Category Archives: Butter

Let’s talk turkey.

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IMG_1680My friend Sam, the guy who takes all these stunning food photos, is cooking his first Thanksgiving dinner this year. Last night as we talked turkey, Sam said something profound: “I don’t even know where to start.” Even the few lucky enough to learn from mom are often reenacting kitchen rituals last updated a couple of generations ago.

Here then is my Thanksgiving gift to Sam, a quick and simple guide to a straight forward turkey, no special ingredients, no crazy techniques, but it will put a delicious and respectable bird on the table so you can get back to sharing a special day with those you love.

1. Buying your turkey: You’ll need 1 pound of bird per person. That may sound like a lot, but it takes into account the weight of the bones. Turkeys typically range from 8-24 pounds. If you’re serving less than 8 people, congrats! you’ve got leftovers for late night sandwiches. If you are serving more than 16 people, I’d consider buying and cooking two turkeys.

When choosing your turkey, be just fussy enough. If what you can afford to feed your family is a $.98 per-pound bird from the grocery store, go for it. If you can afford a free-range organic bird for $4 a pound, it’s probably worth the expense. You don’t need to spend $10 a pound, period.

If at all possible, buy a fresh turkey. Frozen birds can take more than two days to thaw safely in the fridge (about 24 hours per 5 pounds). Remember that the neck and gizzards are usually placed in the cavity of the bird, often wrapped in paper or plastic. Remove them and save them for stock.

2. Brining: Brining, at its simplest, means soaking your turkey in heavily salted water, about 1 cup per two gallons. Coarse kosher salt gets the job done at a reasonable price. If you want to chop up and add one onion, one apple., 3 ribs of celery, 3 bay leaves and a tablespoon of peppercorns, go for it, but a simple salt brine works wonders all on its own. Any time in the brine helps, but 24 to 36 hours is ideal.

3. Use the right pan: If you are going to drop some money, do it here. Get ready to spend $100-120 on a roasting pan. Buy a multi-ply, stainless pan with a better heat conducting metal like aluminum or copper in the middle. This is the one place that All-Clad falls down. Check out Calphalon or Mauviel.

The reason for the heavy pan is so that you can take it out of the oven and put it over a burner or two to make the gravy. Do not buy non-stick, it reduces browning, which means less flavor.

4. Getting it ready to roast: There are four things to remember for a great turkey:

  • IMG_1676Rub your bird with butter: Rub the turkey inside and out with a cup or so of softened butter. Then salt and pepper the cavity.
  • Stuff it: I’m a stuffing-inside-the-bird guy. If you want to stuff your bird, nuke it first, as hot as you can get it, then stuff the bird right before putting it in the oven. This reduces the time needed to get the center of the bird to a safe 165 degrees, reducing the likelihood of drying out the lean white meat. If you don’t want to stuff it, add some aromatics to the cavity, try a halved lemon and a few sprigs each of parsley, thyme and rosemary.
  • Tie it up: My Mom uses a magic, ancient system of cruel-looking, metal skewers to hold her turkey together. This is easier. Tuck the wings into the body, and, using kitchen twine, tie them in place, running the string once around the thickest part of the bird. Using a second piece of string, overlap the legs and the big meaty piece at the butt, and tie those together, sealing the cavity.
  • Lay it on a bed of aromatics: This is the secret to great gravy. Cut an onion into thick slices. Cut a carrot in half the short way and the long way. Cut three celery ribs in half. Lay these in a single layer on the bottom of your roasting pan with a couple sprigs of parsley and thyme, and two bay leaves. Add 3-4 of cups of dry white wine, about 1/2″ deep. Place the bird directly on the bed of vegetables.

5. Roasting: There are a million right answers here, but I’ll give you two.

  • 350 degrees for 13 minutes per pound. Place the oven rack in the bottom position in your over and pre-heat it to 450.When you put the turkey in reduce the temperature to 350. Baste it every 45 minutes with the pan juices. Starting at 2 hours, check the temperature inside the thigh and the breast, with a quick read thermometer. Make sure the thermometer isn’t touching bone. The turkey is done when both the breast and thigh have reached 165 degrees.
  • 450 degrees for 8-10 minutes per pound. This method is for unstuffed turkeys weighing no more than 16 pounds. Larger or stuffed birds just need more time for the heat to penetrate. Baste every 20 minutes with pan juices. Check the temperature with a meat thermometer starting at 1 hour. The turkey is done at 165 degrees.
  • Tenting and turning. I’m a fan of turning my turkey halfway through cooking. I think it gives you moister breast meat. To do this, simply start your bird, breast side down in the pan, and flip it breast side up halfway through your projected cooking time. This isn’t a must, but it’s worth the work. If your turkey is browning too early, tent it with foil. This will prevent the skin from burning.

