Each year I host Thanksgiving dinner for usually 8 – 10 guests. Since I have a somewhat small kitchen and limited oven space I try to do as much food prep the days leading up to the holiday. I do this to make the day of easier for myself….even though I am hosting I still want to be able to enjoy the holiday. The first thing I do is put together a menu – this allows me to know what I am shopping for and allow me to put my timeline together.
Turkey, of course!
Pumpkin Pie (bought)
Now that the menu is set I next put together my plan of attack on what I can prep ahead of time when I will do what.
Today, or rather tonight, I make my pie dough for my pies that I will bake tomorrow. I use a pie crust recipe that I got from a pie making class that I attended. It’s an easy recipe and a delicious crust! The dough has to chill so it is perfect to make ahead of time, you can actually make the dough up to 2 months in advance and freeze. You will just have to pull it out and thaw it a day or so before you bake it. The recipe I use makes enough dough for 2 pie crusts so if you are only in need of 1 pie crust its perfect that you can freeze the 2 one.
Today I am baking two of pies. The majority of the pies are bakery purchased, but when I went to my pie making class and had the oatmeal cookie pie I immediately thought ‘This is the perfect pie for Thanksgiving!’. So, here I am trying to recreate that delicious pie on my own in addition to a cranberry pie that I found on Pinterest. I want to get the pies done early enough in the day to cool and leave the day for other things like straightening up the house and setting the table.
I also take the opportunity to measure out the dry ingredients for anything that I am making the following day. In this case, I measure out my ingredients for my spoon bread, and chop up the onion and celery for my soup.
The day before the big day is when the majority of my prep will be done. The first thing I do is put the soup on. My grandfather started making turkey soup, the recipe was passed down to my mom (well, dad since he is the one who really made it) and now me. The soup is started as you would most soups – celery and onion chicken broth along with turkey wings, poultry seasoning and tomato sauce. The soup cooks for a few hours on the stove top so that I am move on with the prep. Before storing the soup the meat is stripped off the wings and the fatty portions of the wings are removed. The soup will be finished the next day.
Next I make my spoon bread. If you’ve never heard of spoon bread, it is a corn bread taste in a custard like mouth feel. I grew up having spoon bread on our visits to Williamsburg, VA eating at Christana Campbell where this side dish is served with every meal. I enjoy it so much that I decided to start serving it as a side dish. In previous years I made this from a mix that was purchased in the Williamsburg gift shop, but a few years ago they stopped selling the mix online so I purchased the Colonial Williamsburg cookbook. Now I use Christana Campbell’s recipe from the cookbook. I bake this to where it is almost done since I will be reheating the following day and don’t want it to dry out during the reheating process. Getting this done early in the day allows the oven to be free.
While the spoon bread is in the oven I put together my cheese plate. This is a newer addition to my appetizer spread. I’m a cheese lover and while at Trader Joe’s shopping for the holiday I found some cheeses I wanted to try and found a Spanish meat trio that has jamon which reminds me of my travels to Spain. From these finds, a cheese platter was born! I usually include a sharp, a swiss, havarti, a blue cheese, a provolone, a brie and marinated mozzarella balls. In addition to the jamon, chorizo, and salchicon I put prosciutto, salami, mortadella, and pepperoni. I top off the platter with roasted read peppers and grapes.
Next I move on to making mashed potatoes – yes, I make my mashed potatoes the day before. Why? This allows me to have more time the day of the holiday out of the kitchen and have a hot side dish on the dinner table. I make my mashed potatoes as I normally do.
Now that the spoon bread is done and the oven is free I made roasted brussel sprouts. I keep it pretty simple with the sprouts – bacon, a little olive oil, salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar. Again, I roast until they almost completely finished.
The final thing I prep is the stuffing. The recipe is my mom’s which tastes better if it sits overnight so it is best to be made ahead. It’s a fairly easy recipe that is made from pre-cubed bread, egg, melted butter, celery, onion, marjom, thyme, and poultry seasoning.
The big day has arrived….the first thing that is done today is the turkey in the oven. I start the turkey off on a high temperature covered with a paper bag sprayed with olive oil. After an hour the temperature is reduced, the turkey is basted, and the paper bag remains on. The basting continues through out the cooking process. Next, the soup is put back on the stove top to reheat. Before serving rice is added
I will then put the mashed potatoes that I made the day before in the slow cooker to reheat. I put it on high to start, with a little milk and some butter. Once the potatoes are warmed through I will turn the slow cooker down to low and let it sit in there until I am ready to serve. I will check it periodically through the day to see if any additional liquid is needed.
I utilize slow cookers in several ways on Thanksgiving Day. I make the steamer microwave vegetables then pop them into this triple slow cooker. I will also put the brussels sprouts that I made the day before in here to heat up. I will add a bit of vegetable stock to ensure the vegetables don’t dry out. And the final slow cooker that gets going on Thanksgiving is a broccoli and cauliflower gratin.
Once the turkey is done cooking and resting, I pop the spoon bread and stuffing in the oven to heat. While that is heating I make the gravy from the pain drippings then bake the biscuits.
Utilizing slow cookers helps to ensure that the vegetable and mashed potatoes are put on table hot at the same time and helps with my stress the day of!