No-stress Holiday Dinners with Glo Chef Ryan Hayter

There’s less than two weeks till Christmas, your in-laws are coming to town and you’re on the hook for a fancy holiday feast. In this situation you’re either fired up to go and have planned for weeks, or you’re quietly dreading the moment everything collapses around you. 

What many of us forget about dinner parties is that the goal is for everyone to enjoy themselves — and everyone includes us. If we’re hiding in the kitchen slaving over a hot stove while everyone else is eating, we’re left feeling overworked instead of having a good time. How do we fix this?

Chef Ryan Hayter and his team run one of the largest casual dining spots in Victoria, and preparation is key to producing fresh, cooked-to-order meals for hundreds of guests at a time. When it comes to his home dinner parties though, Chef Ryan takes this practice all the way. “Cook as much as you can the day before or in advance,” he says. “Make it easy on yourself!”

The classic Christmas dinner includes three parts: protein, usually turkey, starch, often mashed potatoes or yams, and vegetables like carrots or green beans. What’s unique about this menu is that all of these items (plus dessert!) can be made ahead of time and easily finished right before the meal. Not only does this make the process easier and less time-consuming, but as any fan of leftovers knows, it can even make things more delicious. “Stuff like casseroles, if you bake the day before they actually do taste better the next day,” says Ryan. “All those flavours sort of come together.”

Here’s Ryan’s ideal workflow for a stress-free holiday dinner. Start the day before by blanching your vegetables: dropping them into boiling water for a short time, then quickly placing them in ice water. This way you can cook each vegetable the ideal amount of time, then finish them all in a pan at the same time on the day of. “It’s often a better outcome than if you had cooked them that day because most people don’t go through the step of actually blanching to stop the cooking process,” says Chef Ryan.

Casseroles are easily cooked the day before and reheated in the oven with the turkey; the key with these is that after they’re baked, they need to go right into the fridge to be chilled as fast as possible. “Really you should be bringing it down to 4 degrees within four hours,” says Chef Ryan. “Otherwise it can taste musky, especially cream or tomato sauces.”

The turkey, on the other hand, should be cooked right before eating, but using an unconventional method can make for quicker cook times and easier prep. Chef Ryan likes to actually debone the turkey, remove the breast, then season and roll the legs into a roulade. “This way you’re not getting into these six hour cook times, you can do it in 45 minutes or an hour,” he says. You also get a bunch of bones you can roast nice and dark and use to make gravy the day before, and stuffing can easily be done in a separate baking dish.

It might sound like heresy not carving the whole bird at the table, but it’s a small price to pay for making your holiday meal a fun and relaxing experience instead of a hassle. “The last thing you want to be is stuck in a kitchen for six hours having to prep and clean after.”

If none of this sounds up your alley, you can always take the gang out for dinner. Like most restaurants, Glo closes early on the 24th and is closed on Christmas Day, but Chef Ryan has put together a varied and family-friendly menu for the rest of the month. “This year we’ve tried to class it up a bit,” he says. “We have a really nice 28-day aged striploin, fresh pasta being made for us by Bagga Pasta every couple of days… We’ve also a got a prawn and lobster entree with a little bit of risotto, blackened chicken, crispy with some nice butter on top.” If you’ve already been to a few holiday get-togethers, or you just had turkey for American Thanksgiving, it’s a chance to try something different. “We also have a whole lot more options than you’d see if you cooked at home.”

Chef Ryan has one more tip. “When you’re planning a party, always plan to make two more portions than you’re planning on serving. You might end up serving somebody extra, or someone who’s a big eater… You never wanna run out of food, that’s one thing that can be a big buzzkill.” Besides, what’s the season without leftover turkey sandwiches?

Glo Restaurant & Lounge
2940 Jutland Road, Victoria, BC V8T 5J9

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