Tuesday’s Tip: Thanksgiving Survival Guide
I’m kicking off Thanksgiving Week at the Soapbox today by giving you a mini Thanksgiving Survival Guide. I hosted Thanksgiving for my family for several years and learned some of the
rules lessons I’m about to share the hard way. If you find yourself in a bind….crack open a beer, uncork a bottle of wine and double fist those puppies!
1. To brine or not to brine….does it really matter? To me, it doesn’t. I’ve brined birds and I’ve just thrown them in the oven…I don’t really see too much difference as long as you have a good method for seasoning and adding flavor to the meat. Three years ago, I brined the bird in a salt solution and tons of apple cider. It was amazing. Last year, I used a dry brine from Williams-Sonoma. Also, amazing. And this year I used a citrus herb butter rubbed under the skin….again, amazing. (I’ll share this method with you tomorrow.) It all comes down to personal preference in my opinion. And laziness.
2. Go to Target and buy an electric knife for $25 if you don’t already own one. Seriously, the best money I’ve spent in years and I don’t know why I waited so long. Oh…I know, I’m cheap! But I finally broke down and bought one by Oster last year and I can’t believe how easy it is to carve the turkey. No more blood, sweat or tears. Believe me, there used to be all three when I used a traditional carving knife.
3. Leave the stuffing for your pillows. Really. There’s no need to put all your delicious dressing that you made from scratch (or a box) inside of the bird. Filling the turkey with stuffing makes it difficult to cook everything to just the right temperature….the temperature where you will not risk sending all your guests home with foodbourne illness. Stuff the bird with aromatics instead and bake your dressing in a baking dish. Healthy guests are happy guests.
4. Don’t throw out all the vegetable nubs and leftovers used for your recipes. Any leftover celery, onions, carrots, herbs, etc. can be used to make a ridiculously good turkey stock. Throw everything into a pot with the turkey bones, fill with water just to the top of the turkey, salt/pepper, bring to a boil and then simmer for a few hours. You can freeze the stock for up to 3 months.
5. Always prep ahead to avoid insanity. Make your bread cubes for stuffing a week in advance and store in an airtight container. Make your pie dough a week ahead and freeze. Chop and dice those veggies for any recipes a few days ahead and store in airtight containers labeled for each recipe.
6. Don’t sweat the appetizers….really, you’re making a huge dinner that you want people to eat. A simple cheese tray and some crudities are fine, in my opinion. But if you MUST have a variety of appetizers to entertain your guests while you finish up dinner…I suggest asking someone to bring their favorite dip or finger food to take the chore off your plate.
7. Simple table scaping really sets the mood, but don’t go overboard….too much on the table can look messy and, if you’re serving family style, will take too much time to remove to make room for the food. Check out my Pinterest boards, Fall Decor and Let’s Give Thanks, for ideas and “Pinspiration”.
8. Make a list of everything you’re serving and then check it off as you start to set up your buffet or table. While making a bunch of dishes ahead of time can save you some stress on Thanksgiving day, I can’t even begin to count how many times I’ve forgotten about the cranberry sauce, rolls or sweet potatoes because I made them days in advance. (I may or may not have done it again this weekend.)
9. Give it a rest….and by that I mean the turkey. Let the turkey rest, covered with foil, for at least 30-40 minutes before carving, otherwise, you will be left with a very dry bird perched in a perfect pool of juice. Some think gravy can fix that but I beg to differ. While your turkey is napping…..cook those side dishes!
10. Don’t forget the spirits! Wine, holiday-ish cocktails, beer! They are pretty important and if your dinner migrates toward the disaster zone, a tipsy guest will never know the difference. Am I right?
Have any tips of your own you’d like to share? Feel free to comment below!