Hey there! Thanksgiving is coming up in a few days, have you decided what you’re going to make? Me either! You & I must be one in the same person- procrastinate until the last minute then chain smoke cigarettes (or down red wine like nobody’s business, whatever your vice is, I’m not judging) while you stress out over what to make.
Are you in charge of the entire dinner? My first bit of advice is to thaw out your bird two days before in the fridge. I made that rookie mistake years ago when I lived in San Francisco & cooked the beast for the first time. I think we ate at 11pm. Don’t do that to your guests.
If you can prep the day before, even better. I’ll normally chop up all the ingredients for the salad the night before, and prep the dressing separately. I’ll buy pre-grated parm if needed, and bagged & washed greens to make my life easier. Don’t be a hero- take shortcuts whenever possible because if you are in charge of everything for the big day, you’re going to be exhausted doing everything else that can’t be prepped beforehand. Same goes for a roasted veg, a pie if you’re in charge of that as well (I would recommend starting your dough today to give it time to rest), a soup could be made the day before if you’re having that as an app, dips can be prepped the day before for your apps, and you can also start on your stuffing the day before too.
I loathe making gravy, my husband does the gravy because by the time I’ve set out apps, cooked the turkey, mashed the potatoes, rewarmed the stuffing and whatever veg I’m serving, set the table, prep the condiments such as cornichons, and pour myself a glass of wine, I’m so exhausted I could give a f**k about the gravy- I’m about to pass out face first into the latticed apple pie. That’s where the husband magically appears and saves the day. If you have someone you can count on to help with the tedious task of gravy, I urge you to do so. ***A hint for thickening the gravy that absolutely Nobody tells you is warm up your water and flour mixture. Because the temp of your thickener will be almost the same temp as the drippings in your pan, the gravy will thicken up quickly. Same goes for the stock you’re going to whisk in.
Here are a few recipes I love making for the holidays:
-Bon Appetit’s Kale & Brussel Sprout Salad is a regular request. The fried almonds really make this salad for me, and can easily double/triple to feed a humongous crowd.
-101Cookbooks Roasted Pumpkin Salad will be a winner-winner-turkey-dinner for your vegetarian and gluten-free guests. I am Obsessed with the cilantro dressing. I add in a clove of garlic and a tablespoon of white balsamic vinegar to my version of this dressing, and throw in roasted broccoli & parsnips to bulk the salad out. I love love love this. It can easily be doubled and tripled.
-I also love Heidi’s Heirloom Apple Salad. The crème fraîche dressing is divine.
-And while you’re still on Ms. Swanson’s wonderful blog, check out her Caramelized Onion Dip. So. Damn. Good.
-I love Food & Wine’s Warm Winter Vegetable Salad. I have doubled and tripled this as well, and you can totally prep it the day before and just rewarm it the next day. Add in the dressing, toasted nuts, and cheese at the last minute.
-Do you know of garlic confit? Elevate your mashed spuds and impress your guests with French cooking techniques.
-Instead of rolls (how predictable…) why don’t you make a loaf or two of brioche instead? If you have a stand mixer and 2 days to spare, meaning start tonight, it’s actually not that hard to make, you just need time. All of that butter will be worth it, trust me.
-Do you just want to say “bucket” to turkey this year and make something else? I love Bon Appetit’s Beef Short Rib Pot Pie. This can feed a small crowd for sure. To make this dish less labour intensive, start your crust today, simmer the meat tomorrow and let it sit overnight in the fridge for the flavours to intensify even more, throw everything into a baking dish and lay your crust on Thanksgiving morning/afternoon, and bake.
-Instead of pecan pie, why not make my favourite little Canadian treats instead? Butter Tarts are the unsung heroes of the dessert world.
-Are all of these suggestions just a bit too ambitious for your needs and/or lack of time? Nigella Lawson has the easiest side dish of Butternut Squash with Pecans & Blue Cheese you can prep the night before. Make as much or as little as you need.
Good luck & happy cooking! And remember, when in doubt, just pour yourself a glass of wine and start delegating.