Lighten Up, Francis…It’s Just Christmas Dinner


The holidays are, hands down, my favorite time of year, but it’s no secret that (especially for us foodies) it can bring with it a lot of kitchen chaos and performance anxiety.

So many dishes, so many people, and so many “cherished family traditions” that must be upheld, it would be well-nigh impossible to make it through the season without at least some drama.

So, if we can’t avoid the chaos, let’s at least try to get a rope on it, right?

Here are a few tips to help you avoid enough of the crises to actually enjoy the food and family time, which, let’s face it…is really the whole point!


#10 – Don’t sweat the small stuff!

Does anyone really care if the tablecloth is ironed?  

Does anyone really care if their napkins are shaped like swans, or if you’ve freshly polished Great-Grandma’s silver?

No, they don’t…they want to eat, and laugh, and then eat some more. If you’re low on time (uh, who’s not?), and that cloth is really bugging you, just iron the corners and sides.

Once all the dishes are in place, no one will see the wrinkles anyway.

Also, have the kids help you set the table the night before, too. It’s one less thing to do.

#9 – Have a plan!

  • Sit down and make a guest list
  • Plan your menu and decide if you’re doing all of the cooking, or if others will be bringing dishes, and make a checklist of all ingredients.
  • Create a complete shopping list, organized by aisle.
  • Take inventory of your dinnerware, kitchen tools, and gadgets, spices and other staples in your pantry (and don’t forget to count chairs!)
  • We call it “mise en place”, and it means having everything prepared and in place before you start cooking…and, trust me, it will save you an all-inclusive trip to the funny farm!


#8 – For Pete’s Sake…Lighten up!

With the size of the feast on most of our tables, it really isn’t necessary to load your guests up on dips, snacks, or appetizers.

A platter of cut fresh veggies should do the trick, or maybe make the snacks and appetizers a “pot luck” item?

Do we really need three kinds of potatoes or six side dishes? 

In the restaurant business, we call it a “Meat & 3”. In this case, 1 meat (turkey), and three side dishes, (at my house, it’s garlic-mushroom stuffing, green bean casserole, and whipped potatoes.)

Bread and appetizers are a rookie mistake that only serves to dull our tastebuds and fill us up before the main event.

Also, don’t be afraid to look up simpler versions of classic holiday recipes (like my 90-Minute Roast Turkey” Video.)

#7 – Plan a dress rehearsal!

If you’re making a side dish for the first time or using ingredients that you aren’t familiar with, try them out beforehand so you’ll be prepared for success on the big day.

This is especially important if you’re pressing the young’uns into service! (And you SHOULD be pressing the young’uns into service!)

No free rides, Timmy!

Ditto if you’re serving a new wine or using new equipment, like a brand-new oven or slow-cooker. There’s a time and place for culinary surprises…this ain’t it.

#6 – Clear out your fridge a week in advance.

You’re going to be filling it up again pretty soon, so now is a good time to eat those leftovers, combine those four not-quite-empty pickle jars, and toss anything that tries to fight back.

Clean off the counters! Martha Stewart isn’t going to be dropping by (Dear God, please…) so clear away all the junk…those knick-knacks, cookie jars, and kitchen gadgets you’re not going to use.

Think “industrial kitchen” and you’ll be headed in the right direction.

Rule of thumb: If you’re not going to use it from November first to January first…stick it in a closet. Better yet, get rid of some of it. Do you really need eleven whisks (hint: no, no you don’t), find a local shelter kitchen and make a donation!

#5 – Give yourself a head start!

  • Do as much prep work as you can:
  • Make salad dressings in advance.
  • Chop onions and celery and store in resealable plastic bags in the fridge
  • Top and tail green beans
  • Make your stock for gravy with roasted turkey wings or thighs.
  • Potatoes can be peeled, halved, and stored in cold water for 48 hours (in fact, it makes them better!
  • Prep your brine for the turkey (Video)
  • Make a list of everything you need to do, right up to digging in, and note how far in advance you can practically (and safely) check it off the list.

#4 – Don’t be afraid of a pot-luck.

