Why didn’t it occur to me I could make most of the Thanksgiving meal ahead of time? There I was, flipping through this month’s Real Simple magazine, when I stumbled across an article about what you can prep or make in advance to make Thanksgiving Day much more relaxed and easier to coordinate.
Imagine, not running around for four straight hours attempting to coordinate an intricate array of dishes… sounds like a plan! Marrying the article and my own menu, here’s what I came up with for a menu, with a few notes about prepping it in advance.
Yes, the hour before I serve will be crazy as I reheat and rest the turkey and bake and carve– but it’s always that way, right?
Bread Machine Rolls: I love this recipe from Money Saving Mom. My hints: increase the sugar a bit, and if the dough doesn’t appear to rise don’t panic– it’ll rise in the oven. Also, this year I plan on brushing with butter before placing in the oven and after they come out, with a little sprinkle of Kosher salt to make them taste even more like Parker House Rolls. Advance prep: make dough in morning and bake right before the meal while turkey is resting– or, make well in advance and freeze, thawing the day before.
Cranberry and Walnut Spring Mix Salad: Don’t let the name fool you, this “spring mix” salad is very fall-like with the addition of apples and dried cranberries. Customize it as you wish, we usually don’t include the oranges. Also, instead of “basting oil” we use EVOO. This salad can be put together day-of because it’s really easy since you are using pre-washed/cut lettuce. Just chop up an apple and throw the rest of it together. Easy!
Cranberry Orange Ginger Sauce: Edited to add on 11/23: I made the recipe today, and for some reason it didn’t work for me. Too much liquid and I wasn’t sure if I should strain out the orange peels and things? It never set up into a sauce, either. I had to throw it away. ;-( I’m made the Alton Brown version but added some finely minced ginger; so far, so good! This is my first time making this particular recipe from Always Order Dessert. Typically I use Alton Brown’s version, and it’s great, but I wanted the taste of ginger this year. Cranberry sauce can be made up to three days ahead, so I’m planning to make it Tuesday.
Stuffing: you know what, I’m just a traditional stuffing girl. I’ve tried many versions, and the Pepperidge Farm mix is my favorite. I’m actually going to chop the celery and onion on Wednesday, so Thursday simply means placing it all together and baking as the turkey rests.
Sweet Potatoes: This year, we’re going with the traditional marshmallow-topped sweet potato casserole (with a cup reserved of nut-free puree for the two allergy untested toddlers in the group). I’m prepping the pureed part the day before, adding marshmallows just before baking alongside the stuffing on Thursday.
Roasted Carrots: Barefoot Contessa’s recipe could not be simpler or more delicious. We’ll cut the carrots and prep other ingredients on Wednesday and will roast on Thursday.
Big Martha’s Mashed Potatoes: My husband has been making this recipe for years, and refuses to make any other version. Must have something to do with the fact Martha filmed the segment with Snoop Dogg and it was incredibly charming. Anywho, he’ll make these on Wednesday and we can warm them on the stovetop (adding milk as needed) just before the meal. Then, cholesterol rising can commence.
Turkey: what, you thought I forgot about the big guy? My biggest hint here is getting a fresh one so there’s no last minute thawing panic (or it is just me that does that thawing-panic thing?) I’ll cut the veggies and bundle the herbs together the day before, so on Thursday I can spend my time preparing it simply with butter/salt/pepper on the outside and herb bundle in the cavity. Add some broth those pre-cut veggies on the bottom of the pan. OH. And bacon. We drape our turkey with bacon. Do it. You won’t regret it!
Dessert: my guests are bringing it all. As much as I love cooking the Thanksgiving meal (and I really, really do), this part thrills me to no end. We’ve got pumpkin pies, pumpkin rolls, apple pies, you name it– a dessert buffet not for the faint of heart.