When you’re the primary cook in your kitchen, you know there’s lots of prep work leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday. First, there’s the “getting organized” work. Here’s a brief recap of those tasks:
==U The Week of:==
Clean out your fridge to make room for extra food
Shop for healthy snacks and fresh produce
Clean mantels, windowsills, other needy places
Rinse plates, flatware and platters
Tag serving dishes with sticky-notes as assigned
==U The Day Before:==
Freshen furniture, dog beds, etc
Shop for fresh flowers
==U The Day Of:==
Set out floral arrangements
Give floors a quick clean
Welcome the ones you love with comfort baskets
Breathe and smile!
Then, there are the “day before” and “day of” tasks. Try out these two lists and see what’s relevant for your cooking plans:
==B Suggested To-do’s for Wednesday:==
• If you haven’t already done so, buy the rest of your holiday ingredients, including any perishable items. Before heading out, take the time to compare your recipes with your shopping list to make sure you've accounted for everything--this should help you avoid last-minute runs to the market.
• Move the turkey stock from the freezer to the fridge to defrost overnight.
• Defrost pie crusts: Leave the disks of dough on the counter for a couple of hours until they're nice and pliable, then refrigerate until you're ready to roll them out.
• Assemble and bake pies: store them at room temperature (unless they're custard-based, such as pumpkin pie, which should be refrigerated).
• Prep any hors d'oeuvres that can be made ahead.
• Cook soups, then cool and refrigerate.
• Prepare mashed or roasted root veggies such as sweet potatoes, turnips, rutabagas, parsnips, celery root, carrots, and beets. Refrigerate. If you have a microwave, add mashed potatoes to this list, but if not, they're better prepared on Thanksgiving Day as they tend to get gluey when reheated on the stove.
• Make any other sides that will reheat well, including candied yams, casseroles, or creamed onions. (Hold Brussels sprouts and green beans for Thursday.)
• Prep any garnishes or toppings, such as toasted nuts or grated cheese, for the recipes you'll make on Thursday.
• Clean and dry salad greens and store them in re-sealable plastic bags with a paper towel tucked inside.
• Prep ingredients for stuffing: If you're stuffing the turkey, the stuffing itself must be assembled at the last minute to avoid bacterial growth. But the day before, you can cut the bread cubes and toast them to dry them out (if you're making corn bread stuffing, you'll first need to bake the bread) and you can dice and sauté the veggies.
• Ready the house: Move furniture if necessary, set the table, and arrange flowers.
• Get out all serving platters and bowls and label each with a sticky note that says what goes in it. Place the necessary serving utensils alongside. Trust us: During the Thanksgiving Day rush, this will save your sanity! Plus it'll make it easier for other people to help you organize everything on the table.
• If you're brining the turkey, prep it and leave it in the brine overnight.
==B Suggested To-do’s for Thursday:==
==U Early Morning:==
• Start the turkey: Preheat the oven. If you're stuffing your bird, assemble the stuffing and fill the cavity. Do any other prep work your recipe calls for (such as massaging the turkey with butter) and load it into the oven. Set a timer to remind you to baste or check the temperature. (Consult your recipe for specifics, and for lots more information on roasting a turkey, see our Turkey Primer.)
• If you already made bread or rolls and froze them, take them out of the freezer and leave them in their bag on the counter to defrost.
• Chill any white wine, beer or punch. Set up the bar for any other drinks you're serving.
==U Late Morning:==
• Make salad dressing; prep any ingredients for the salad. Refrigerate cut veggies until you're ready to serve them.
• Prep ingredients for any dishes e.g. toasts or veggies for dip. If perishable, refrigerate until ready to serve.
• Prep casseroles or baked items such as dressing. If possible, bake them alongside the turkey during the last hour or two of roasting. Or, if necessary, pop them into the oven as soon as the turkey comes out.
• If you didn't make them yesterday, prepare the mashed potatoes. Keep warm in a pot on the stove.
• Prepare any items that are cooked on top of the stove, such as sautéed or steamed veggies. If possible, cook to slightly less than done, then cover and keep warm.
• Just before guests are due to arrive, assemble hors d'oeuvres and set them out.
