Celina Tio definitely knows a thing or 10 about preparing meals and hosting guests.
By STACY DOWNS
The Kansas City Star
When she ran the kitchen at the American Restaurant in Kansas City, Tio won the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef of the Midwest award in 2007. For three years, she has owned her own restaurant, Julian, in Brookside. She was a contender on Food Network’s “The Next Iron Chef” and Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters.”
Throughout her career Tio has had special dinners and spontaneous vinyl listening parties, where she asks guests to bring favorite and under-the-radar records. And she knows how to rock Thanksgiving.
18 inches is the length of a stainless steel or copper pipe you need to buy at a hardware store to cook your turkey faster. Wrap the pipe in aluminum foil and stick it in the cavity of the bird. Because it conducts heat well, “you can cook a turkey in about 2 1/2 hours instead of 4. Just make sure (a meat) thermometer reads 165 degrees. That’s the magic number.”
45s and 78s from your guests turn the traditional feast into a joyful blast. Not everyone spins vinyl anymore, but you can set up your stereo for everyone to take turns plugging in their music gadgets or dropping their CDs.
“My music tastes are all over the place,” Tio says. She would definitely be listening to David Bowie (“Aladdin Sane” or “Hunky Dory”) and El Ten Eleven (upbeat post rock, no vocals).
If she wanted to go local, Tio would put on some Soft Reeds for cook time and some Hearts of Darkness afterward. “It’ll get you up and moving, not lazing around on the couch,” she says. “There’s really so much great stuff here in Kansas City.” And she’d throw on some really old Neil Diamond.
A two-step method for preventing drips and spills ladling soup is something Tio proudly demonstrates (no paper towels required). Fill your ladle but before you lift it out of the pot, dip the bottom of the ladle back into the pot, so the liquid comes about halfway up the ladle. The tension on the surface of the soup grabs any drips and pulls them back into the pot. “I can fill 100 soup bowls perfectly this way,” she says.
On the subject of soup: “You have to have soup on Thanksgiving,” she says. “I don’t just love soup, but the whole ritual around it. It has to be served boiling hot. If you don’t, you will never get the whole effect of soup. One of the best parts is hovering over it, letting the steam rise, getting the full aroma of all the ingredients and blowing on the soup.”
One trick for removing red wine stains is to pour white wine on top. “It gets them out a solid majority of the time,” Tio says.
10 questions can break the ice if you’re hosting a motley crew of guests who don’t know one another. Print a list of questions with topics such as favorite movie, song and beer for them to fill out. “It gets strangers talking,” she says. “It doesn’t feel contrived.” And, of course, seat people who know each other apart, so the group mingles.
Wait three to five minutes before mashing potatoes after you drain them. “People want to mash them right away,” Tio says. But the problem is they become water-logged and flavorless. And they take on an unappetizing grayish hue. “They’ll taste a 100 times better if you’re patient.”