Thanksgiving Game Plan

Thanksgiving can bring with it a lot of emotions, strongly held opinions (stuffing inside the turkey or not, sweet potatoes versus mashed etc) and of course the high expectations of your family and friends.  Shopping, chopping and cooking the big meal can be pretty stressful if you don’t have a game plan.  I am super lucky this year and am a guest instead of host – our dear friends Devin and Erica are having us over so all I had to think about was the perfect gift.  I found a delicious Pinot that goes great with turkey and best of all its called Butternut!  Paired with a William Sonoma dish towel and some cute napkins they make the perfect way to thank your friends.  For those of you who are cooking I have sketched out a menu along with a rough game plan that you can adjust to your own needs as well as a bunch of helpful recipes to supplant your family favorites.  Heck I am even going to provide you with a recipe for your leftovers after the fact!

Menu

Crostini with Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onions – recipe will be posted Nov 20th

Go ahead now and make up a big batch of caramelized onions that I posted on Monday.  Then come turkey day you can easily make this last minute appetizer.

Bowls of cashews, olives and sliced salami

This might go without saying but the best appetizers are the ones you don’t make yourself.  Head over to your local cheese shop (in the DC area I am partial to Righteous Cheese in Union Market or Arrowine in Arlington, VA) and grab 3 terrific cheeses and some salami to make a small cheese board.  You will want a mix of hard and soft, sheep/goat/cow and stinky and non stinky!  Or pick family favorites – just make sure not to go too overboard as you don’t want people to fill up before the big meal.  Pretty bowls of nuts and olives are nice here too and even easier.

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Mulled Cider – recipe will be posted Nov 25th

Something about a specialty cocktail really says party and this one is easy and can be kept warm in a slow cooker away from the stove so it doesn’t take up precious real estate.  If you have a mix of ages in the house feel free to leave the liquor out and just place a bottle on the side for people to help themselves.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup – recipe will be posted Nov 16th

Make this way ahead and freeze it.  Then just throw it in the fridge the day before and warm it up over low to medium heat right before serving.  With the grated goat cheese on top it will look elegant and like you spend all day on the starter course!

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Turkey/stuffing/gravy

Sorry – can’t help you here.  Every family has their own way of doing the bird so go ahead and do what is most comfortable for you.  There is NO shame in buying a pre cooked turkey either – my first Thanksgiving I was cooking for my future in laws so to put myself ahead of the game I got a delicious roasted turkey from Earl’s in Arlington – Whole Foods does a nice job as well.  Assemble your stuffing the day before and throw it into the oven day of, same with reheating day old gravy.

Mashed Potatoes – recipe will be posted Nov 18th

Absolutely go ahead and use whatever treasured potato recipe you have.  This is just a good standard version that just doesn’t miss.  Here is where making ahead is just not advisable.  I have seen different techniques but really you are just going to end up with grainy potatoes.

Vegatable Sides

Go crazy here and do whatever looks fresh at the store or whatever is a family favorite.  A great option are my Lemony Brussel Spouts or Roasted Onions.  Just make sure to pick something easy, that doesn’t take up too much oven or stove top space and don’t go too overboard – limit it to two sides.

Apple Crisps – recipe will be posted Nov 23

These beauties only take a couple minutes to prepare and can hang out in the fridge for a couple of days before you are ready to bake them off.  Just don’t forget the vanilla ice cream!

Coffee, dessert wine, champagne perhaps??

Some of my best memories of thanksgiving is my family lingering at the table for hours and hours after the meal.  Best way to keep people there and happy is by making sure to have plenty of coffee and after dinner drinks all prepped and ready to go.

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Ok now that you have a menu in mind take that and turn it into a shopping list and general schedule.  Tweak below to fit your exact recipe and you will be all set for the big day.  Good luck!

Game Plan:

  • 2 weeks out – plan menu, create timeline, make shopping list
  • 1 week out – make and freeze the caramelized onions and soup
  • 3 or 4 days out – buy all remaining items including cheese, start defrosting the turkey if need be
  • 2 days out – assemble apple crisps and stuffing (if doing out of the turkey) and store in the fridge, make gravy and store in fridge
  • 1 day out – prep all vegetables (ie trim sprouts, chop onions for stuffing if not already made etc) except potatoes.  Store in resealable baggies or containers in the fridge.  Take onions and soup out of the freezer and store in fridge.  Grate cheese and chop chives for top of the soup and store in fridge in baggies.
  • Morning of – toast crostini and store in baggie, prep coffee for after the meal, put mulled cider ingredients in slow cooker and set to warm.  Do whatever turkey prep you need (will depend on how big a bird and how you are cooking it)
  • Afternoon of – rewarm soup over low heat, peel potatoes and store in stock pot covered by cold water, get cheese board and crostini ready, chill and open wine/beer,  continue working turkey.
  • As guests arrive – set out cheese board, crostini and snacks along with the mulled cider, wine, beer, water and any other drinks.
  • Once guests are settled with snacks –  start the mashed potatoes, finish the turkey and sides.  Set out the soup bowls and get ready to serve the meal!
  • Game time – serve soup then clear while turkey rests.  Serve turkey with all the fixings and sides.  Have someone else clear the table and take a much deserved (and needed) break with guests having wine/coffee.  Serve crisps when everyone had digested a bit and enjoy your friends and family.
  • After guests have left – put the left overs in the fridge, run one load of dishes and put the big pans in the sink to soak.  Kick up your feet with the left over wine and leave the rest of the cleaning for black friday.

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