Most folks have a special holiday dish that they’re proud of, so share the spotlight of a great holiday dinner by letting them bring it! And if it’s good, make a big deal about it over dinner…you’ll never have to make it again!

Keep a list so you don’t end up with 6 bowls of candied yams, and another list of suggested dishes (with recipes) for folks who vapor-lock when faced with a menu decision. If they’re really not up to it, a bottle of wine, a store-bought veggie plate, or a couple of bags of ice are pretty hard to screw up.

This ain’t Downton Abbey, folks, our guests can bring a couple of cans of olives and you can even use…(oh my GOD)…paper plates!

The point is, do what’s important. If those homemade jellies cranberries or Great-grandma Edith’s silver makes for a happier holiday for you, then go for it.

If not, let it go, Elsa…let it go.


#3 – Shop early (and late…)

Now that we’re just a couple of days out, you can safely buy most of your fresh ingredients.

Onions, carrots, potatoes, celery, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts and green beans, potatoes, and even fresh-looking salad greens will last until Thursday provided you store them properly. DO NOT plan on doing any shopping on Thanksgiving Day.

You don’t want any part of that nut-fest.

Pick up cheeses and cured meats for an easy, no-prep appetizer, to serve while you’re in the kitchen.

Full-contact grocery shopping not your thing? (Mine neither…those little old ladies can get vicious)…here’s what I do:

Find a good 24-hour grocery (I like Winco), and hit it about 4-5am, do your shopping, then stop by your favorite coffee shop on the way home for a cuppa and a bagel. Make a plan with a friend to shop together.

Taking an afternoon nap is a lot easier on you than running with the grocery-cart bulls on a holiday afternoon.

#2 – Assign the final steps.

If you have older children, nieces & nephews, or in-laws that you CANNOT keep out of the kitchen (I commiserate, believe me)…put ’em to work! Gramma is in charge of the stuffing – getting it in the serving dish, and to the table, with a serving spoon.

Cousin Fred is in charge of making sure everyone’s glass is full.

Little Susie puts the rolls in the basket, gets the basket to the table, and makes butter dishes (and knives) available. Make it clear that once they have performed their job, they should take their seat at the table.

…because, you know, they’re guests. 😉

Which brings us to my most important step of all…


This is what it’s about peeps…not the turkey, not the pies, and not about being the perfect host or hostess.

Find a quiet spot to sit for 20-30 minutes, before you start cooking Thursday morning, and reflect on what you have to be thankful for, write these things down, and note why you’re thankful for them.

Keep that thought firmly in place as you ride into battle.

Heck, tape the list to the fridge door, in case you need a reminder later…

The secret to being a great host or hostess (and not sticking a meat-fork into your mother-in-law) is to do as much as you can in advance, and then not sweat the small stuff.

If the yams burn, toss ’em out, turn on a fan, and enjoy all the rest of the great food. If the turkey’s raw, have a number handy to order take-out!

Talk! Laugh! Drink! Make memories!

And, most of all be thankful

Remember: it isn’t about the turkey in the oven, it’s about all the turkeys around the table.

Sorry, Martha.

~Chef Perry

PS – For more of my favorite holiday recipes and tips, check out my video,Home Chef Holiday Cooking Tips on YouTube…and heck, while you’re there, please subscribe to my channel! 😉 

Holiday Cooking Home Chef Guide


Amazing Mother’s Day Bacon Appetizers


Mother’s day is coming up! (May 12th this year!)

This is my darlin’s favorite appetizer and a staple of her Mother’s Day dinner.

Quick and easy to make, delicious, and a chance to fire up the grill! (Tho’ you can make them just as well in the oven.)

Sure to delight, this is an always-win recipe to make Mom feel special on her special day!

Bacon Wrapped Dates


If your girl a salmon-fan?

This bacon-wrapped salmon appetizers are always a hit. A couple of these make a perfect appetizer, or serve four of these nuggets of goodness over rice, for a lovely entree!

Bacon Wrapped Salmon Bites

Make sure to subscribe to this page, as we’ll be covering the perfect Mother’s Day menu, from the best breakfasts to dazzle-her desserts and everything in between, over the next few weeks!

