1. Make a Menu
Write it down. Get it all out of your head. You can’t make a plan, if you don’t have all the details laid out. This is the time to decide which sides go in which serving bowls and use which serving utensil. If you’re short a bowl, platter, or utensil, fortunately you planned ahead and have time to do a little pre-holiday shopping. (Yeah planning!)
2. Dissect the Recipes
I know, it sounds like school work, but chefs do this for every meal (Just faster and in their heads ‘cuz they’re Pro’s). Are there any ingredients or techniques you’re not totally familiar with? If there are – sorry, but you’ve got homework to do dude or dudette (is that less offensive than young lady? I’m not 100% sure).
3. Make your Shopping List
Include everything you need. Don’t exclude items you have in your pantry, those are for daily use, not special occasions. Don’t assume your brown sugar hasn’t hardened (how long has it been since you made acorn squash?) And don’t assume your housemates won’t eat your supplies between now and then (thanks to Penn Jillette’s latest book, someone might be on a potato diet – seriously read the book already)
4. Practice Makes Perfect
Again, not to sound like a school marm (do they still have those???) but honestly the reason a chef can repeat a recipe in their sleep is because they have practiced it, tested it, tweaked it, tested it again, and only when there is no more tweaking to do, declared that they have perfected it.
I’ve made 4 turkeys already this season. At $.99 a lb on sale, turkey is several dollars a pound cheaper than chicken, better tasting (my dogs #lovesit) and I get bones to use or freeze for turkey stock (also, waaaay better than chicken stock).
5. Make everything twice
A. You won’t run out of food (even if your teenage cousin brings his entire posse). Plus you have one carved turkey ready, just in case the second one ends up a little dry because Gramma Bea’s scarf messed up her hair and she is two hours late (again).
B. Leftovers mean you’re the hostess with the mostest (or the host with the most, but that just sounds…um…wrong). Thanksgiving is a great time to clean out your beat-up Tupperware. Before you start to cleaning up the table, put a “to go” buffet together. Simply layout the leftovers somewhere out of the way along with Tupperware (use red+green color coordinated Chinese takeout boxes if you want to be all Martha Stewart-y). Don’t forget a sharpie so the guests can write their name on the box and get the right to go package at the end of the night (trust me, this will avoid plenty of awkward moments at the next holiday get together). This will also keep your guests occupied while you are cleaning-up (and not able to keep on eye on Uncle Bud and the vodka bottle).
C. Did we mention practice? Yes, we really mean it. Cooking a turkey by itself is very different from cooking a turkey and four sides.
D. Good luck, have fun, and namaste!
How to Turkey like a Pro:
Remove all non-attached parts (check the neck opening, sometimes the giblet packet is stuffed in there)
Place turkey in roasting pan with rack with the breast side up (You do have a roasting pan and rack, right? If not, call mom or Aunt Jo – whoever will be less judgy) Oh, and it’s OK if the bottom doesn’t crisp (no one sees or eats that anyways)
Brush the turkey with olive oil
Sprinkle salt all over the skin (if you’re into that sort of thing)
Put turkey in oven @ 350
Leave turkey alone*
Take turkey out when skin has shrunk away from leg and leg moves freely in socket
*turn if one side is seriously more tan than the other (especially likely if the turkey is overweight…and by overweight I mean over 20 lbs)
Family and holidays, two things that shouldn’t mix, but do.