Timing Your Home Meals Restaurant Style

Tonight's Completed Meal

So the way our schedules go, usually I am home earlier in the day while T comes home around 6:30PM from work. I am the resident chef (obviously) so I make sure dinner is on the table soon after he gets home. It might be old fashioned but I really like taking care of my man, especially when it comes to meals. But I wanted to take some time in this column to explain to you how I set up my meal timing to make my evening much easier. I follow restaurant style timing.

It goes a little something like this: In restaurants, when you order a meal, obviously they do not make your entire dish from scratch when you order it. Parts of dishes are made ahead and then “fired” when you order. This means they take the components they have prepared and heat them or assemble them to make the final dish. It’s the same concept as making a casserole on Sunday and then reheating it for dinner on Monday. If you have the time, take your meal as far as possible and then finish the meal when you are ready. I never know when exactly T is going to be home or if he’s going to want to eat as soon as he gets here. So in order to have a hot meal, I prep as much as possible during the day and then assemble the meal when we are ready.

As an example, here is what I made this evening: Potato and Kale cakes with Rouille and

Roasted Mini Butternut Squashed stuffed with leftover chicken, rice and vegetables. Right now as I type this I am waiting for T. In the refrigerator sits the filling for the squash, the rouille (a garlic/tomato/smoked paprika mayonnaise) and the potato/kale cake mixture. The squash are half roasted and waiting for their filling.


Cook Potatoes while dicing and sauteing carrots, celery, onion(reserving some for cakes) and mushrooms. Turn on oven to 375.

Strip meat from one remaining leg of chicken and chop. Combine with sauteed veg and leftover rice. Taste and season appropriately.

Drain potatoes. Saute reserved onion, garlic and kale. Mash potatoes with chicken stock, olive oil and add kale mixture. Set aside.

Make rouille and put in fridge.

Roast Butternut squash in baking dish for about 30 minutes so they are half-way cooked. Remove and let cool. Turn off oven.

At this point the potato/kale mixture is done and waiting to be browned as cakes. A large saute pan is waiting to be used once we “fire for service”.  The squash stuffing is done, the rouille is done,  and the squash are half done and waiting to be stuffed and finished in the oven. I have also cleaned all dishes used so after dinner I just have our plates, the squash baking dish and the saute pan from the cakes. Now I go answer some emails or watch TV and wait for T.

Once T gets home, here’ s the plan:

Turn oven back on to 375.

Stuff the squash and place in the oven for another 20 minutes.

Turn on the saute pan. Shape cakes and cook until browned on both sides. Everything is already cooked so it’s going to take about 25 minutes to pull the whole thing together and serve a hot, delicious dinner. And that’s only because the squash have to cook for that long!

For this method, you don’t want to cook any proteins (meat and fish) ahead of time unless they are going to be a stuffing in a dish or part of a casserole. Vegetables that are being served as a side dish can be par cooked in boiling, salted water, shocked in ice water to stop the cooking and held for “service.” That way when you are ready to serve you can just finish them in a hot saute pan.

Got it? Have any questions about this method of cooking? Do not hesitate to ask here.

Side Note: Something I wanted to add, something I am pretty proud of, is the food trail of this meal. A few days ago for dinner I made wontons in a soy broth. A few days later I used the leftover broth to cook a rice side dish for a roast chicken. Tonight, I used the leftover chicken leg and bit of leftover rice to stuff the squash. How’s that for stretching your buck?

June 2021
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