6. Resting: This may be the most important thing you do all day. When you take your cooked turkey out of the oven, place it on a platter and cover it in foil. Let is rest for at least 15 minutes. But let’s be realistic, you’ve got a gratin to pop in the oven and some squash purée to reheat, so your bird’s got a good 30-40 minutes to rest, and it will be juicier for it.

7. Great gravy: You will be remembered forever for bringing rich, flavorful, thick gravy to the table. Once the turkey is out, tip your pan toward one corner and skim off the fat, or use a gravy separator. Return the liquid to the pan over medium-high heat and reduce to about 1/2 a cup, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom. Add 6-8 cups of homemade turkey stock (which you’ve made ahead of time) and reduce by half. Strain the stock, reserving the solids.

Take one cup of stock and whisk in 1/4 cup of flour to make a slurry. Return the remaining stock to the pan over medium heat. Chop about 2 cups of the vegetables and add those to the pan as well. Once the stock is simmering again, whisk in the flour mixture. Let this cook for 10 minutes longer to thicken.

Remove the gravy from the heat and whisk in 2 tbs of cold butter, along with a splash of brandy. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Now, bring your gravy to the table and prepare to be revered.

8. Carving: There’s no way around it, this is going to be awkward. Even the best YouTube video won’t prepare you for feeling your way around the leg and wing joints, as you separate them from the body. But don’t worry about it.

First, remove the legs and wings, feeling for the joints. Next, remove the thigh from the drumstick. A pair of sharp kitchen shears will make this much easier than a knife.

Next, remove the breasts, slicing down from the top along the breast bone. Continue, pulling the breast away from the bone and slicing out horizontally to remove the meat.

Now carve the breast and the thighs, cutting the short way across the pieces of meat. It will kind of be a mess the first few times. Just heap it on a platter and then watch no one care, as they load up with turkey and slather it with gravy.

Congratulations!

Well, that wasn’t so bad, was it? Remember, if you want to do this like a pro, you’ll have to cook a turkey more than once a year. Otherwise, just eat that delicious turkey and toast to the many blessings in your life. Happy Thanksgiving!

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Sharing the spotlight.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Not only have Brussels sprouts become the trendiest member of the Brassica family, but they have been pigeonholed for caramelization. No one wants to hear about a Brussels sprout today unless it’s roasted, flash fried, or sautéed in bacon fat…

…sorry, the thought of caramelized Brussels sprouts with salty, sweet, fatty bacon is so mesmerizing, I forgot what I was saying. I may actually have forgotten my name.

But it gets me thinking, “How do the other Brussels sprouts feel?” Can I create an equally tempting, saliva-inducing dish with no caramelization what so ever? Some quick reading on other flavors with a strong affiliation for Brussels sprouts offers clear direction. Strong bleu cheese and sharp mustard pair with shallot and vinegar, all folded into farm-fresh butter. Melting over briefly boiled Brussels sprouts, the dish is as tempting as any caramelized concoction.

These sprouts may not displace their sugary cousins, but they will certainly earn equal billing.

Blue Cheese and Mustard Buttered Brussels Sprouts

Serves 6

Use any leftover bleu cheese, mustard butter for steaks, chicken, green beans, cauliflower, squash, crusty Sourdough bread…

Ingredients:

  • 1-1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts
  • 1/2 pound butter, softened
  • 4 ounces sharp bleu cheese, softened
  • 2 tbs grainy mustard
  • 1 shallot, finely minced
  • 2 tbs minced parsley
  • Cava Rosé vinegar or other red wine vinegar

*Sapore’s Cava Rosé won me over instantly this summer. It is refined, offering the depth and complexity of a high-quality red wine vinegar, but far less bold, a perfect match for summer vegetables and to add just the right bright, bite to this compound butter. 

Directions:

  • Trim bases of Brussels sprouts, cut in half and remove any loose or discolored leaves.
  • Bring a 4 quart pot of salted water to a boil.
  • Blend together butter, bleu cheese, mustard, shallot and parsley using a spatula or food processor.
  • Blend in 1/2 tsp Cava Rosé vinegar, a few drops at a time. Season to taste with salt, pepper and more vinegar as needed.
  • Add Brussels sprouts to the boiling water. Cook until just crisp-tender. The core should still be very firm.
  • Remove Brussels sprouts from water and toss with 3-4 tbs butter.
  • Roll remaining butter in parchment or plastic wrap and freeze.

