I posted something over on Twitter earlier this week about Thanksgiving coming and got a panicked reply back from Christina Dodd. “Not next week!” she hollered through the Twittersphere. Yes, people. It’s nearly here.
I’ve blogged about my Thanksgiving trials and tribulations over the years. Take Thanksgiving 2008, when my husband declared he was going to cook Thanksgiving. Lesson learned: a man who says he is going to cook Thanksgiving is only going to delegate. Don’t get sucked into the fairy tale that you won’t have to cook. I’ve also gone on about the stress of counting down to the big T-day. But this year I thought I would give you three helpful tips if you care cooking Thanksgiving. (And even if you aren’t, but need to bring something, there’s help for you as well.)
The real trick to pulling off the perfect Thanksgiving (aside from not including the relatives that make it one of those Thanksgivings), is planning ahead. So let’s get planning.
1) Decide your menu NOW. Don’t wait until the Wednesday to come up with what you are going to serve–sit down and write out a menu. Keep the menu simple. Mine usually includes: Turkey, Gravy, Stuffing, Mashed Potatoes, two sides (a dish of spiced pearl onions and brussels sprouts) rolls, cranberry relish, and pumpkin pie. Sometimes I go crazy and depending on the number of people coming, do up a big tray of cut up vegies, dip, crackers and cheese.
Next: Get out all the recipes beforehand and write out a shopping list. And then stick to it. But make sure you have extra butter. You always go through way more butter than you think you are going to. Oh, and don’t forget drinks and beverages. And whipped cream for the pumpkin pie. You see? It is easy to forget essentials.
2) Don’t try to do it all on Thanksgiving. In the old traditional Yankee Thanksgiving, that was precursor to our modern Thanksgiving, the New England housewife did not get up Thanksgiving morning and decide to throw together a dinner for twenty. Heck no! She’d been preparing and cooking for months to set a fabulous spread. Jams. Pickles. Side dishes. Pies. Breads. Choosing the turkey, the ham, the joint of beef, and all the rest of the dishes were done in the weeks prior to Thanksgiving.
Happily for us, all we have to do is the shopping. My recommendation: Do the shopping early Sunday morning or, if you can, first thing Monday morning. Then vow to stay away from the craziness that is the grocery store until Friday. Buy a frozen turkey and just let it thaw in the fridge over the next few days. Fresh veggies will last just fine in the crisper.
3) Start cooking and organizing on or before Monday. I will pick a few things that I can make ahead and do them one at a time over the week, until on Thanksgiving, it is just down to baking off the rolls, doing the stuffing, getting the bird in the oven, and peeling potatoes.
My grandmother, who had a lovely dining room, would set the table and arrange all the serving platters and silver a few days before Thanksgiving, so she wasn’t rushing around with that chore with family about to arrive.
I don’t have a dining room, so I haven’t that luxury, but if you do–take advantage of it! Instead, I stage it all on a sideboard and have it at the ready so the table can be set when it is finally free. Those tasks also can be assigned out to family–even the little guys. Even if it isn’t set perfectly, kids love being able to proudly add that they “helped.” If you are looking for table inspiration, check out this blog. Besides, there is no reason to arrive at the table only to collapse.
Next up on Monday: Some of my favorite family recipes for Thanksgiving: homemade cranberry relish, spicy pearl onions, and home baked rolls.
What do you do to make the hustle and bustle of Thanksgiving easier?