The Cook’s Guide to Preparing a Thanksgiving Feast
Woohoo– only 6 more days to Thanksgiving! Here is the Cook’s Guide to the Final Countdown to Turkey Day (or How to Keep Your Sanity and Have Fun Doing It!) Our goal as we prep this week is to try to get as much done before Thursday as possible. Here’s how we (really) do it…
To make the shopping more manageable, we divide our shopping into two trips. Friday or Saturday: Shop for ingredients you need to get started on recipes through Monday. Tuesday: Shop for remaining perishable items like fruit, salad greens, flowers, AND anything you forgot to pick up on your first trip. Dividing the list makes the first shopping trip easier and the second trip gives you the opportunity to pick up forgotten ingredients and perishable produce items that won’t last till the end of the week (and still look and taste their best.) Remember…avoid going to the store on Wednesday as if the Zombie Apocalypse has happened.
If, after reading this you still need some extra advice and have some more specific questions, consider signing up for the Dear Martini Holiday Hotline! We’ll be on-call all week long right up through T-Day to answer your questions, fix kitchen emergencies and offer advice and encouragement! Sign up for it here: The Dear Martini Holiday Hotline.
Browse through our Dear Martini Thanksgiving Playlist on YouTube. It’s chockfull of every how-to technique you’ll need to know for preparing your feast including how to carve the turkey!
Saturday (before Thanksgiving)
If your bird is frozen pick it up today –Check thawing times and start process and based on how much your turkey weighs. Refer to our previous post if you need a review on how to properly defrost a frozen turkey.
Sunday (Thanksgiving week)
Make pie shells if making pumpkin or pecan pie and freeze ( if you are feeling overwhelmed– delegate the pies now!).
Make Cranberry Sauce and Vinaigrette. Refrigerate until ready to serve on Thanksgiving (woohoo– you don’t have to think about these again).
Do any of your recipes call for toasted nuts? Toast the nuts, cool and freeze today.
Planning on serving a soup? Make it today and freeze.
Make stock for gravy and refrigerate (or freeze if you are tight on fridge space!).
Pro tip: Chop all the garlic, onion, carrot, celery, shallots, leeks, etc. that you will need for every recipe and place in separate resealable plastic bags. Store in your crisper drawer in the fridge. This step really saves time– as you prepare your recipes for the rest of the week you will scoop out what you need and not have to stop to chop these ingredients.
If you are using the Dear Martini Dry Brine recipe. Start the process tonight.
Double check the roasting guide for how many hours your bird will take to roast. Write yourself a reminder note and post it on fridge so you are already looking ahead to your timing for Thursday.
Don’t forget to turn the bird over in the brining bag if you are using the Dear Martini Dry Brine recipe. If you are picking up your bird today you can do an abbreviated dry brine: follow the instructions for brining without turning the bird.
Shop for produce and forgotten items.
Make cornbread (we love Jiffy) or cut bread for stuffing.
Clean the house and bathrooms.
Pro Tip: Don’t even think about going to the store today! Imagine that all the roads and stores are crammed with zombies (… because, they are). We usually take the day off work and we order take-out for dinner.
Follow brining instructions for Wednesday.
Bake off pies — Pumpkin Pie or Pecan Pie.
Make stuffing and refrigerate. If you are short on oven space, you can make, bake, cool, and refrigerate stuffing today. On Thursday, you take the stuffing out of the refrigerator about 40 minutes before the bird is done (to allow it to come to room temperature) and then reheat it in the oven once the turkey is out. If you have enough oven space that you can bake the stuffing from start to finish on Thursday– don’t worry about baking it today.
Wash and trim salad greens , Brussels sprouts, greens, herbs, and any other vegetables. Wrap in paper towels and place in plastic bags. Refrigerate until needed.
Make any side dishes that can be made in advance. Even if you can’t make the entire dish ahead look for steps you can do today — blanch green beans, seed pomegranates, sauté aromatic vegetables like onions, carrots, garlic, etc.
Set the table.
Place serving dishes and serving utensils out on your sideboard.
Set up coffee and set out coffee cups, dessert plates, and utensils.
Set up wine and beverage station.
Thursday – Thanksgiving!
Pro Tip: Wake up early and have a good breakfast!
Get the turkey in the oven. and follow the roasting instructions for our Roast Turkey.
While the turkey roasts: Prepare side dishes.
While the turkey rests: Make the gravy, assemble the salad, bake or rewarm stuffing and casseroles.
Pro Tip: Show off the turkey on a platter, take your pictures, but carve it in the kitchen.
As soon as turkey has been carved– serve everything immediately.
Have fun! Post your family photos and fabulous food on Dear Martini Facebook page.
After dinner… Dishes can wait, everything else can wait, but leftovers need to be refrigerated IMMEDIATELY following dinner.
You survived! Relax and eat yummy leftovers.
Whew! This list can be a little daunting, but remember you are preparing a feast. Ask for help — don’t be shy about asking your family members for help!