Talking to a friend of mine today, made me realize, that I should share some of my ideas for creating a successful traditional Thanksgiving dinner in an article.
To take the sting out of the overwhelming arrangements for a grande family Thanksgiving get together, I’ve come up with a fool-proof plan for a successful Thanksgiving dinner. My plan is to ensure there is fun in the entire process for all, but particularly for me, who’s doing all the prep and the this and the that. The secret is: start early! That is: start NOw!
My Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner – Planning Schedule
First week of November
I flip some magazines at the checkout stand to get some visuals, I browse through my favorite cookbooks for recipes & ideas, and I research recipes online. Then, I choose my menu. Weeks ahead. These days I love picking an upscale restaurant and I try to choose the entire meal (nibbles and all) from their recipe books.
Determine how many people will be coming to your Thanksgiving dinner party. The closer you can get to the exact number, the better. It is a good idea to call and confirm regulars, but also if new girl friends will come along, and that sort of thing.
Make a shopping list right away and keep it in your wallet so you can pick non-perishable items up, during your regular shopping routine. Particularly if you need specialty items from those ‘at the other side of town’-kinda places. Cross off what you have bought. Store your Thanksgiving dinner items in a special (marked) section in your pantry, so that everyone knows it’s ‘hands off’ and so that you can easily find them when the day comes.
Second week of November
Now is the time to order, if you want to have a fresh one.
Talking about ordering, I have a huge garden which I like to bring inside in the festive season. However, some of my friends want fresh flower arrangements for Thanksgiving. If that’s you, order your floral centerpiece and other arrangements now so that there is no panic at the florist later.
Third & fourth weeks of November
Buy your frozen turkey. If you leave it till the last minute, you may find that they are all the wrong weight (too small, too large). Also, you typically need about 3-4 days to thaw the turkey in the fridge. Give yourself the good part of a week, and you’re fine.
One week before Thanksgiving
Buy the remainder of the non-perishable items on your list, and a bread for the turkey stuffing. Cube the bread and dry on a baking sheet. If you are baking pies and pastries, now is the time to prepare the dough for your desert and other recipes, and keep them ready in the freezer.
Three – four days before Thanksgiving
Put your defrosting frozen turkey towards the back (i.e. the coldest) part of your fridge. Prepare your cranberry sauce and store in the fridge to let the flavors set.
Prepare your entire table setting. Get your nice cloth table cloths and napkins washed, ironed and ready.
The day before Thanksgiving
Pick up your floral arrangements or ensure they are delivered. Do all your fresh food grocery shopping: a fresh turkey (if ordered, or perhaps at the market), fresh breads, diary, seafood, etc.
Given the size of your turkey and the nature of your recipe, now is the time to work out the exact time required for the turkey to cook in the oven. Allow an additional 30 minutes at the end. Calculate backwards from the time you would like to have dinner, and determine the time the turkey needs to go in the oven.
Defrost your pie dough, prepare and bake your pies.
It’s finally time to prepare the stuffing (omitting any raw eggs till the very last minute). Make stock for the gravy from the giblets that come with the bird.
Wash and prepare all vegetable and other side dishes, so that it is very easy to either reheat of finish them off tomorrow.
Pre-peeled potatoes won’t turn black if you refrigerate them in cold water.
Thanksgiving day – early morning
Set the table for the dinner and chill your white wine.
Take the turkey from the fridge to bring it to room temperature (which may take 2 hours).
Thanksgiving day – late morning
Just before you will put the turkey in the oven, complete your stuffing recipe and stuff the bird.
When you are doing the stuffing, preheat the oven.
Put the turkey in the over and bast it every 30 minutes.
Thanksgiving day – early afternoon
Do more prep work, such as boiling the potatoes and mashing them. You can heat them up just before dinner time. Grind the coffee, and set the coffee maker. Do not make the coffee until just before serving.
Prepare garnishes for all your separate dishes.
Thanksgiving day – late afternoon
Remove the turkey from the oven when it has an internal temperature of 180 degrees. About 30 minutes before your calculated time for the turkey to be ready, start checking the internal temperature at the thickest part of the turkey, which is the thigh. If it is not yet done, check back every 15 minutes.
When you remove the turkey from the oven, it needs to rest for about 30 minutes. Use this half hour to round up the gathering to start getting ready for dinner and move to the table. Get a helper for serving. Instruct someone else to pour the drinks. Make the gravy and complete all your vegetable and other side dishes. Garnish and serve.
Happy Thanksgiving Dinner!