I can hardly believe it but it’s 2 weeks to Thanksgiving! And I don’t know if you saw my article in the Asbury Park Press about Thanksgiving ,but now is the perfect time to to start planning your day. If you are hosting or a guest; there are many steps you can take ahead of time to have a successful and less stressful day. This list is in two parts: hosting v. being a guest. Being a mindful guest will add to your experience and helps out the hosts – because let’s face it, the hosts are amazing for having the Thanksgiving Dinner at their house!
Hostess with the Mostest:
- Make lists. You all know that I love lists. Get a game plan. Even if they are all just tentative ideas; write out the menu, the guest lists, a work plan/timeline. If you know that your beloved Aunt Janet always makes the mashed potatoes, welcome that offering. Seeing a plan in black and white makes it much easier to take reasonable steps to get things done.
- Tradition! When devising a menu, remember, Thanksgiving is a traditional dinner. As a chef, it is very challenging for me to not play around with classics. I have learned the hard way that people (yes, I hear you Uncle Mike) do not want you to “tweak” their classic stuffing, mashed potatoes or pumpkin pie. Trust me on this one, if you want to make pumpkin whoopie pies (so delish), make a traditional pumpkin pie too.
- A stitch in time… Do what you can beforehand. Pie doughs, pies and certain casseroles can all be made beforehand and frozen for up to one month. Sharpen your knives, set your table 2 to 3 days beforehand. There are many actions you can take to ensure your day is less hectic.
- Space Odyssey- how much space do you really have in your kitchen and your oven? Be realistic about what you can achieve in the space that you have. Hot plates and microwave ovens might also need to come into play here. Write it out on your list, where everything will go and a timeline.
- Let’s talk turkey – I have several points to make here. One, if you are using a supermarket bird, plan accordingly, those gobblers are frozen solid and take a LONG time to thaw. If you are using a heritage breed bird , please note that these birds may cook more quickly as they are leaner and not “enhanced”/injected with solutions. Invest in a thermometer. Also, this may sound crazy, but also super fun to say – “spatchcocking” your bird is a GREAT way to cook a turkey. It’s delicious, the bird cooks evenly and quickly with this method. It’s great for freeing up the oven, as it takes less than two hours to cook. Just have a butcher take out the backbone and you’re on your way.
Be a good guest
- Bringing an item to the host? Let’s make sure that it travels well. As a caterer, I know that some foods travel more easily than others. Gravy is tough to travel with. Stuffing is a bit easier because it’s more stable. Make sure you find the appropriate traveling carrier for your dish because that makes the transport so much easier. ()
- Consider the hosts’ kitchen and be a good listener. See #4 above. If your host really wants you to bring something, listen. The dish might not be super exciting, but making something that the host asks you to really helps in the menu planning.
- Bring good wine. Any host will appreciate a good glass of wine. Enough said.
- If you have picky eaters in your brood, bring something for them to eat that doesn’t require heat. The hostess may not have room in her oven to heat up chicken nuggets. I would normally say that the young guest should eat what’s on the table, but, cranky, hungry toddlers make it tough for a relaxing time on this long day.
- Help with clean-up! Offering to help the host and hostess tidy up after a long day of cooking is really one of the best things that you can do. I know I just love it when someone else is doing the dishes!
Please share this helpful guide!