Holiday Planning, Chef-Style

It’s that time of year again.

Holiday music in every public place. Hallmark-esque romantic comedies taking over your Netflix searches. And 101 daily headlines on your social feed talking about all the holiday “musts” or “tips and tricks” to “survive the holiday rush” and make a meal that’s both “simple and stunning.”

But, sometimes those articles -well intentioned as they are- don’t always deliver on the goods. It’s never quite as easy as the articles says. Or how about the “simple one pot meal” that needs 25 ingredients?  Do you ever find yourself wondering what the pros do when they cook at home? 

Lucky for you, we happen to know a few. Lizzie and her long-time love Dan Martello (owner and chef at Good Luck) make cooking for a large group look like a walk in the park.

They’ve perfected their system over the many years and holidays they’ve spent together cooking for friends and family. We decided to ask them some questions so we could share their strategies and you can compare notes.

Pro Tip: Cut and prep your veggies ahead of time. Submerge in water and store in the fridge to keep things fresh. For vegetables that oxidize (turn brown) easier, add a little lemon juice or vinegar to the water.

Where do we start?

Liz: Write out a plan. List the dishes you want to make, and write the estimated cooking time next to it. Once you’ve done that, list them in order of what takes the longest to cook, down to what takes the least amount of time. This way, you can know how and where to focus your energy. Then you can start to think about how to time things out and what can be done ahead of time. Dan is really good at this. He thinks through everything in advance and comes up with a game plan.

How much can really be made in advance?

Liz: Lots. Gratins, scalloped potatoes, casseroles.  

Dan: Lots of prep can be done prior. Don’t be afraid to chop your vegetables ahead of time. Submerge them in water and store in the fridge to keep fresh until you need to use them.

Once you have your list, how do you time things to make sure it’s all cooked and hot at the same time?

Liz: Plan carefully. All your dishes shouldn’t be oven dishes – make a point to spread it around the kitchen. Also there’s no shame in asking family to bring a hot dish.  

Dan: Think about what rests for a long time, what cooks for a short time? Meat can spend time resting after it comes out of the over (or before it goes in). Factor this into the plan.

Dan, what do you think is easier to cook than people assume?

Dan: Braising – searing first is the key.  It’s ideal for entertaining – most of the work of it happens before people arrive. If you are intimidated by sauces, braising is great too because you can just reduce the pan jus after cooking for a delicious sauce.

Liz, what’s the best wine to pick? Wine is so intimidating.

Liz: Don’t overthink it. Get something that you enjoy drinking. If you like it, other people will too.

What other cooking tips do you have?

Liz: So many.

Hit us.

Liz: Use the car for a fridge if you live frozen tundra of upstate NY.  If it’s 40 degrees or below, you can safely store food outside.

If you have stale bread – run it under a trickle of water and throw in oven at 350 for 5 min. It’ll be like brand new. 

Cut corners on things that aren’t important to you to make room for the things that are. For example – don’t worry about real dishes if you don’t want to. There’s a lot of really beautiful disposable dishes out there. Save yourself the hassle (and the dishes)! If putting out the china is an important part of your tradition, then use it! But cut something else off the list.

What else? Let people help. Guests will ask what they can bring. Tell them! Ask for ice, wine, salad, hot dishes, whatever! It saves you time too. Especially when you’ve already got a lot going on.

What’s your favorite part of the holidays?

Both: Cooking. But mostly our daughter Ada – watching her enjoy everything- food and family!

Finally – Dan, what’s your favorite thing to eat at Petit Poutinerie?

Dan: Tofu sandwich and Buffalo Chicken Poutine. It’s all about the sauce for me.

Pro Tip: Braising is a cooking method where you brown the outside of meat or vegetables, and then cook it (covered) in a small amount of liquid. The longer cooking time allows for the dish to become super tender and to develop rich flavors.

Honey glazed root vegetables with apples and thyme

Flavorful food food doesn’t have to be complicated! Dan is sharing with us a roasted vegetable recipe that is both sweet and salty, and only uses only 3 additional ingredients to season the produce.
Another great thing – all of this can be prepped in advance.

Roasted Root Vegetables







Must Have Tool:

A sauté pan that can go in your oven.


1 pound turnips
1 pound sweet potatoes
1 pound roasted beets
2-3 apples (skin on is fine)
2 TBSP fresh thyme
2 TBSP unsalted butter
1 TBSP honey


Step 1

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Step 2

Cut apples, turnips and sweet potatoes into equal sizes, approximately 1-inch wedges. Keeping them the same size helps them cook evenly.

Step 3

Heat a 10-inch sauté pan with 3 TBSP of olive oil until the oil glides easily and is shimmering with heat.

Step 4

Introduce sweet potatoes and turnips into the pan and cook over med-high heat for 2 minutes, using a spatula to flip vegetables occasionally until they get a light brown color. Season with ½ tsp of salt and pepper.

Step 5

Put sauté pan with browned vegetables into the 350 degree oven for 6 minutes until tender. Knife should go into vegetables with ease.

Step 6

Take sauté pan out of oven- throw your apples in and toss with the vegetable mixture to coat with existing pan oil. Place back in oven for another 4 minutes.

Step 7

Pull pan out of oven and put butter, thyme and honey over the vegetables in sauté pan stir until combined.

Step 8

Transfer to favorite serving bowl and enjoy.

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