I hate Brussels sprouts.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Every time I cook for an audience, someone leans over the table and whispers in my ear. “I hate Brussels sprouts,” they’ll say, or maybe it’s asparagus, fennel or squash. Then, conspiratorially, they share, “but I love what you just cooked.”

These are my proudest moments. Cooking vegetables crisp-tender, lightly salted with bright vinegar and rich butter, is like a music montage makeover, the equivalent of removing big glasses and drawing the bangs from their shining face.

However, faced with beet greens, I thought I was beaten. The purring I’d hear while rattling off ingredients for my weekly cooking demo – Asian pears, cauliflower and blue oyster mushrooms –  would end in a full glottal stop at the mention of beet greens, grins turning to grimaces.

I moved ahead, inspired. Tender, young, deep crimson Bull’s Blood beet greens were earthy-sweet, reminding me of my Mom’s braised red cabbage. Chopped apple and cider drew out sugars while cinnamon and fresh ginger added bright warmth.

The ultimate test was my friend Michael. Who, after three days of urging, finally, standing at my Eastern Market demo, took a bite. “They’re not bad,” he offered. Then he cleaned his plate.

PS I love Brussels sprouts. A lot.

Cider-braised beet greens

Serves 4-6

IMG_3579-1Ingredients:

  • 1 tbs butter
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 Honeycrisp apple, diced
  • 1 pound Bull’s Blood or other beet greens, cut in a chiffonade (ribbons)*
  • 2 tbs Autumn Apple or cider vinegar*
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tbs diced fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves

*Grab Bull’s Blood beet greens from Gardener’s Gourmet at Eastern Market – they’re the folks who always have beautiful greens out in fun, metal tubs. Autumn Apple vinegar, from Sapore, is indispensable in my Fall pantry.

Directions:

  • Heat butter and olive oil in a 3-4 quart saucepan over medium low heat. Sauté onion until soft, about 3 min.
  • Add apple, and sauté for 4 minutes.
  • Add beet greens, Autumn Apple vinegar, cider, cinnamon stick and ginger. Cover and cook until beet greens are tender but still firm, about 5 minutes.
  • Uncover and cook until liquid reduces, another 3-5 minutes. The greens will give up a lot of moisture as they wilt.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper and additional vinegar as needed.

Have I mentioned my book?

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

My husband Jason and I received I a picinic “basket” as a wedding gift from our friend, Jess. The vintage suitcase arrived, filled with beautiful, reclaimed flatware and serving ware, linens and wine glasses. Like Jess, it is fabulous-casual. You know, like those friends who roll out of bed, pull on whatever clothes lay about their feet, and end up looking like the cover of Vogue?

Now I needed a dish as fabulous as the picnic case. Something that we could serve with a bottle of sparkling rosé, sipped by ladies in gloves and men wearing hats and suspenders.

Et voilà, I succeeded! This herb-poached chicken is perfectly moist. The dry wine, peppercorns and bay ground a beautiful sauce. It’s made slightly sweet by the chicken, tarragon and butter. Cook it ahead and serve it cold with cucumbers dressed in Merlot vinegar, French potato salad and slices of sweet, clean, white peaches and nectarines.

Now I just need a hat.

*I was recently advised that I needed to get comfortable with shameless self-promotion in order to sell my upcoming book, Simple Summer: A Recipe for Cooking and Entertaining with Ease. Here’s one of the recipes. I hope you enjoy it. How was that for shameless?

Herb poached chicken

Serves 6

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 chicken breast halves
  • 3 sprigs tarragon
  • 3-4 sprigs parsley
  • 4-5 chives
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 tsp whole peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tbs Champagne Mimosa* or other white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbs cold butter, cut in pieces

*Sightly sweet and beautiful balanced, the mild acidity of Sapore’s Champagne Mimosa vinegar brightens this dish and many summer salads without overpowering the fresh ingredients.

Serve light-tasting French potato salad with this white wine, herb-poached chicken.

Serve light-tasting French potato salad with this white wine, herb-poached chicken.

Directions:

  • Warm oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add onion and sauté until softened and translucent, about 6-7 minutes. Reduce heat if needed, to cook onions without browning.
  • Add garlic and cook two minutes, until fragrant.
  • Place chicken breasts in pan in a single layer. Tuck herbs between chicken.
  • Mix together wine and stock, and pour into pan.
  • Cover pan and bring to a simmer. Cook chicken for 10-15 minutes until done, 165 degrees. Be careful not to let poaching liquid boil.
  • Remove chicken to a platter and tent with foil.
  • Add peppercorns, bay leaves and vinegar to pan and simmer until reduced by half. Strain sauce, discard solids and return liquid to pan.
  • Add any juices that have collected under the chicken and cook until reduced to 1 cup.
  • Remove sauce from heat and whisk in butter to thicken.
  • Serve warm or chill and serve cold. Either way, don’t forget the sauce.

