Yes, it’s that time of year already! This year seemed to fly by! I guess the older you get, the faster time goes. A lot of people get really stressed this time of year, especially if they are doing the BIG DINNER. Relax! With a little preparation (and a few tricks), you can have a stress-free Thanksgiving. Besides, your guests are friends and family. If something goes wrong, I’m sure they will be forgiving.
First, get yourself a legal pad. In the first column, list all the dishes— including appetizers. Next, list any times or special instructions like “Stuffing goes in the oven at ‘x’ time— one hour before dinner.” Or “Turkey goes in at noon for 4 o’clock dinner!”. On the right half of the paper, write your shopping list. Creating the list this way cuts down on missing items! Also include when items need to be in the house. Make sure there is enough time for the turkey to thaw. Get all the staples early and purchase perishables 3 days ahead of time. I have a master list I keep on my computer. This way, I can make changes easily— although we usually have a similar menu every year.
Look over your menu. There are many items that can be made ahead of time. Stuffing, appetizers, pies, casseroles, and all your vegetable prep can be done one or even two days ahead. Even that perennial green bean casserole can be done the day before; just add the final onion topping on before baking. While the turkey rests, bake the green bean casserole and the stuffing. Roast the brussels sprouts you halved and cleaned Wednesday or Thursday morning. Toss with EVOO and garlic and roast at 400 degrees till crisp tender. Warm in the microwave before serving. Use that microwave, it’s invaluable this time of year! Prep all the rest of your vegetables like crudité.
Use your neighborhood grocery store as a shortcut too! All major chains cater for the holidays. While I still want to make my own recipes, you can find some good choices like veggie and appetizer trays. I always buy my dinner rolls at the store bakery! They are delicious and you can warm them in your trusty microwave. Take advantage of people asking to bring something and have them bring a favorite appetizer or dessert. I often do this as it makes it easier when planning the day to have items taken care of.
Gather all your cutlery, dishes, pans, serving pieces, and linen by Monday at the latest. It’s better to know before Thursday that you need more large bowls for serving. I am also a fan of disposable aluminum. Just make sure to properly support anything heavy. Set the table one, two, or even three days ahead. Cover with a clean sheet to keep clean and dust free.
So, the key word is PLAN. Things will go smoothly when you follow your master plan. It will even give you time to enjoy your guests. Again, accept offers of help! Assign someone to bartend; have someone else wash dishes as you are cooking. And most of all RELAX!
KATHLEEN WEAVER-ZECH & DEAN’S TEAM CHICAGO