• If you haven't already done so, designate someone to take guests' coats and offer them drinks so you can finish cooking.
==U 30-60 Minutes Before Dinner:==
• When the turkey is done, transfer it to a platter and let it rest while you do the last-minute tasks. It has to rest at least half an hour for the juices to redistribute, and depending on size, it'll stay warm for at least 45 minutes. If you need longer than that, tent the turkey loosely with foil to keep it warm.
• Make the gravy.
• Reheat everything that's been made ahead, either in the oven, on the stove, or in the microwave. Then transfer to serving platters or bowls and cover with foil. If you've labeled your serving trays, it'll be easy to know where everything goes.
• Pop the rolls or bread into the oven, covered with foil, to heat slightly. Then transfer to a cloth-lined basket and cover with foil to keep warm.
• Dress the salad.
• Carve the turkey. Watch our turkey-carving video for pointers.
• Serve the meal. Don't forget about the cranberry sauce!
==U After Dinner:==
• Make coffee or tea; serve dessert.
• Pack up and refrigerate leftovers within two hours. If you have a lot, guests will love being sent home with extras. And don't forget to save the carcass to make stock or soup.
With Thanksgiving so close, I’m sure you already have your menu well planned. However, I just had to share this recipe, which has served me well over many Thanksgiving (and other special) meals:
==B Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes (serves 4)==
1½ pounds new potatoes (~4 medium), peeled and cut into 1” chunks
Coarse salt and ground pepper
¼ - ½ cup buttermilk
2 Tbsp butter, cut into small pieces
Snipped chives for garnish, optional
1. Place potatoes in a large saucepan; add enough cold water to cover by 2”. Bring to a boil; add 1 Tbsp salt, and cook until potatoes are very tender when pierced with the tip of a paring knife, ~20-25 min.
2. Drain; place in a large bowl. Mash with a potato masher; add buttermilk and butter. Season with salt and pepper; mash until smooth and combined. If desired, garnish with snipped chives.
Looking for a delightful Thanksgiving punch? This one, with or without the whiskey, is quite tasty.
==B Cranberry Cheer (makes 4)==
1 cup(s) sugar
2 stick(s) cinnamon
2 whole(s) star anise
3 green cardamom pods
1 cup(s) fresh cranberries
6 oz rye whiskey (such as McKenzie)
2 oz fresh lime juice
Lime slices, for garnish
1. In a small pot over medium heat, stir sugar in 1 cup water until dissolved to create simple syrup; reserve ¼ cup.
2. Place spices on an 8” square of cheesecloth and secure with twine to create a sachet; crush spices lightly. Add sachet and cranberries to simple syrup. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and cook for 3 min. Remove from heat and discard sachet.
3. In a shaker, mix 4 tsp cranberry mixture, whiskey, lime juice, simple syrup, and ice. Pour into 4 glasses with ice. Top each with a splash of seltzer; garnish with lime.
==B HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO EVERYONE!==
==B Foodies Will Want to Know:==
==B Oh, My Darling, Clementine== Have you been wondering who will claim the former Marie Callender’s location on SRV Boulevard? Alamo-native Peter Kearny, owner of a batch of Country Waffle restaurants in Northern California plans to open a New Orleans-themed restaurant in February 2012 for the Mardi Gras season. The restaurant is to be named Clementine’s after Kearney’s granddaughter and will offer fried chicken, shrimp gumbo, and blackened catfish. With a family-friendly atmosphere, Clementine’s will also have a full bar for adults.
==B The Cheese School of San Francisco== offers some great classes to expand the world of eating and cooking with cheeses. A sampling of December classes: Dec. 2, Cheers! Holiday Cocktails & Cheese; Dec. 8, Introductory Cheese & Wine Pairing; Dec. 28, Winter Cheese & Wine. The Cheese School of San Francisco, 2155 Powell Street, San Francisco, CA 94133, 415.346.7530, www.cheeseschoolsf.com
==B Tastingtable.com== will email you three exclusive recipes each week from top chefs and hot restaurants—adapted for you to cook at home. It's free when you register! Also, right now, you can download to your computer (smart phone or iPad) a book of 20 of Tasting Table’s Fall Favorites 2011 dishes.