Are you hosting Thanksgiving this year? Are you so stressed over cooking a whole turkey and trying to live up to Mom’s recipes? Take a deep breathe and suck it up. Thanksgiving is not hard. Intimidating? Maybe. But with the proper preparation and guidance, Turkey Day can be enjoyable and delicious. Follow these steps and you’ll be passed out, happily stuffed by halftime of the Cowboys game.
1) Know Your Limitations, Have Realistic Expectations
Right off the bat, how many people are you cooking for and do you have the tools to execute? Always make more food than you think you’ll need (leftovers are the best part) and they they make tin foil everything nowadays so just buy a couple pans to be safe. Now, are your guests foodies or do they want Stove Top stuffing? Either way, who cares? You’re cooking and they’re guests. Cook what you want. Cheat on the cranberry sauce, but make your own gravy from the pan drippings. Know that everything will be fine. Nobody is Julia Child. Follow your recipes and leave the family drama at the door.
2) Shop Early
Hopefully, you’ve already made your shopping list and made it to the grocery store once, if not twice. If not, well, you’ll be fine, but you’ll be fighting over that last box of Bell’s Turkey Seasoning and waiting in checkout lines for a while. Point is, by shopping early you can avoid the traffic and crowds that easily heighten stress levels.
3) Brine Your Turkey
The single biggest tip I can give anyone undertaking Thanksgiving Dinner is to brine your turkey for 24 hours before putting it in the oven. I use Martha Stewart’s recipe. Hasn’t failed me yet.
Get plenty of sleep on Wednesday and wake up ready to work on the big day. The turkey will go in first, but then go down your check list: peel potatoes, cut squash, baste turkey, bake stuffing. Put on some music and focus. Everything should be done about fourty-five minutes before you’d like to sit down. Give the turkey plenty of time to rest before carving. Set the over to 200 degrees to keep things warm if needed. Take a shower. Have a drink. Put on a smile when the doorbell rings.
5) Balance Your Sides
Mashed potatoes, stuffing, butternut squash–all staples. But don’t be afraid to balance the rich, heavy side dishes with a light spinach salad, sauteed green beans (instead of casserole), or a homemade, tart cranberry sauce.
Don’t try to do everything. No one’s giving you a medal at the end of the day. Arrange for someone to bring dessert or the wine. If you insist on cooking everything, assign jobs once guests arrive. Parents greet, siblings set the table, kids clear dishes.
7) Pair Beverages
I love pairing season beers with Thanksgiving dinner. It’s fun, a conversation piece and makes the toast a lot easier. Go with something dark, but not heavy. I recommend Southern Tier Pumpking or Mayflower’s Thanksgiving Ale.
8) Give Thanks Now, Clean Later
Dirty dishes can wait until Friday. Put away the leftovers then go hang out with your family or whoever you ate with. Reflect on the year. Drink. Watch football. Then pass out.