~Chef Perry

Bacon: A Home Chef's Guidebook



Reverse Seared Prime Rib Roast

Reverse Seared Prime Rib

HomeChef Michelle asks:

Hi Chef Perry, I have a couple questions. Fixing prime rib tomorrow, 9 pounds. Family wants it cooked medium, serving at 3 pm. When should I put it in?

Also, how much salt?

Saw you on AMNW this week!



Hi Michelle!

Thanks for asking (and for watching the show!)

Here’s how I do it:

Dry out the surface of the roast by salting, and then resting it uncovered in the fridge overnight.

For a 10# prime, I’d use 4 Tbs of coarse sea salt, spread evenly.

Bring the prime rib to room temperature before roasting. It usually takes about 2 hours out on the counter.

Preheat the oven to 200°F

Reverse Seared Prime Rib

Pat the prime rib dry, and set on a roasting pan bone side down (fat side up). Add any additional spices. I like Montreal Steak Seasoning.

Roast until the center reads 130°F for medium doneness, about 3.5-4 hours.

NOTE: Personally, I like my center cuts to be medium rare, which gives me a couple of more well done slices at either end, so I roast mine to an internal temp of 120°F, then follow the remaining steps.

Remove the prime rib from the oven, cover with a foil and rest for 30 minutes.

Increase the oven temperature to 500°F

10 minutes before serving, pop the prime rib into the oven, uncovered, and cook it until it’s nice and brown, and crisp on the outside, about 6-10 minutes.

Reverse Seared Prime Rib
Medium Rare Center Slice

Serve immediately.

Let me know if you have any questions along the way, I’ll be watching FB for notifications!

Merry Christmas!

~Chef Perry

Looking for more great holiday recipes? Check out the new guidebook, “Holiday Cooking: A Home Chef’s Guide.” NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON!

Holiday Cooking: A Home Chef's Guide

The Secret to Crispy Turkey Skin

Perfect Turkey Skin
Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

I picked up this trick a few weeks ago from a fellow chef’s blog (I wish I could remember, but whoever you are, thank you!) and tried it for the first time with this year’s Thanksgiving turkey…it’s magic!

First of all, I ALWAYS brine my turkey, which, while making for moist, succulent meat, can cause problems with getting the skin, saturated by the brine, to crisp and brown evenly. And, let’s face it…crispy is skin is the whole reason for roasting a turkey in the first place!

Here’s the trick to perfect, crispy skin on a brined turkey…

Brine your bird for 24 hours (this is the brine I use).

Then, remove the bird from the brine, pat it dry (inside and out), and place it breast-side-up in a baking dish in the bottom of your fridge, UNCOVERED, for another 24 hours.

Remove from the fridge 2 hours before roasting, and let it rest on the counter.

Then, of course, roast it uncovered.

The skin on this turkey was amazing, by far the best results I’ve ever gotten.

If you’re a skin-junkie (that didn’t sound right…) like me, you gotta try this!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

~Chef Perry

Looking for more great holiday recipes? Check out the new guidebook:

“Holiday Cooking: A Home Chef’s Guide.” NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON!

Holiday Cooking: A Home Chef's Guide


Chef Chris’ Sweet-Potato Hash

Sweet Potato Hash

I know that this isn’t the first time I’ve griped about this, but it’s my party and I’ll whine if I want to! 😉

One of the few downsides to being a chef and/or food blogger, is that you very seldom get invited over for a home-cooked dinner. Like…ever. Friends and family see the pretty photos and “exotic” recipes you post, and think, “Man, I can’t cook for THEM!

Which is kinda silly, as most chefs LOVE to be cooked for and our standards (or at least mine) aren’t nearly as high as people seem to think. I love Chicken McNuggets and Kraft Mac & Cheese as much as the next red-blooded American fatty!

So, to compensate for this lack of socialization, at least for our family’s sake, we tend to invite other chefs over, and they reciprocate, because every chef secretly (or not so secretly) knows that he or she is the better cook anyway, so there’s no intimidation. 😉

Last week we we’re invited over by my best friend, Chef Chris Renner and his family, for dinner and it was, of course, amazing.

