Thursday, November 13, 2008

Pulling Off a Thanksgiving Feast

The last few weeks we've been talking about making the Thanksgiving meal from scratch. When you look at the individual dishes, there is nothing that is all that complicated or that requires special skills. Thanksgiving is easy to prepare, right? The individual dishes really are. The challenge is getting all those easy dishes ready at the same time. Here are some ideas that may help.

1. Don't be a hero.
If you are having friends or family over, let them help you. They can bring a dish, or you can give them a job in the kitchen. If you won't have any help, keep the menu simple.

2. Shop now.
Sit down with your recipes and make a list. If you are frugally minded, watch the grocery store fliers and start gathering the items you need when they are on sale, or if you prefer, go to your favorite store and get everything you need. Either way, you do not want to be in the grocery store the week of Thanksgiving. It is chaos I tell you!

3. Start cooking early.
Many things can be prepared well before Thanksgiving. Cranberry sauce could be made now and stored in the refrigerator. Pie crust can be made now and frozen. The pumpkin pies can be made a few days before Thanksgiving. The rolls could be baked and frozen, or if you want fresh rolls for the big day, freeze the rolls unbaked. The bread cubes for stuffing could be made and stored in an airtight container.

I will probably start cooking next week. I try to get as much cooking done as I can before I start cleaning.

4. Write it on the calendar.
The one thing that can bring disaster to all your plans is having a bird that isn't thawed. Count back on your calendar one day for every six pounds of turkey you have. Then count back one more day for good measure. Then write on your calendar, "Put turkey in the refrigerator." I'm not joking. Do it!

5. Plan your cooking space.
Most of us only have one oven and four burners to work with. You may need to call out the reinforcements. In Talking Turkey I suggested using a roaster oven for the turkey. It could also be used for baked potatoes or stuffing. Crockpots are good for easy sides like vegetables, potatoes, or just to keep items warm.

6. Make a schedule.
Using your menu, make a time line of cooking events. Write down, in order, what time each dish needs to be started and reminders of tasks like pulling the roll dough out of the freezer to thaw or getting the butter out of the refrigerator to soften. You may not be able to stick exactly to the schedule, but having it written down will give you a plan to follow for the day.

7. T'was the night before Thanksgiving.
Use this time to do as much prep work as possible. Chop the vegetables for salad, for the stuffing, and to stuff the bird. Peel potatoes and keep them in a bowl of water overnight. Complete any other dishes that could be made ahead.

8. Relax.
Take a deep breath. Count your blessings, and enjoy your day with family and friends.

Join us Tuesday for a special Thanksgiving edition of the Make it from Scratch carnival. Add your favorite Thanksgiving recipes and ideas using the submission form at Blog Carnival.

More Made from Scratch Thanksgiving posts:
Talking Turkey
Potatoes and Sides
Cranberry Sauce
Pumpkin Pie

1 comment:

  1. I have a recipe for the BEST make-ahead turkey gravy. You can make it a few days in advance, then put in the pan scrapings if you roast your turkey. Or you can skip the pan scrapings all together...we always fry our turkey & even without the pan stuff, it's delicious!

    Let me know if you'd like the's really easy:)


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