Have you started cooking Thanksgiving dinner yet? Why Not? Get thee to the kitchen!
I know we’re four days away, but, after a few years experience hosting Thanksgiving under my belt please heed my advice – now is the time to start to ensure a relatively calm Thanksgiving day! Here’s what I’m doing. . .
Sunday before Thanksgiving
I went shopping yesterday and bought ALMOST all of my Thanksgiving ingredients. Of course, as always, I forgot a few and realized this morning that I have far less garlic than I thought I had, but that’s nothing I can’t pick up at my local, very small, grocery store in the next day or so. Over the past few weeks I’ve been planning the menu and compiling recipes. Sunday morning, with a cup of green tea in hand, I made a meticulous list – going through every recipe – and wrote down all the ingredients in all of the quantities I needed to buy. Then, I went and did a marathon shopping. Literally from wine to olives, cream cheese to celery, I bought it all.
Tip #1 – Clean out your fridge a few days in advance to make room for all this food! And don’t forget to buy some food to eat Monday through Wednesday!
Tip #2 – If you bought something that you normally eat (like, say cheese) SPECIFICALLY for a recipe – put a note on it alerting anyone else who raids your fridge NOT TO TOUCH IT! Really. You must. It works.
Today’s chore is to make your desserts and bread (if you’re eating/making bread*) in advance. I am also making chicken stock to sip on to make sure none of us get sick before the big day! Any leftover stock will be used for gravy, stuffing, whatever you need it for, on Thursday. For desserts we’re going with pecan pie (NOT gluten free, but a special request from my husband and I had a pie crust in the freezer!) and cheesecake (using this gluten and grain free crust). The two desserts will be baked, cooled, and then wrapped and frozen. I’ll be removing them from the freezer Thursday morning to defrost on the counter; they’ll be ready to eat by mid-afternoon. If you want to make fresh rolls Thursday, may I suggest prepping the dough today while you have the flour out anyway? Form the rolls and freeze the dough in their greased baking dish or on a cookie sheet. If you freeze them on a cookie sheet, once they’re frozen you can place them in a freezer bag for storage and take out however many you need the evening before (to defrost and rise in the fridge) or morning (to defrost and rise on the counter) of. While I’m at it, thanks to Leila’s advice, I’m cleaning my room and washing the sheets for the guest room bed today.
Prep the bird. I’m still debating between going for a 36 – 48 hour cider brine or using a dry-rub a la Alton. I guess I have another day to decide! Meanwhile, bake your sweet potatoes for your sweet potato pecan casserole (my recipe is similar to this one, but includes dabs of butter on top, of course!) and stash in your fridge once cool. Vacuum and clean up any last minute little messes.
Guests begin to arrive today and we dub this day “veggie prep” day. Cut up the onions, celery and garlic for your stuffing and store in your fridge in a gallon-sized Ziploc. Slice up your mushrooms and store in a glass mason jar (thank you, lovely Judith!) for your wild rice with mushrooms – this one needs an onion chopped too. Might as well do it now and store in a clearly marked sandwich bag. I will also be making this buttermilk broccoli slaw today and allowing the flavors to develop overnight for something cold, green and crunchy on the plate!
We are high-heat roasting our turkey again. Yum. Our turkey is just over 21 pounds (to feed 12 people, plus leftovers) and will take just over four hours to cook at 425. I want to take it out of the oven at 1pm so it can rest and we can carve and serve by 2pm (plus make gravy during the interim), so the bird will go in the oven at 9am. Take it out of the fridge by 8am to come to room temperature.
Meanwhile, at my in-laws (where my parents are staying) they are baking a ham and I am going to give them the task of peeling and making the mashed potatoes there, and then transporting them to my house in a slow-cooker on warm.
Sometime between the time you take out the bird and put it in the oven (say, between 7:30 and 9:00am) make a hearty breakfast for all. We are going to go with scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and capers, some seasonal bread my mom is bringing and fresh fruit. Allow someone else to do the dishes for you. Better yet, use paper plates. Just this once won’t hurt! You can even burn them in the wood stove. Makes sense to me.
Once the bird is in the oven and breakfast is enjoyed and cleaned up, start cooking everything else! Wild Rice with Mushrooms on the stove, sweet potato pecan casserole, stuffing and rolls in the oven (oh, I should state, I have two ovens so the turkey is in one and everything else is in the other!). Clean off the counter, set out your serving dishes and have someone else set the table with pretty chargers and napkins. Go upstairs to get dressed and freshen up.
Around noon to twelve-thirty-ish set out the appetizers. We’re going super simple with just mixed olives, salted, mixed nuts and a crudite platter along with my mother-in-law’s deviled eggs. Nothing that I need to cook or barely prepare. Just dumping tasty bits into pretty bowls. Perfect.
At one, remove the turkey to allow it to rest before carving, then make the gravy (with cornstarch) and toss the green beans in the oven to roast.
1:45 – set everything out in it’s serving dishes and turn off the ovens. Accept a glass of champagne. Call everyone in to pray and enjoy your wonderful meal with your family and friends!
Leftovers! Along with a batch of queso while we watch the game(s).
*Since we’re hosting Thanksgiving for both sides of our family, we have conceded to make a few traditional Thanksgiving dishes, including pie, rolls and stuffing, gluten and all! However I’m also changing several dishes over to gluten-free varieties (Sweet Potato Pecan Casserole, and Garlicky Green Beans with Shallots and Almonds – previously good old green bean casserole was always served) along with some naturally gluten-free dishes, like Wild Rice with Mushrooms and Buttermilk Broccoli Slaw, along with all of the appetizers, so that everyone, those avoiding gluten and those enjoying it, have plenty of options.