NEW YORK (AP) -- Advice on how safety precautions and planning can add to holiday pleasure really counts when it's dispensed by Norman Faiola. He can recommend things he and his family do at home, but as associate professor of nutrition and hospitality management at Syracuse University, he has even wider credibility.
Paying attention to food safety is clearly part of making sure family and guests alike share happy holidays. The main thing is to enjoy these sociable times, he says.
"People want to be together more than ever now," he said, in a phone interview, "so we should try and make it a good and safe time, and cut down on risks and stress."
Keep entertaining realistic, harmonious and fun, recognizing that it's a stressful time however you look at it, he says.
First, as the time for entertaining nears, and it's your turn to be the hosts, take time to plan ahead -- for your own pleasure as well as that of guests.
"There are often a few workers and a lot of standers," he said. "If you have a big home, perhaps you can get people to take turns with chores, and you can give assignments."
For food safety, of course, the more you plan the better it is. The more you do ahead the more carefully you're going to be working, and the less likely to have problems from making mistakes under stress, he pointed out.
"If you're used to cooking for six, and now you have to cook for 16, it leaps into another realm of preparation," he said.
Use resources that are available: "Take advantage of retail and convenience foods," he suggests. "Cook your specialties, let other people help by bringing stuff in."
Sometimes your entertaining is going to continue for a period of a few days, so get it down on paper to keep track of all the details.
"We all know the feeling of when it's all over, and everyone goes home and you feel that relief (even professionals at a restaurant feel that after a great evening's business) -- well, it shouldn't be like that," he said. "Make it fun, rather than a burdensome nightmare."
A second point has to do with your home space. Keep in mind people are going to drift toward the kitchen, he says. "It's a social thing, people are going to gather in the kitchen because they like the excitement. But that can get very stressful, if the kitchen's small, and they are people you don't know that well."
His answer to that: "Put food zones around the house, so people have to search and discover. The point is, you want to get them fed, so you make nice spreads somewhere else and this helps spread people around the house."
Set up food stations, have the crudites in one place, snacks and drinks in others. Remember you can also take the food to people, he said. When you circulate to pass it around, you have control, "and can make sure Uncle Jerry doesn't get all the crab cakes!"
The rules say food must be either hot or cold, not warm, he reminds us.
The turkey stuffing, for example. You probably have to overcook the meat to get the stuffing hot enough to be safe to eat -- "Why ruin a good turkey that way?"
"Cook the stuffing separately. Then, when you're ready to present the turkey, load the front of the cavity with the cooked stuffing to get the visual effect," he said.
"Just before you bring Mr. Bird to the table, pack him with just enough to give the right effect -- arrange the crusty part as a cap, which is how it would look coming out of the oven if it had been cooked inside."
He recommends the use of thermometers, preferably one of the instant-read professional kinds you can buy, to test food and check your refrigerator temperatures. Note: You'd have to use a different type to check oven temperatures.
Finally, cleanliness matters more than ever, he said. With entertaining, there are going to be a lot more people around your home than usual, especially in the kitchen, touching things.
"With all the stress, and high-density people, resistance is low," he said. Make sure you use the dishwasher as much as possible.
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