Sousvide Steak with Sweet Potato Hash

Chef Chris made steaks, which he cooked sous-vide for 12 hours, and then caramelized with a blow torch, and they were unbelievably good. He accompanied those with his own Sweet Potato Hash (recipe below), which I haven’t been able to stop thinking about for a week. I brought a bag of salad.

There’s no money in trying to out-cook Chef Chris, believe me…I know.

Seriously, I was one of the best dinners I’ve eaten in a long time, and that hash is going to be a permanent addition to my holiday cooking menu.

Chef graciously shared the recipe with me, so I could share it with you, and I know it’s short notice, but if you can squeeze this into your Thanksgiving menu, you really, really, should! It’s certainly on mine.

IMG_4660Chef Chris’ Sweet Potato Hash

  • 4 med sweet potatoes, diced 1-inch cube
  • 1 sweet onion diced
  • 1/2 pound of bacon lardons
  • 1 Tbsp butter(or ghee)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Over medium heat melt butter and oil in a large cast iron skillet. Add bacon cook for a couple of minutes.

Then add sweet potatoes and onion. Cook stirring occasionally (don’t stir too often) until potatoes are cooked. (You should get some nice caramelized bits that add a lot of flavor.)

Serves 4

Sousvide Steak with Sweet Potato Hash

Looking for more great holiday recipes? Check out the new guidebook, “Holiday Cooking: A Home Chef’s Guide.” NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON!

Holiday Cooking: A Home Chef's Guide


My Best Holiday Cooking Tips in One Video

Just in time for Thanksgiving!

Here’s a quick video of my favorite holiday cooking tips, tricks, and techniques for a safe and savory holiday feast.


~How to brine your turkey
~Safe Stuffing & Dressing
~Roasting Tips
~Carving the Perfect Bird

Be sure to subscribe to my channel for more professional kitchen tips and recipes.

Happy Holidays!

~Chef Perry

Looking for more great holiday recipes? Check out the new guidebook, “Holiday Cooking: A Home Chef’s Guide.” NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON!

Holiday Cooking: A Home Chef's Guide

Holiday Cooking: A Home Chef’s Guide

Holiday Cooking Home Chef GuideOkay, my friends… “Holiday Cooking: A Home Chef’s Guide” will launch on Monday, November 19th!

Everything from the perfect 90 minute roast turkey, to my peach-ginger smoked ham, to a very special Christmas Eve Cioppino.

Dozens of traditional and non-traditional holiday favorites, appetizers, side dishes, and delicious desserts, along with my best tips for a stress-free holiday feast!

UPDATE: Now available on Amazon!


~Chef Perry

PS: He’s a peek inside at one of my favorite recipes…

Candied Bacon Brie

Candied Bacon Brie

  • 1 – 8 oz. brie round               ½ pound thin bacon, diced
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar     1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. real maple syrup     pinch of black pepper

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a large skillet, cook the diced bacon 10-15 minutes until just barely crisp.

Drain grease and add the bacon back to the skillet.

Stir in the brown sugar, vinegar, maple syrup, and black pepper. Simmer for 2-3 minutes until bubbly.

Line a baking dish with foil, then spray lightly with cooking spray.

Add the unwrapped brie to baking dish, and top with candied bacon mixture.

Bake brie for 10-15 minutes, then let it rest 10 minutes before serving.

The Best Holiday Turkey in 90 Minutes!

Fast Roast Turkey

Just in time for Thanksgiving…perfect roasted whole turkey in just 90 minutes!

Every year I cook up a bunch of turkeys (11 this year, a new record!) and take them to a local homeless shelter for their annual Thanksgiving dinner. Even with some amazing volunteer’s help, that’s a lot of turkeys!

Spatchcocking* not only allows me to roast a turkey in (less than) half the time, it also results in more even roasting (ie: a juicy turkey breast), and more flavor by browning all of the skin, not just the skin on top.

