Make Ready – Thanksgiving is Coming!

Okay folks, it’s one week until the Big Feast. Where are you with your pre-holiday preparations? I’ve got the lists all made and ready to go. Three lists are key to getting your big dinner on the table without a hitch – the menu, the shopping list and your prep outline. Here are mine for this year – not so simple that I’ll be bored getting it together, but not so complicated (as in previous years) that I won’t be able to pull it off with a baby on the scene.

The Menu

Roasted turkey (still trying to convince husband we should also apple smoke it)

Honey glazed ham

Mashed potatoes

Bread stuffing (with white and rye breads)

Stuffed sweet potatoes

Braised greens (whatever’s on sale – Swiss chard, kale, collards…)

Home made cranberry sauce

Turkey gravy

Pumpkin crescent rolls

Pumpkin pie

Chocolate icebox pie

Shopping List

12-15 pound turkey

8-10 pound ham

5 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes

celery

carrots

onions

chicken stock

4 sweet potatoes

3 large bunches greens

cranberries

flour

sugar

eggs

soymilk

mini marshmallows

Prep Itinerary

Monday – Bake white bread and rye bread for stuffing.

Tuesday – Parbake and freeze crescent rolls; make chocolate pie; make cranberry sauce.

Wednesday – Bake pumpkin pie; prep all veggies and keep in fridge.

Thanksgiving – Get turkey and ham in oven by 9:00; cook bread stuffing in crockpot; cook mashed potatoes; bake sweet potatoes; braise greens; finish baking rolls.

 

Of course the Thanksgiving work list needs expanding and refining. I like to have times listed out so I know when to start each item so that everything is ready to eat at the same time. It takes a little maneuvering. That’s why I’ve decided to sacrifice the crisp crust on the bread stuffing this year and do it in the crockpot. I can just set it and forget it. Actually, I suppose I could throw it under the broiler for a few minutes if I’m so inclined, but personally I like a softer stuffing anyhow. So we’ll see. And juggling the turkey and ham in the oven will be tricky. Another pro to apple smoking it, as it can be done on the grill. But if we go that route, I’ll have to take the turkey down into pieces so it will fit on our grill. Not a big deal, since we don’t make a big thing of presenting the whole bird at the table anyway. But if we don’t smoke it, I may have to cook the ham through on Wednesday night so I can just heat it up on Thursday when the turkey is out and resting. So, I’ve got the master plan all set to go but we’ve still got some planning to do in the next week. And we’ve got to do the grocery shopping this weekend for sure!

Turkey Troubles

The last few years, I haven’t always had a turkey on the table – there are so many feast worthy foods out there, I just can’t help but try something new. This year I’m doing a double whammy and not serving turkey or pie – two of the dishes that most people couldn’t live without on the Thanksgiving table.

Perhaps I like to try new things because of disasters past? Turkeys don’t scare me on principle, and I’ve made quite a few that turned out perfectly golden brown, moist and delicious. But then there were a few that didn’t quite live up to the Thanksgiving standard. There was the turkey breast one year that was a lovely chestnut brown, but was so dry that we thought we were eating paper shreds. Then another year, we had a lovely whole bird that looked and smelled amazing – until we started carving the breast meat only to realize it was woefully underdone. Right at the moment that our guests were arriving. Thinking quick on my feet, I shoved the whole platter into the microwave and was surreptitiously pulling it out just as everyone was walking in the door.

And the pies. Pumpkin pie is standard on nearly every Thanksgiving table. One year we had the perfect pumpkin pie. Until I was pulling it out of the oven at the end of the meal with everyone anticipating how delicious it would be, and then promptly dropping it on the floor. The glass pie plate shattered and everyone just stared in stunned silence. Or the year that I managed to get the thing out of the oven and sliced, only to realize that I forgot one crucial ingredient – the sugar. It was so awful even courtesy bites were abandoned.

All disasters aside, I don’t really think that’s why I’ve more or less abandoned the turkey, or the pumpkin pie. There is just so much out there! Crown racks of lamb, pork rib roasts studded with cloves, whole smoked pheasants. Then there are the quick breads, the pastries, the parfaits. There is just far too much to choose from; why settle for turkey and pumpkin pie every time?