Thanksgiving barely gets its due. Christmas décor and ads appear before Halloween and holiday movies pop up in October. Let’s not run through Thanksgiving like it’s a race. Take the time to enjoy the week with friends and family and celebrate a season of gratitude. Let’s slow down and be thankful for the abundance of meaningful things like love and family in our lives.
Before the shopping starts, give your spice rack or drawer a makeover. Go through your spices and open each container. Give them a good sniff to make sure they smell fresh and not dusty or scentless. If the oregano doesn’t smell like oregano, it’s time to toss. And use fresh herbs instead of dried when possible. Nothing is better than the aroma of fresh sage, rosemary and thyme getting chopped.
Next, pull out your Thanksgiving recipes and create a menu and grocery list (and put on some tunes and make yourself a cocktail). I’d suggest storing all your holiday recipes in one place. I use a cheap three-ring binder or you could create your own recipe binder where you keep holiday favorites for easy reference. We are shopping list experts since we make so many (you have no idea!). Organize your list by the sections of the store. I draw a grid and label it: produce, dairy, meat & seafood and aisles. Don’t shop at the last minute and consider early morning when it’s not crowded.
Order Your Turkey!
Place your turkey order in advance (I order a heritage turkey from Central Market) and have it in your refrigerator (not your freezer) three days in advance. Budget 8 ounces of meat per adult and 4-6 ounces per small child, with a little extra for leftovers.
You need a big roasting pan for your turkey, or a medium-size roaster for smaller birds. In my opinion, I’d always rather have two smaller turkeys instead of one gigantic one! Remember, your turkey is done when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees, not after it cooks as long as the recipe instructs. Equipment and oven temperatures vary, so get used to using a digital thermometer.
Shop in Advance
Purchase your dry goods a week or more ahead and perishable items 3-5 days in advance. Think about washing and chopping your onions, celery, mushrooms and garlic in advance and stashing in the fridge. You can also pre-grate cheese and have your bread cubed (or torn) for stuffing. Many dishes can be made in advance and frozen, such as cranberry sauce and pie crust.
Get your tools of the trade ready with a fat separator and flat whisk. Use Wondra brand flour for a smooth and silky gravy. Get your roux nice and dark for a rich, nutty gravy and have turkey stock and a ladle at the ready to stop the flour from browning. The first few times I hosted Thanksgiving, I cheated and used gravy starter from Williams-Sonoma. It’s a handy shortcut that will ease your gravy-making anxiety.
Don’t forget to give assignments to your guests. Have a response ready for, “What can I bring?” You can offer to share a recipe for an appetizer, side dish or dessert, or something super simple such as cranberry sauce, marinated olives or wine. Melissa always takes the mashed potatoes and pumpkin chiffon pie to her family’s Thanksgiving.
Gather fall foliage, magnolia leaves or dried twigs for a foraged centerpiece. Get out your linens and iron your tablecloth or napkins if need be. If you don’t have enough matching linens, consider alternating two different types or head to Ikea and grab some inexpensive dish towels that you can use as napkins. Or check out these jacquard or embroidered napkins from Williams-Sonoma.
Set the Table
Consider labeling serving platters with sticky notes and setting your table in advance. Pull out your china, glassware and silverware. Make sure everything is clean and polished. Goddard Silver Foam is the best for taking the tarnish off your silver.
Party Favors and Hostess Gifts
Send guests home with a baked treat, like pumpkin chocolate chip muffins or gluten-free pumpkin seed granola packaged in cellophane bags with ribbon. If you’re the guest, make a batch to take to your hostess.
If you plan in advance, shop and prep early, you’ll have time to enjoy the day with your guests and you just might get to watch the parade or a football game.