This is so difficult you may not even want to try.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

The gift of a spaetzle-maker, originally intended for the giver’s daughter – “Honestly, you’re more likely to use it.” – has plagued me for years. It sat in the cupboard leering, challenging me to finally take it from it’s simple, clear plastic wrapping and make a batch of the quickly simmered soup dumplings.

For some reason, however, making doughs, an activity involving things like measuring and specific ingredients, always seems so foreboding, a challenge best left to classically trained pastry chefs and German grandmothers.

Last week, the need to dress up my recipe for asparagus soup drove me to research spaetzle. Custards felt fussy, and a garnish of wild mushrooms just lazy. Mushroom spaetzle, though daunting, seemed the perfect solution. We carefully measured each ingredient only to discover that sweet, light Oyster mushrooms disappeared in the rich dough. We pressed on, sautéing hearty, bold Criminis for a second batch. They were delicious and we were in love.

So, was it worth the painstaking pain and suffering? Should spaetzle be left to the chefs? The answer is “no.” Made with four ingredients, simmered and served, spaeetzle couldn’t be simpler. Guten appetit!

Mushroom Spaetzle

Serves 6-8

Spaetzle makerIngredients:

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped Crimini mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup Madeira wine
  • 1 tbs chopped parsley
  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup whole milk

Directions:

  • Warm oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • Add mushrooms and cook until softened and golden on edges. Add wine to pan and scrape up any brown bits. Cook until liquid has evaporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper
  • Chop mushrooms and parsley together until minced.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a simmer.
  • Meanwhile, whisk together flour and salt. Add mushrooms and whisk to combine.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. Add to dry ingredients and whisk until it forms into a smooth dough.
  • Press dough through a colander, or spaetzle-maker, over simmering water. Cook for 2-3 minutes and drain.
  • Serve with butter or over soup.

Asparagus Soup

Serves 6-8

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Ingredients:

  • 2 bunches asparagus, about 2 pounds
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tbs chopped parsley, reserve stems
  • 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 2 medium red potatoes, diced
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts thinly sliced
  • 2 tbs butter
  • Sherry vinegar

Directions:

  • Snap tough ends from asparagus. Add ends to a 4 qt saucepan with stock, thyme, bay and parsley stems. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Melt butter in a soup pot over medium-low heat. Simmer potatoes and leeks in butter. Add a little water as needed. Cook until potatoes are soft.
  • Strain stock into soup pot and cook for five minutes. Cut remaining asparagus into 2” pieces and add to stock. Remove 10-12 tips after 3 minutes.
  • When asparagus is just tender, pass soup through a food mill or processor. Stir through parsley.
  • Season to taste with salt, pepper, butter and vinegar. Garnish with asparagus tips.

Mom smells.

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Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

I knew the smell long before I knew the recipe. Hitting me as I entered the kitchen, it was intoxicating and made my mouth water. It was the smell of sharp, acidic Worcestershire and red wine, the bite of red onion and clove after clove of garlic. Pungent rosemary and the dry, grassy smell of fresh thyme blended with a sweet hint of fresh orange juice.

The skirt steak would spend an afternoon on the counter soaking in the bright, earthy marinade, telegraphing hours ahead the meal that would follow. The minute I smell this combination of flavors, even before seeing it, I am in my Mother’s kitchen, safe and happy at home.

We all have Mom smells – as opposed to Moms who smell – those scents that bring us home. (I know you exactly what you were thinking, ’cause I’m twelve years old too.) Whether its lilac or peonies from the garden, tomato sauce simmering on the stove or steak marinating on the counter, these sense memories are – if you will excuse a moment of sincere sentimentality – like a hug you can access any time. And they are a testament to our mothers who gave us these gifts.

I love you Mom.

Marinated Skirt Steak

Serves 4. To feed more people, buy a bigger steak, or a second steak. Cook this steak to medium or medium-rare. It’s a bit chewy at rare. (And you weren’t even thinking about well, right?)

