The Only Thanksgiving Dinner Planning Guide You’ll Ever Need
Whether your family hosts a celebration worthy of a Norman Rockwell painting, or you spend the day stuffing yourselves, basking in the glow of the television, one thing is for certain: Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season! AND…it can strike fear in the hearts of even the most prepared hosts! No matter if this is your first year hosting Thanksgiving, or your fiftieth year, there are some proven techniques that make pulling everything together a little easier. Remember: The goal is not to create the “perfect” dinner, but rather a dinner that is unhurried and memorable. Following these steps will give you the opportunity to drink your glass of wine slowly, savor the flavors of your meal and take the time to really reflect on all that you’re thankful for.
1) Who’s who? Oftentimes securing an RSVP is kind of like asking for a kidney, but it is important to twist a few arms in an effort to get an accurate headcount for dinner. If you’re prepared for Thanksgiving, it is possible to avoid stress (until your mother-in-law knocks on the door).
2) Plan your menu and create a shopping list. Sure, it’s a no-brainer that Turkey will take center stage, but writing down your menu will allow you to better visualize what will be needed to prepare the meal. Put together a list of ingredients that you will need to pick up at the grocery store. Canned, jarred and frozen foods can be picked up in advance, while fresh ingredients will need to be procured closer to Thanksgiving.
3) Prepare all of the food you can in advance. Bread crumbs can be dried and bagged, cranberry sauce, pie crusts and rolls can be made and frozen, and chicken stock can be brewed and refrigerated – freeing up much needed time on the big day.
4) Clean your kitchen. There’s nothing more frustrating than having to rewash dishes that only come out once a year, clean an oven, or work on top of cluttered countertops while you have a dozen other things on your “to-do” list. Not only will cleaning the kitchen in advance ready it for company, but it will also make preparing dinner much more efficient.
5) Think of the children! Bringing food from the kitchen to the dining room when everyone is hungry, with children running amuck, can be intensely frustrating for the server. Keep the little ones occupied and seated (and from tripping you up en route to the table) by making the kid table a place of endless (or whatever can buy you fifteen minutes) entertainment. Instead of laying down a tablecloth, use butcher paper to cover the table. At each place setting, fill a Thanksgiving-themed cup with crayons and encourage the children to color while they wait for their meal. Even simple crafts (that don’t require much clean up), a Thanksgiving cartoon (played on a nearby laptop or tablet), a dancing Turkey centerpiece or individual activity books can help keep everyone in their places.
6) Stock the bar. I understand that Thanksgiving is a “food holiday”, but cocktails make the season merry and bright – mostly because a tipsy “Mommy Dearest” is often less naggy about your store-bought gravy. Just the essentials are fine (beer + football). If you want to add a little flair in this department, you can try a signature cocktail, such as: Cranberry Collins (I’m a sucker for cranberries)
*1/2 ounce Cranberry Juice
*1 ounce Gin
*Juice from a small lime
*Dried Cranberries and limes for garnish, optional
Stir together the cranberry juice, gin and lime juice in a highball glass with ice. Top off the cocktail with club soda and garnish with dried cranberries (which plump up and look pretty) and a lime wedge. For the kiddos, you can leave out the gin and make it a refreshing cranberry cooler!
7) Forks for the feast! So the numbers are in, but you don’t have service for 25 guests? Get extra cups, plates, forks and knives to supplement your china collection, OR do what I do: Buy disposable cups, plates, forks and knives. Gone are the days of flimsy paper plates and cheapie utensils! For a picture-perfect table-scape, check out our Glimmerware collection. Just use it one Thanksgiving – I guarantee that you’ll never look back. Your guests won’t give it a second thought, and clean-up is a BREEZE!
8) Lay out the goods. The night before Thanksgiving, bring out all of the ingredients you need from the pantry and place them on a counter or table inside the kitchen. “What’s that Auntie Arlene? OF COURSE, you can help! Hand me that can of chicken broth from the table.” – instead of – “Oh sure…you can help…um…can you get me the chicken broth? It’s in the pantry…no the top shelf on the right…no below the rice…hold on, I’ll be right there.”
9) “I’d LOVE it if you’d bring your famous…” Always allow your guests to bring a dish to pass if they wish. So maybe you’re not super fond of marshmallow fluff, but not only will their “specialties” keep you from working so hard in the kitchen, it’s also a nice way to incorporate other families’ Thanksgiving traditions into the mix.
10) Let’s talk turkey! Here are the basics: Make sure that your bird has time to unthaw COMPLETELY and IN THE REFRIGERATOR (no one wants to take home the results of salmonella poisoning). Using a turkey cooking time configurator (Butterball does a nice job with this), figure out how long your gobbler will have to spend in the oven. Once your turkey has reached an internal temp of 165 degrees (Fahrenheit), it’s time to bring it out of the heat and let it sit before it is carved (redistributes the juices). While your bird lays-in-waiting, pop those rolls in the oven. Those who volunteered to help earlier can now help you take the feast to the table.
There you have it – Thanksgiving made simple. Now all you have to do is sip a little Cranberry Collins, ravage through the Black Friday ads and spend time with the family you don’t often get to see.
What are some of your Thanksgiving Feast preparation tips?
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November 14, 2012 Wednesday at 10:55 am