Thanksgiving Cook-Along: The Menu and The Plan

Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday. There are no gifts to wrap, nearly everyone can celebrate it regardless of religion and it revolves around food. Plus, taking time to be thankful for our journey in this world is a just lovely idea. So, I am campaigning to make Thanksgiving your favorite holiday too.

Make no mistake, I LOVE to cook. But it is one thing to dally about the kitchen all afternoon and quite another to turn out a large meal for guests, have it all ready at the same time and also be able to mingle freely, cocktail in hand. If you are able to do so, then well, you are truly a master of your kitchen domain.

When I go home for Thanksgiving I expect the same spread I’ve been eating for the past 43 years, and that’s what I’ll get. The table will be crammed and the men will complain about the Lions before falling asleep in front of the tv. But I always cook another meal at home too, and I do whatever I want. This year I’ve put together a lighter menu that emphasizes the traditional components but treats them in unexpected ways.

You could cook this for a family but it’s completely set up for guests. In my experience if you invite guests you can always count on two things: 1) they will ask what they can bring (mixed green salad or dinner rolls) and 2) they will want to be close the kitchen while you are cooking so it’s good to minimize the heavy lifting.

The Menu

Amuse/First Course: Roasted Squash Soup (Nov. 2) with Fresh Cranberry Toasts (Nov. 6)

You can serve this either as a walking appetizer or put it in bowls for a seated first course.

Main Course: Roast Turkey (Nov. 10), Asiago Whipped Potatoes (Nov. 8), Sage Dressing (Nov. 11) with Gravy (Nov. 10)

Wine: Beaujolais Nouveau

Dessert: Pumpkin Piettes with Cream and Caramel (Nov. 15)

The Plan

Two weeks ahead: Order a fresh turkey for pickup two days before the dinner
One week ahead: Buy day old bread from a good bakery, chop and leave out to dry
Three days ahead: Soup, cranberry bread
Two days ahead: Dry stuffing bread
One day ahead: Desserts, mix dry stuffing, brine turkey; make gravy; get out platters and table settings

Day of the dinner: Roast turkey, do potatoes, cook dressing, stabilize cream, caramel

  • Seven hours before dinner: Put turkey in brine
  • Five hours before dinner: Put turkey in oven (this depends on the size of the bird)
  • Three hours before dinner: Do potatoes, hold in crock pot or chafing dish; soup, hold in crock pot or chafing dish
  • Two hours before dinner: Stabilize cream, refrigerate; do caramel cages
  • One hour before dinner: Add stuffing to oven, warm gravy
  • When guests arrive: Assemble appetizers, pass with wine; pull turkey from the oven and let rest 25 minutes
  • Plate turkey, potatoes, stuffing and gravy; clear
  • Plate desserts

So, now that you know the plan we’ll be going through the recipes step-by-step, to finish Nov. 17 – well ahead of the holiday. Let’s get started!

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