Photography by Sam Armocido

Photography by Sam Armocido

Ingredients:

  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1/4 cup Merlot or other acidic red wine vinegar
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 tbs fresh thyme, separated
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1-1.5 pound skirt steak
  • 2 tbs cup brandy – it’s a steak, use V.S. Courvoisier.
  • 2 tbs chilled butter

Directions:

  • Make the marinade: combine red onion, garlic, Worcestershire, red wine, orange juice, vinegar, bay leaves, 2 tbs thyme and the pepper, in a bowl. Pour over steak in a freezer bag and marinate in the fridge for 4-8 hours.
  • Bring the steak to room temperature for 30 minutes. Remove steak from marinade and pat dry.
  • Grill: prepare a medium-high fire. Sear over direct heat for 3 minutes per side,  and finish the steak off to the side to medium or medium-rare.
  • Stove top: Over med-high heat, warm 1 tbs vegetable oil in a heavy skillet until almost smoking. Sear both sides of steak, about 3 minutes per side. Reduce heat to medium and cook steak to medium or medium-rare.
  • Cover steak with foil and let rest for 10 minutes before carving across the grain.
  • Meanwhile, strain marinade into a skillet, add brandy and bring to a boil. If you cooked the steak on the stove top, reduce the sauce in the same pan, scraping up any brown bits. Reduce liquid to 1/2 cup. Remove from heat and whisk in cold butter.
  • Season to taste and serve over sliced steak.

    Photography by Sam Armocido

    Photography by Sam Armocido

I ❤ Jason.

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Jonathan and JasonThree years ago I woke up on Valentine’s Day, a Sunday, and grabbed my copy of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which had spent the better part of a year next to my bedside. Deciding it was high time I learned to make a soufflé, I turned to the chapter on entrées and luncheon dishes.

This recipe is a shining example of Julia’s genius as a teacher and a writer. She breaks it down into three parts – sauce, flavor base and egg whites for leavening – that make soufflés not only simple, but easy to remember. Julia also praises the value of a copper bowl for whisking egg whites, which, she claims, increases the volume by a third.

I dressed and headed to the kitchen while Jason showered. When he came down to the breakfast table he found not only a beautiful, puffy, golden soufflé, but a vase filled with hand-arranged, white flowers.

Jason handed me a folded piece of paper. It unfolded to reveal an order receipt for a copper whisking bowl. I fell in love all over again.*

*With Jason. Not the bowl.

Julia Child’s Soufflé Recipe

That morning my first soufflé was flavored with Manchego cheese and jamón Serrano, both Spanish, that we had in the cheese drawer. Here is the recipe below, adapted from Julia Child. Forget all of your fears, soufflés are really quite simple. I have never had one fall in the oven, and entertain of brings lots of big boys stomping around our kitchen. By your second soufflé you’ll have it in the oven within 25 minutes, and served, with a vinaigrette-dressed salad, within an hour.

SouffléIngredients:

  • 3 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, unbleached
  • 1 cup milk, whole
  • White pepper
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Nutmeg
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup grated Manchego cheese*
  • 1/2 cup diced jamón Serrano*

*You can substitute about 1 cup of cheese and just about anything else you want. Try bacon, sautéed mushrooms, fresh corn, smoked or cooked salmon etc…

Directions:

  • Heat your oven to 400 degrees.
  • Butter the inside of a 2 qt soufflé dish. Add grated parmesan and turn dish to coat, reserving extra cheese.
  • Make the béchamel sauce. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add flour and stir 2-3 minutes being careful not to brown the roux. You are cooking the raw flavor out of the flour. When ready, it will smell pleasantly sharp.
  • Off the heat, add the milk all at once and whisk vigorously to avoid lumps.
  • Return the sauce to the pan and cook for 3-5 minutes until it thickens. The sauce will be very thick. Season to taste with salt, white pepper and a pinch each of cayenne pepper and nutmeg.
  • Stir the egg yolks, one at a time, into the sauce.
  • Next whisk the egg whites, in a copper bowl if you have one, or a freshly cleaned bowl, until they support their own weight on the whisk.
  • In a large bowl, stir together the béchamel sauce with the cheese and jamón. Stir in 1/4 of the stiff egg whites. This lightens the mixture so you lose less volume folding in the remaining three quarters of the egg white.
  • Gently fold in the remaining three quarters of the egg white, until only a few white streaks remain. Transfer the mixture to the prepared soufflé dish, smooth out the top with an offset spatula (or the rubber one that’s already dirty from folding) and sprinkle the top with the remaining Parmesan cheese.
  • Bake for 25 minutes. Do not open the oven for the first 20 or so. the soufflé is done when the top is golden brown and moves slightly in the middle when shaken. I prefer mine still wet in the center. Serve immediately. Warn your guests ahead of time.