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Holiday cooking tips from Pacific Grill

Get ready to dazzle your guests

The perfect holiday meal doesn’t require perfection according to Pacific Grill in Tacoma. File photo

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We blinked and now the month of November has arrived. It is the time of the year when we start making plans to have family and friends over to celebrate all we have to be thankful for.  Those plans will almost always be centered around a Thanksgiving meal. If it is your first time hosting Thanksgiving, the thought of cooking what is considered a traditional meal for a crowd can be a bit intimidating. But planning for the big meal does not need to be so stressful. Just remember a few tips from a local chef who regularly cooks for large crowds.

Although she has eight years of experience being the Executive Chef at the Pacific Grill, Jessica Armstrong says it's important to remain confident when planning your meal. "Mistakes are okay," she said. "It doesn't have to be perfect." She finds that most people get most intimidated over cooking a turkey because it is the centerpiece of the meal. Armstrong prefers to brine the turkey with salt and herbs and then covering it prior to cooking. "The turkey will sweat and then suck in that moisture," she said. Doing this creates a perfect crust full of flavor while keeping the turkey tender.

One of the main staples of a Thanksgiving meal is the stuffing. Armstrong says the great thing about making stuffing is that it can be made with almost anything you have in your pantry. "You can make stuffing with any type of bread that is dried out," she said. "Sourdough, rye, or anything traditional." The thing to keep in mind is to have fun and play with the recipe a bit.

Even if you're not cooking for a crowd, you can still make all the traditional, or non-traditional, fixings on a smaller scale. "There are so many ways you can prepare and cook a turkey breast," said Armstrong. "You can stuff it or roll it up, so many options." Finding a wine to pair with a Thanksgiving meal can be a bit daunting if you are not a wine connoisseur. Armstrong says that a nice red wine, especially a cabernet, works well with the meal. "It will cut through the richness of the meal," she said. Armstrong also says that a Prosecco is a fine choice because it is lighter and the bubbles are reminiscent of being a celebratory drink.

Don't forget dessert. But before you go prowling on Pinterest for the perfect dessert recipe, keep in mind that a traditional pumpkin pie is perfectly acceptable. "A pumpkin pie is simple, delicious and nostalgic," said Armstrong.

One final tip from Armstrong would be to prepare as many of the dishes as you can ahead of time. Don't spend the day of the holiday in the kitchen. Pop the prepared dishes in the oven and cook them the day of. Above all, Armstrong encourages people to not get too wound up over planning a meal. "Go with your gut, see what you come up with, and you can't go wrong." After all, the holidays shouldn't be stressful. It should be about enjoying the time with your loved ones. 

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