Here’s a video I put together of the whole process, from roasting to slicing…

*Spatchcocking involves removing the backbone from tail to neck so that the bird can be opened out flat (also referred to as butterflying). This method results in a much shorter cooking time. It also allows for easier access to the cavity and exterior of the chicken for seasoning purposes.

This method works just as well for all types of poultry, roasting an average-sized chicken in just 30 minutes!

The Highlights

  • 12-14lb turkey, spatchcocked
  • Preheat oven to 450F
  • Roast 90 minutes, rest 20 minutes

Oh, and if you really want to amp up the flavor and juiciness of your bird, brine it! You can check our our post My Best Brined Turkey Recipe, over at our youth outreach site, MY KITCHEN Outreach Program.

Happy Thanksgiving!

~Chef Perry

(By the way, if you’re enjoying this article, you may want to subscribe to our free newsletter; and get even more Chef’s tips, tricks, and techniques. Plus, you’ll be helping us teach nutrition, shopping, and hands-on cooking classes to at-risk teens!)

Looking for more great holiday recipes? Check out the new guidebook, “Holiday Cooking: A Home Chef’s Guide.” NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON!

Holiday Cooking: A Home Chef's Guide

4th of July Grilling Party Menu

Here’s the menu (and recipes) for my”4th of July BBQ Party” raffle winners, Ron & Karen Wilkinson!

If you were there, thanks again!

*This menu was designed to serve 40.


  • Bacon Wrapped Pickles
  • Dragon Claws
  • Bacon Wrapped Pork Loins (whole)
  • Cedar Plank Salmon
  • Maque Choux
  • Sesame Cilantro Slaw


Bacon Wrapped Pickle Spears

  • 60 “Crunchy Dill” pickle spear
  • 60 slice of thin-sliced bacon (I like the double smoked apple-wood.)
  • You favorite brand of Buttermilk Ranch dressing, for dipping
  • 60 toothpicks

Pre-heat the grill.

Follow video instructions for prep, and grill over medium heat until bacon begins to crisp.

Serve hot, with cold Ranch Dressing for dipping.


Ultimate Bacon-Garlic Pork Loin Roast

BRINE (for both)

  • 1 gallon water                         
  • 1 cup salt.
  • 1 cup sugar

Refrigerate for 1-2 hours. When done with the brine, remove from brine, rinse under running water and pat dry. You may season some at this point but DO NOT ADD SALT if you brine.

  • 20 pounds pork loin not tenderloin                
  • 28 cloves garlic minced
  • 4 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper         
  • 2 teaspoon paprika


Grill pork loin over direct heat just to sear on all sides.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. 

Mix the seasonings in small bowl and rub it on the pork. Coat with the garlic on top of the fat cap.

Lay out your bacon on a large cutting board, edges touching, to the length of yoru pork loin. Set the roast in the lower third of the bacon and wrap the bacon, one slice at a time, over the roast, securing both ends at the side of the roast.

Add the pork loin to a baking pan, on a rack, and insert your thermometer probe in one end.

Cook the pork for 60-75 minutes or until it has reached a temperature of 145F.

Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing & serving.

Cedar Plank Salmon

Cedar Plank Salmon

  • 1/2 cup mild honey
  • 1/4 cup McCormick’s Maple Seasoning
  • 2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper
  • 2 (10lb) salmon fillets with skin (1 1/2 0- 2in. thick)
  • Cedar grilling planks (about 15 by 6 inches)

Soak your cedar grilling plank(s) in water to cover 2 hours, keeping it immersed.

Prepare grill for direct-heat cooking over medium-hot charcoal (medium-high heat for gas); see Grilling Procedure . Open vents on bottom and lid of charcoal grill.

Portion your salmon filets as large as possible, but still fitting the on the planks.

Stir together (warmed) honey, McCormick seasoning, salt and pepper. Spread mixture on flesh side of salmon and let stand at room temperature 15 minutes.

Put salmon on plank, skin side down (if salmon is too wide for plank, fold in thinner side to fit). Grill directly over hot coals, covered with lid, until salmon is just cooked through and edges are browned, 13 to 15 minutes.

