Judging from the notes I’m receiving, the general panic about how to organize Thanksgiving dinner has settled in.
I’m here to offer some basic tips which I hope will help make the meal – and the day – one that affords you, the cook, time to enjoy. Who knows, you may even be able to taste that gorgeous meal that you’ll put on the table!
Step 1: Write out your menu and put it somewhere you see it easily (I began doing this when I forgot to serve a dish one year, finding it warming in the oven when all guests had departed!)
Step 2: Make a list of all you have to do. Figure out what you’ll delegate, and to whom. I write dishes with the initial of whoever is responsible on the blackboard in the kitchen.
For the turkey: If you are brining it, put it in brine 36 to 48 hours ahead of time. Remember to leave time to let the drained turkey dry before roasting it. If you’re not brining it, season it, truss it, and get it all ready to roast the day before. Remove it from the refrigerator several hours before you plan to put it in the oven, so it roasts evenly.
For the mashed potatoes: either make them entirely the night before and reheat the next day in a low oven, covered, OR peel and cut the potatoes the day before and refrigerate them in a bowl of water, to keep them from browning.
For the stuffing: cut and toast the croutons in advance, and freeze them.
If making yam or squash puree (to serve as a vegetable, as part of dessert, or …): Make and freeze, (pre-measured if for pie).
For the pumpkin or other pie: Make the pastry the day before. Roll it out, fit it in the pie dish, cover and refrigerate. For a two-crust pie, roll out the top crust and put it on a baking sheet in the fridge. If you can mix up the filling, do that the day before, too.
For roasted or other vegetables: wash, trim, peel and cut the night before (excepting parsnips and Jerusalem artichokes, which have to be done the day of, or they’ll turn color). They don’t need refrigerating.
For raw vegetables: most can be prepared the day before and carefully stored in airtight containers in the fridge.
For toasted nuts: do these up to one week in advance.
Set the table: one or two days before.
These are obvious tips, perhaps, but they’ll save your day!