As I wrote yesterday, time is perhaps the most important Thanksgiving ingredient. Time away from work, time with family and friends and -- the subject of today's post -- time in the kitchen. We all have special traditional dishes that our families expect to see on our Thanksgiving table. Some of these recipe's have been handed down through generations from when kitchen time was frequently continuous from one meal to the next -- not unlike the way good restaurant kitchens still function today.
For better or worse, times have changed and our contemporary quality of life can frequently be enhanced through efficiency -- especially when preparing a holiday meal for many. So without further ado, here are a few suggestions from the 70 some holiday meals I've prepared over the years:
Keep them simple and avoid making or buying prepared frozen dishes that require last minute baking.
- Ask a guest or two to bring something they like to make that can be served at room temperature. Nearly everyone has one and they'll be happy to make a contribution
- Augment these contributions with a few nice cheeses that can, and should, be plated hours in advance. Trader Joe's has some great inexpensive cheeses as well as very inexpensive crackers (99 cents/box)
- A crudités platter of fresh vegetables is always a big hit with the calorie conscious and can be prepared in the morning, covered and left out
Everyone has their own favorite method of preparation but you’ll be far less stressed if, as at work, you prepare in advance:
- Turkey is an exceptionally flavorful bird and when properly prepared, a thawed frozen one is the best buy per pound.
- If you brine (6-10 hour salt water bath that un-intuitively makes the meat more tender and moist), clean the bird the night before and brine it in a cooler or beverage tub overnight with blocks of ice you can make yourself in advance (place a bunch of plastic containers filled with water in the freezer tonight) OR buy one pre-brined.
- Also prepare the stuffing ingredients the night before but don’t combine them until you stuff the bird Thanksgiving morning
- Roast the bird early in the day, remove the nice browned skin, carve onto a large serving plate and cover with the skin and foil over that. It will be fine at room temp for at least two hours and can be warmed in the oven before serving.
Pan gravy can be made and left stove top for pre-serve warming after the turkey is carved and covered
- Ask your guests to bring a favorite that can be warmed before serving along with the turkey
- Vegetables can be prepared and blanched in the AM and topped with sliced or chopped almonds, walnuts, pecans or other garnish upon warming.
- Potato casseroles can also be prepared a day in advance (or more) and baked off after the "early bird" comes out of the oven. They also stay hot stove side when covered so they’ll be fine to serve after the bird and veggies are warmed up.
- Good store bought pies can be pricey. Here’s a recipe for fresh apple pie that can’t miss -- even if you've never even baked cookies -- and it too can be made in advance and placed in the oven to warm after the main course is served:
- Use Pillsbury Pie crusts, from the refrigerated section of the market if you’re not into making it from scratch. Grease and flour your pie plate before putting the crust in.
- Filling: 1/2 cup white sugar, 3/4 tsp. cinnamon, 1/8 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp cornstarch, 5 cups thinly Sliced Granny Smith Apples (apples can be peeled and sliced way in advance if you toss them in fresh lemon juice and refrigerate)
- Topping: 3/4 cup firmly packed Brown Sugar, 3/4 cup Flour,1/3 cup Butter
- Assemble: Mix White Sugar, Cinnamon, Corn Starch, Salt and Apple Slices in Mixing Bowl. Consider variations by adding either 1/2 cup of raisins or 3/4 cup of chopped whole cranberries. Arrange in pie shell.
- Mix Brown Sugar and Flour. Cut cold butter into small pieces and mix with Brown Sugar and Flour using a fork. Mix until crumbly. Sprinkle over top of Apples.
- Preheat oven to 400. Put Pie on Bottom shelf. Bake for 35 minutes.
Happy Thanksgiving and bon appétit. Hopefully leveraging some of these tips, you'll save a bundle, factoring in both time and cost.