Let salmon stand on plank 5 minutes before serving.


Maque Choux with Bacon

Any Southerner worth his Moon Pie knows that bacon and corn go great together. I mean, bacon goes great with just about everything, sure, but pair it with fresh, sweet corn and you really have something special!

This old school, simple side-dish is one of my all-time favorites. Corn and bacon drippings with onion and bell pepper, topped with crispy bits of bacon.

If that doesn’t get your mouth watering, something inside of you has died.

  • 48 cups fresh sweet corn kernels                           
  • 2 lbs bacon
  • 4 1/2 cups chopped sweet onions (3 large)                       
  • 3 cup chopped red, yellow, bell pepper
  • 3 tsp. salt                                                              
  • Cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon black pepper                                
  • 12 firm Roma tomatoes
  • 2 cup chopped green onions                                 
  • 4 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 3 Tbs sweet cream butter

Cut the sweet corn from the cobs. Chop the sweet onion, bell pepper, cilantro, and tomatoes.

Cook the bacon in a large skillet until crisp. Remove bacon, pat dry, crumble and set aside. Pour off the melted fat, leaving a thin layer in the pan.

Add the remaining ingredients (except corn & cilantro) to the bacon drippings and cook for 15 minutes, stirring often, over medium heat.

Pour the cooked ingredients into a baking dish. Stir in the raw corn, green onions, and reserved bacon. Let rest 2-3 minutes, and serve, topped with fresh cilantro.

If using frozen corn, pop the pan in a 350F oven for 15 minutes, before serving.

IMG_3499-800x600Sesame-Cilantro Slaw

  • 30 cups slaw mix                                       
  • 20 Tbs rice wine vinegar (unseasoned)
  • 40 Tbs Best Foods mayonnaise                 
  • 40 tsp sugar substitute
  • 20 tsp black pepper                                   
  • 40 tsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 10 cups fresh cilantro, chopped

In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mayo, sugar sub, and pepper until smooth. Add cabbage and cilantro, and toss to coat well.

Chill 20 minutes.

In the meantime, toast sesame seeds in a dry pan over medium heat, until golden and aromatic. Set aside to cool.

When ready to served, give the slaw a stir, spoon onto plates (or sandwiches) and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.




National Chocolate Cake Day…in 5 Minutes!

Microwave Chocolate Mug Cake #nationalchocolatecakeday


It’s #NationalChocolateCakeDay, Woo-Hoo!

Microwave mug cake is my go-to, last-minute “I need dessert tonight!” dessert.

This recipe has gone through many tests and tweeks to achieve a real, “death by chocolate” result.

Microwave Chocolate Rootbeer Cake in a Mug

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1/2 unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt
3/4 cup whole milk
1/2 cup grape-seed oil
1/2 cup rootbeer
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
Powdered sugar or Ice-Cream

Serves 4

Mix the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl; stir in milk, oil, rootbeer, and vanilla extract. Don’t over mix.

Spoon this batter evenly between 4 (8oz+) microwave-safe mugs, and top with chocolate chips.

Microwave until cake is done in the middle, about 1 minute 45 seconds.

Let your cakes cool 30 seconds, sprinkle with powdered sugar, additional chocolate chips (or a scoop of vanilla bean ice-cream), and serve!

Note: If you want to do a fancy presentation on a plate, butter the interior of the cups first.


~Chef Perry

The Home Chef: Transforming the American Kitchen

We are entering the age of the “Home Chef”, a title that’s available to nearly everyone, regardless of age, or financial standing.

That’s what this book is about…because something amazing has begun to happen in the last two decades, something that has never before happened in the history of cooking…instead of growing wider, the gap between the home cook and the professional chef has actually begun to narrow, and continues to narrow exponentially with each passing year.

The time when these specialized skills were limited to those who could afford the cost and time required for culinary school are quickly passing into history.

The time when the sole requirement to elevate your cooking skills to this level…passion…is emerging.

It’s an amazing time to become a Home Chef…and if you have that passion, I’ll show you how.


Chef Perry P. Perkins