned its first Michelin star. Follow his recommendations and get ready to impress everyone you’re inviting to your Thanksgiving Dinner.
Prep Before Storing Ingredients
“After you shop for a big meal like Thanksgiving, don’t just come home and shove everything in your fridge,” warns Russell. The chef stresses the importance of considering time and space at every single step. “Always be thinking about what comes off of something before you put it away. For example, if you’re making carrots: Take them out of the bag, remove the tops, peel them and maybe even cut them to the desired size before putting them in the fridge.”
Label, Label, Label
Tiny kitchen dwellers know that limited space doesn’t limit the possibility for confusion. Russell advises adhering to an industry-standard practice for cutting down on chaos. “How are you going to know what to cook if you don’t know what you have,” he aks. “Keep your dry goods in clearly labeled containers so you can see exactly what everything is, including spices. Also, make sure your labels are all consistent.”
Build Your Menu With One-Pot Recipes
“One-pot dishes are great when you’re tight on space,” Russell says. “That way, you can use the other burners and the oven for multiple courses.” This counts for the turkey, but you don’t have to stop there. “The possibilities are endless, but some of my favorites are braises, pastas, large roasts or any large-format protein. Salads are also easy to throw together in a big bowl.”
Mind Your Mise En Place
Mise en place translates to “set up” in French. And for Russell, it’s one of the core tenets of being a chef. “When you’re cooking in a professional kitchen, you don’t have time to cut an onion for a dish every time an order comes in,” he says. “If you’re entertaining, you similarly don’t want to be overwhelmed and want to minimize the amount of work while your friends are over. If you can, clean, cut and measure out your ingredients the day before you cook your big meal.”
Clean as You Cook
“When you’re in a small kitchen, there’s no space for a big pile of dishes. Clean every pot, pan and utensil as soon as you’re finished using them,” he emphasizes. It will probably seem counterintuitive as you do it, but trust this professional. “While it might feel like it’s slowing you down, it’ll actually save you time and stress when all is said and done.”