Photo: Christophe Madamour/StockFood
Cara Eisenpress knows a thing or two about tiny kitchens. The blogger behind Big Girls Small Kitchen has endured her fair share of them—most notably the cramped quarters in her first New York City apartment, which wound up being the impetus for her blog. (Talk about a blessing in disguise!) Naturally, we turned to Eisenpress for pointers on how to execute an impressive Thanksgiving dinner within the confines of an itty-bitty galley kitchen.
"I think when you say ‘small kitchen,’ you can be talking literally about a tiny kitchen, but I think it’s also about cooking resourcefully," Eisenpress told us. "Whether you’re short on space, time, or money, they all wind up putting you in the same position when you’re cooking."
Here’s Eisenpress’s sage advice for small kitchen entertaining this Thanksgiving.
1. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. “If you are used to going to a family Thanksgiving in the suburbs, you’re definitely used to a turkey with 10 sides. But you can probably stick to a main dish and two or three sides, and then add a baguette with butter.”
2. Roast rather than mash those ‘taters. “It frees up counter space and frees up time at the last minute. When things get frantic, that’s when you start dropping dishes, even knives! Not splattering hot mashed potato water into your sink while you’re trying to do three things at once is a good thing.”
3. Do as much beforehand as possible. “Anything that you can have in the oven, have done before, or serve room temperature is a good thing. I find that regular roasted vegetables—like Brussels sprouts, string beans, or any root vegetables—are just as good at room temperature two hours later. And slaw made with vinegar often tastes better the next day. [My family] serves matzoh ball soup—it’s great having a big vat simmering on the back burner, which you don’t have to think much about.”
4. Grant the turkey a reprieve. “I would make a roast chicken, which may be sacrilegious to some people. But it’s something in your wheelhouse, and you’re not making something bigger than anything else that’s ever been in your oven. It’s just a smaller version [of turkey], really.
5. No table? No problem. "[My current place] is the first apartment I’ve ever had with room for a table! If you’re living in a place where you don’t have one, you’re probably going to have people eating around the coffee table, which can feel like a big deterrent, but I think it can be a lot of fun. It’s all about setting up your apartment: Find somewhere to have a buffet, or maybe even plate dishes yourself. Don’t overload them!
And think through the food. When you’re holding a plate on your lap, it’s really hard to cut a big piece of meat. Maybe that means cutting the turkey into smaller pieces than you normally would. And if your coffee table is big enough, you can set up pillows or some poof things [for people to sit on]. Usually about 20 minutes into a dinner at a dining room table, I want to sit on a couch anyway.”
6. Play up your tiny place’s strengths with great decor. "Because sitting around a coffee table is really casual, it’s nice [to] elevate things in other ways. Maybe that means setting up the table with pretty candles, or with a table runner. I always like to use cloth napkins, even if you’re using paper plates. I think it’s worth doing a little extra laundry, and it ends up being really cozy."
7. Think before asking people to bring wine or flowers. “I wouldn’t want to make Thanksgiving a straight potluck—designing a menu is part of the fun!—but you can definitely ask guests to bring things. (Think: things that seem like a pain, will mess up your kitchen, or make you go over budget.) Make a dip and some some vegetables, or even a side dish and salad. Dessert is an easy one if you don’t like to bake.”
8. Don’t be too ambitious, and stick to simpler recipes. “It’s not the time to do something really, really crazy!”
Have you ever had to cook a huge meal in a small kitchen? Share your tips with us below!