When it comes to preparing Thanksgiving, every home cook has their own style. Respect. But I'm thinking you'll be thankful to learn about my "dish kit" approach.
2018 was my first time cooking Thanksgiving dinner from start to finish. Of course I've helped my Mom with various sides and desserts but never had the whole holiday rested on my shoulders. Not to mention the thought of getting down and dirty with a raw turkey totally grossed me out (if you know you know). So, hosting Thanksgiving for Kalo and I's friends was the ultimate right of passage. Overall, I'd say the meal was good, not great. To me, the dishes lacked that ultra satisfying savoury/herby flavour (again if you know you know) and I'm sad to say my turkey was a wee bit dry.
Fast forward to 2019. Redemption year. I was utterly determined to double my herb and spice quantities, dry brine a turkey and be so completely organised that all I had to do was enjoy the day. And man, did I enjoy the day, a little too much judging by my hangover. That's right, I planned like a total boss and I'm excited to share my riff off mise en place with you all here. Save time and energy by pre-chopping your ingredients and creating comprehensive kits for each dish so all that's left to do is assemble and bake. Boom.
Okay it's time, everyone ... meet my baby. And by baby I mean the timeline/checklist below, containing all my best Thanksgiving tips, suggestions and recipes. I hope this outline helps you plan the perfect gathering for years to come. Now that's something to be thankful for!
Ultimate Thanksgiving Checklist:
Read and review the recipes you've selected
Write out lengthy grocery list, remember when it comes to Thanksgiving you can never buy have too much chicken broth/stock, herbs or butter
Create or adjust your multi-day checklist including timing, cook temperatures and tips
Refresh memory by watching instructional videos and jotting down special instructions, like try resting your turkey breast side down to redistribute the juices or add a tablespoon or two of dijon mustard to your gravy for a little zing
Clear and clean out pantry, refrigerator and freezer of old foods or out-of-date items
Spend the rest of the day grocery shopping
For a frozen turkey let the defrosting begin, it's important to know that 24 hours are needed for every 4-5 lbs.
Pull out and set aside dishes, platters, serving utensils, warming trays, etc.
Settle on a buffet flow and designate a bar station
Clean bathroom, vacuum, etc. to prep for welcoming guests to your home
Pluck all herbs off stems, especially thyme, it'll save you so much time when putting together your dish kits
Cook then store Ina Garten's Make-Ahead Cranberry Sauce
Make Sage Brown Butter, to use when sautéing or to top any of your Thanksgiving side dishes. Talk about depth of flavour! Melt 1 stick butter over medium heat and cook until browned. Add 1/4 cup sage and fry 30 seconds; drain on paper towels, then chop. Let the brown butter cool; mash with 1 stick softened butter, the sage and some salt.
Get out the food processor to whiz together GZ's Thyme Compound Butter (minus the anchovies). I slathered this all over my turkey and used to sauté veggies.
Bake cornbread for Cornbread Dressing, cool then slice into cubes along with French bread. Leave out to dry until Thursday morning. You can also chop then bag up the onions, carrots and celery needed for this recipe.
Toast almonds, zest lemons, crush garlic, cut herbs and trim green beans for Ina's Green Bean Gremolata, store until Thursday morning
Toast walnuts, grate parmesan, halve Brussels sprouts, portion topping ingredients for Cheesy Brussels Sprouts Gratin, store until Thursday morning
Rinse, pat dry frozen turkey and apply brine seasoning, leave in refrigerator overnight, then roughly chop veggies, lemons and garlic for inside the turkey
Slice leeks, grate cheeses, etc. for Ree Drummond's Potato and Leek Casserole, be sure to pull out cream cheese Thursday morning to come up to room temperature
Start gravy by boiling neck and giblets for your Classic Turkey Gravy, strain and store because Thursday you'll combine this broth with the turkey drippings
Heat up cider with cinnamon sticks and bourbon to make a large batch of Spiked Apple Cider Punch, slice up apples and oranges for garnish
Enjoy a glass of wine or 3, you've earned them! Get a good night's sleep and hit the ground running
Peel then use a mandoline to thinly slice potatoes. Sauté leeks, make creamy cheesy sauce, assemble casserole and bake (warm in oven before eating)
For the Brussels sprouts, I recommend sautéing on the stove top instead of roasting in the oven, just to free up space. Assemble the rest of the gratin ingredients then bake (warm in oven before eating)
Sauté vegetables and herbs, pour over bread along with broth and bake dressing (warm in oven before eating)
Pull turkey out of refrigerator to come to room temperature, rub with compound butter and bake (12-15 minutes per pound for a 12 lb. turkey), baste every 30 minutes
Don't forget to add prosecco to punch before your guests arrive
Blanch green beans and mix with other gremolata ingredients
Whisk in flour to thicken gravy, pour into slow cooker to keep warm and smooth
Fill your plates, enjoy and be thankful!
Wow, I look at this blog post and think damnnn girl. It's been a lot of trial and error over the past 2 years so it feels amazing to get all of my ideas down in one place. Organisation is key. And please know that my Ultimate Thanksgiving Checklist is as much for you as it is for me so let's perfect it together. Send in your tricks or the recipes you love and I'll give them a go. I'm so thankful for you, my HFL readers.
Finally, a few extra tips. I swear those compound butters will be your secret weapons. Promise me you'll try them. Next, super important, be sure to rest your turkey for at least an hour before carving. All the juices will redistribute and your turkey will be as moist as ever. Also, throughout the week have your hubby or whoever bring home takeout so you don't have to worry about cooking. And lastly, to lighten your load, get help from your guests by assigning them apps, ice, wine, pies and other sides to bring.
Until next year friends, third times the charm...