An Action Plan for Preparing the Thanksgiving Meal
There’s much to do and make and prepare for the Thanksgiving meal—so here’s a guide and action plan I’ve prepared with tips and ideas to minimize the stress for a most enjoyable Thanksgiving week. And, if I’ve forgotten anything, do let me know.
- Braised Turkey w/ Fresh Herbs, Wild Mushrooms & Vegetables, Fresh Herb & Wild Mushroom Bread Stuffing,
- Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Fresh Orange or Lime Juice,
- Triple-Delish Cranberry Sauce,
- Watercress, Belgian Endive & Pear Salad with Goat Cheese, Shallot-Mustard Vinaigrette & Maple-Glazed Walnuts,
- Maple Pumpkin Pie and a
- Whole-Wheat Pie Crust.
* Purchase your turkey now so that if frozen it can be defrosted in time. Do all of your food buying this weekend. Otherwise, early morning Monday or Tuesday is also a good time to shop to avoid major crowds.
* Divvy out assignments to friends and family so that everyone gets to participate in the meal.
- Make the cranberry sauce.
- Ditto for the pie crust. Even roll it out and place the crust(s), wrapped in plastic wrap, in either the freezer or fridge until you are ready to bake them Thursday a.m.
- Cut up your bread for stuffing.
- Create a timeline for Thursday that includes all the items you will be serving from appetizers to dessert and the time they each will need to be put into what temperature oven; or what time to put up the water on the stove (i.e. for cooking potatoes for mashing). Do this now while you are still thinking clearly.
- Especially include the actual time the turkey will need to go into a preheated oven to be cooked, carved, plated and served when you want to sit down.
- Include a Thursday morning starting time that will allow you to get everything done and still have a few minutes to take a walk, relax, clean up and get dressed before your guests are scheduled to arrive. (Wouldn’t that be nice?)
- Cut the turkey up into its parts and salt it according to the Braised Turkey recipe.
- Prepare your turkey stock after you have cut up your turkey. When you do it in advance you have time to refrigerate it so that it is very easy to skim off any fat that rises to the top. Make a place in your refrigerator to keep it cold.
- Prep all of the vegetables you will need for the turkey and stuffing and any other dishes you are serving.
- Package and label everything with the amount and for which recipe.
- Take out the serving platters, bowls and dishes you will use for each menu item and think about how/where you will display the food.
- Prepare your stuffing and put it into oven-proof dishes for baking on Thursday. (This could also be done on Wednesday).
Wednesday a most important day
- Sear the turkey parts and cook the veggies. Place all in the pan according to the recipe and cover well.
- Prepare the sweet potato puree and place it in an oven-proof dish for baking. Cover and refrigerate it.
- Now’s also a good time to mix up your pumpkin pie filling.
- Wash your salad greens and dry them in a salad spinner. Store them in a plastic bag with a towel to soak up any extra moisture
- Make the salad dressing.
- Prepare any part of your hors d’ouevres that you can.
- If possible, set up both your dining room table and your buffet tonight.
- Chill beverages as needed.
Thanksgiving Day—wake up early and thankful that your kitchen is clean and you are organized and ready to enjoy the day.
- Take out your timeline and tape it to a cupboard at eye-level.
- Refer to it often, checking off completed items and adjusting timing as necessary.
- This is a good place to write down the time items go into the oven and when to check on them (so you don’t have to keep this info in your head).
- Start baking your pies first thing. Remove the filling from the fridge at the same time you take out the crusts. (If the crust has been frozen, it does not need to thaw before prebaking.)
- Eat breakfast as it may be your only meal until dinner.
- Wash and cut up any other vegetable you are serving with your meal, i.e., green beans, broccoli, leafy greens.
- Be sure to remove the stuffing, sweet potatoes, turkey and turkey breasts from the refrigerator at least15 to 30 minutes in advance of putting them into the oven.
- Make the gravy.
- Finish your hors d’oeuvres
- Prep any salad ingredients.
- Have some items that your guests can help you with, as most people want to participate
- Put cranberry sauce in a bowl; gravy in a boat.
- Put out serving utensils
- Toss or compose the salad
- Slice the turkey
- Light candles