Holidays are rough. So much to do, so little time and most of the time, the brunt of the cooking will inevitably fall on you. However, if you create a solid game plan and are willing to begin a few days early, the day-of will turn out great and most importantly, will be enjoyable for you.
I love that Thanksgiving falls on a Thursday. That means, I have a crazy week but then three days after to recover physically and … mentally. My Thanksgiving dinner begins the weekend before, yes, Saturday before Thanksgiving is when I get it all down on paper. My holidays and big dinners all begin with food magazines for inspiration, Google and a trusty notebook with the last ten years of my menus.
First, decide what you are making. If you’re smart, you will delegate a few dishes to guests. Yes, asking guest to bring a favorite dessert or antipasto platter is smart planning and most love to feel like they are contributing to the meal. Just make sure they commit and you know the dish they are bringing. Then, decide what you want to bring to the table.
Pull up and print out the recipes you chose and make a shopping list. I usually do this standing in my pantry so I don’t buy items I already have. Once the list is complete, head out and get everything you need in one trip. Twenty runs to the grocery store is inefficient and frustrating and lets face it, if you send your husband, he will come back with the wrong thing anyway. And, if you’re like me, you might want to do a little fridge discard prior to walking out the door. Rid your fridge of dying leftovers, wilted lettuce or anything else taking up critical space. You need a clean, vacant fridge for all the stuff you are about to buy.
On Monday, I take a digestive pause. I will group ingredients based on recipe, pick out tablescape items and make pie dough. Also a good time to cut up bread to leave out so it gets stale. Stale bread makes the best puddings and stuffing. One of my stuffings is cornbread based so I make the cornbread loaf on Monday and then cut it into cubes. Its dry by the time I need it.
Tuesday is when I begin to get into the nitty gritty. I pull out all the Tupperware I can find and begin to wash, chop and organize ingredients. I also make cranberry sauce on Tuesday because it tastes better after a few days in the fridge. Another tip is peeling potatoes. I learned in culinary school that peeled potatoes last forever in cold water. So, you can get this time consuming task out of the way by peeling, chopping the potatoes and placing in a large bowl. Just make sure to cover with cold water and they will last for days. Then, day of, drain the water and right into the pot they go!
Ok, Wednesday is the big day. You got this. Brine or marinade your turkey. Make your stuffing, roasted veggies and any side dish that needs loads of oven time. I promise, these will taste BETTER when you reheat them on Thursday. Potato Gratin tastes better reheated than the day you cook it. Roasted veggies just need to be woken up with a little drizzle of maple syrup and 20 minutes in the oven. I also bake my pies on Wednesday. If you’re smart, someone else is bringing the pies!
The BIG day should be for getting that bird in the oven and rotating your side dishes in and out about an hour before you plan to eat. You worked your tail off so today, have a few glasses of wine, let people help set the table and if someone wants to be your kitchen assistant, let him or her have at it. Set out some appetizers so no one else irritates you in the kitchen and try really hard to enjoy your crazy relatives. This one’s in the bag.
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