Saturday, November 22, 2014

How to host the (almost) perfect Thanksgiving: For procrastinators

PSA:  Thanksgiving is 5 days away.  That's right.  FIVE days.  If you are a regular 9-5, Monday through Friday working person, that means you have today and tomorrow to get it together.  OK, don't freak out, it'll be fine.  Are you hosting Thanksgiving this year?  If you are new to hosting, go checkout my comprehensive beginners guide to hosting Thanksgiving before you jump into this one.  Then come back here.

Alright, first of all, we need to talk about turkey.  Do you have turkey?  What kind of turkey do you want?  If you would like a free range/heritage/organic/fresh turkey or some combination thereof, you might still have time to order one if you haven't yet.  Here in Portland, you can order your turkey from New Seasons online (which is brilliant, why doesn't everyone do that?).  I ordered mine last weekend, but you can probably still get in on that action.  If you don't want to do that, Market of Choice and Whole Foods are good bets for quality turkeys.  A few years ago I was able to run into Market of Choice 2 days before Thanksgiving and nab a turkey, so procrastinators rejoice!  But seriously, don't wait until 2 days before because you will not be guaranteed a turkey.  Also, if you end up getting a frozen turkey, keep in mind it can take FIVE days to thaw.  Yes.  Five days.  As in, the amount of days from now until the day you need to cook the turkey.  See why you need to get your turkey, like, now?

OK, now that we have a turkey, how are you going to cook it?  If you read my original Thanksgiving post you will find several simple and delicious turkey recipes.  If you want more selection, hop on over to my Thanksgiving Pinterest board.  I highly suggest that you make a thanksgiving pinterest board to organize all of your thanksgiving recipes.  You need them all in one place.

Time to make a list of all the dishes you want to have at your table.  Delegate the ones that you don't want to deal with/don't have time for/don't have oven space for. And as you know from reading my other post, you will also need some snacks and drinks. Now make a list.  Like this:

Herb Rubbed Turkey
Cider Gravy
Simple Stuffing
Cranberry Sauce
Parsnip Mashed potatoes
Pumpkin Pie
Charcuterie Board
Apple Cider

Great!  Now make a grocery list to make sure you have all of the ingredients for your recipes.  Check it twice.  Now go to the grocery store.  Like right now - trust me when I tell you that you don't want to go to the store on Wednesday afternoon. (PS, you might want to clean out your fridge before heading to the grocery store to make sure you have room for everything).

OK, what can you make ahead of time?  If you are making your own pie crust, you might want to go ahead and do that today (Saturday), then pop it in the freezer.  On Tuesday you can make your cranberry sauce, Also if you are brining your turkey you will probably want to start that. And on Wednesday you can make your pies.  You can probably do some prep work on Wednesday if you have time - chopping your veggies and things like that.  Obviously, you need to make yourself a timeline:

Order Turkey if you haven't yet
Make a list of dishes you want to serve
Ask guests what they can bring
Make grocery list
Go shopping
Write timeline for rest of week
(This includes figuring out how long your turkey will take so you know when you have to start it)

Make pie crusts
Take an inventory of your serving pieces and kitchen tools.  If you don't have something that you need, get it today.
Put the leaf in your table if you have one and are using it.
Wash your table cloth but don't put it on your table yet.  The cat is an asshole.

Check that you have movies/games on hand for entertaining the masses while you slave away in the kitchen.  Make sure you have that covered.

Probably clean your house like a crazy person.
Double check your ingredients to make sure you have everything.  It's better to go to the store today than Wednesday.

Make cranberry sauce.
Brine turkey if doing so.

Make pies
Make herb butter for turkey
All other possible prep that can be done ahead of time.
Make sure you have wine.
Drink wine (not too much.  You have to get up early tomorrow)

Make sure you get up 2-3 hours before you need to put the turkey in the oven.  It needs to sit out for 2 hours to come to room temperature.  Also, pad your timeline a little.  Add an extra half hour here and there to make sure you have enough time for everything.  For example:  I will have a 12 pound turkey, which will take 3-3.5 hours to cook.  I'm rounding that up to 4.   Also it will need to rest for half an hour after coming out of the oven. Since I need to have my turkey sit out for two hours before I cook it, I need to be up and getting my turkey ready 6 1/2 hours before I want to serve dinner.  Since I want to serve dinner at 4pm, I need to make sure I am in the kitchen by 9:30 am.  But since I want to give myself a little extra time, I should really plan on being up and in the kitchen by 9am.  It is best to write a detailed timeline of your day so that you can stay on top of things without getting stressed out.  Make sure you schedule enough time to take a shower and get ready before dinner.  I can't tell you how many pictures there are of me on Thanksgiving with bedhead still in my pjs because I woke up, started cooking and NEVER STOPPED.  Give yourself as much extra time as you can so you don't have a meltdown.

Now eat and allow yourself to slip into a blissful food coma while someone else does the dishes.

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