Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving Timeline

Okay, Katy.  Keep your pants on.  It's going to be okay.  I promise.  We are T minus three days.  Today you should be here:
  • headcount finalized
  • menu finalized
  • cookbook assembled
  • shopping lists completed
  • perhaps initial shopping completed
From here your timeline depends on a couple of variables.  How many ovens do you have?  How many fridges do you have?  I have a double wall oven that I swear was made for Thanksgiving and a refrigerator/freezer in my garage.  In any case, you want to use everything in your arsenal.  That means, in my case, chafing dishes, crock pot, and microwave.

I will make the following items on Wednesday:
  • Mashed potatoes
  • stuffing
  • sweet potatoes
  • stock for gravy
Mashed potatoes.  You've had them left over, right?  It's the same principle.  Make them.  Make them a teensy bit on the wet side.  Chill them completely in the fridge at a depth of no more than 4" partially covered.  When they are completely cool, seal them up.  I like to put plastic wrap directly on the surface to keep them from drying out, but you shouldn't do that when they are still hot.  When you are ready to serve them, microwave them or put them in a slow oven. Or, heat them in the microwave and then put them on warm in your crock pot and serve them out of the crock pot.  This can be done a few hours ahead and it's one less thing to think about.  I'll probably do this, then put stuffing and sweet potatoes in my divided chafing dish.

Stuffing.  I don't stuff my turkey.  I make the stuffing and if, like me, your last step is baking it in the oven, then stop there and put it in the fridge.  Having lots of 9 x 13 pans makes all this much easier.  Again, keep it covered with plastic and make it a teensy bit more moist than you would if you were going to bake it right away.

Sweet potatoes are the same principle as above. 

For the gravy, I've saved backs from chickens for the last month or so in the freezer.  Thaw them out, and make a really rich stock from them using packaged chicken or turkey broth as the base and lots of browned vegetables.  I can do a whole tutorial on this if anyone is interested (but my backs are still thawing).

I do not make rolls from scratch for Thanksgiving.  There is just so much good bread out there, this isn't a time you probably want to hassle with it.  I buy Rhodes frozen roll dough (Texas rolls this year!) and they sit and thaw all day Thursday in their muffin tins out of my way.

One more note.  You need to let the turkey rest for twenty minutes after it comes out of the oven, so you have some time to make sure everything is hot and ready when it comes time to carve.

More questions?  This isn't exhaustive, just the high points.


  1. i don't have those things done. but. i'm hosting on Sat. I do know that my white linen table cloth is too small. I also know that I need to buy wine glasses and aperitif glasses.

    This info is JUST what I needed.

    Question about pies (i know your mom makes them) how do I store them until Thanksgiving? I don't want the crust to get soggy, etc. I had another question, but i can't remember it now. Do you mash potatoes with an electric mixer or a food mill or a manual masher? or neither.

  2. did you see this?

  3. If I didn’t have a tablecloth that fit I would do white butcher paper and leave out crayons or markers for people to draw on the table.

    Pie. I wouldn’t do it more than a day ahead. Depending on the type, you may not need to refrigerate it. I would leave a fruit pie on the counter loosely covered with foil overnight.

    Potatoes. I’ve done it all. In a pinch I’ll use my masher, but the ricer is the best for making them smooth and creamy. It’s essentially a giant garlic press.

  4. Oh my goodness. How can you make stuffing ahead of time and not steal a few bites each day? I make triple the amount of stuffing the day of because I LOVE the leftovers! Carbs don't count on Nov 26 or the 27!