I am a list maker. When I got it in my head to make a big turkey dinner just for me and Dave last year, I had just as much fun planning it as I did cooking it. Eating it was nice too, but that’s just the bonus.
The first step, and possibly my favorite, was to look for recipes. Because I knew I’d get a traditional turkey dinner on the real holiday, I had fun choosing new recipes. I edited each one for precisely how I was going to make it, not just adapting them for my tastes, but writing the directions for the number of servings I’d be making. I knew I’d have a lot to do when it came time to cook, so I wanted to do all of my thinking in advance.
Once my recipes were set, I could write a schedule for myself. I noted everything that I could do in advance and figured out when I would do it. I was fortunate that I had the day off from work the day before my big dinner, so I spent that whole day doing all of my prep. I made myself a detailed schedule for that day – which I was perpetually behind on, but that was okay because there were no deadline for that day; it was just prep.
Then I made a detailed schedule for the day of my dinner. I started with my dinner time and counted back from there. Basing my cooking schedule on the oven requirements helped me plan. Again, the idea here is to do all of the thinking beforehand, so that when you’re trying to greet guests, serve them drinks, and do inevitable troubleshooting, you know exactly what needs to be done. In your schedule, don’t forget to account for the time it takes transfer the food from the cooking part of the kitchen to the eating part of the kitchen. With as many courses as Thanksgiving feasts include, this is no small task.
I find it convenient to make my grocery list for a big meal by recipe, and then put it all together (and arrange by the route I take through the store; I’m hardcore). Finally, I note which pans and serving dishes I’ll need for each recipe; again, the idea is to make all decisions before Go Time so I’m not scrambling to wash my favorite saucepan at the last minute.
Of course, even the most careful planning can’t take into account your husband accidentally turning the oven off right as the turkey goes in. A positive attitude is an advantage too.
The attached Excel file has all of my plans in it. Feel free to use it as a template if you think it will help you plan. Over the next two weeks, I’ll blog each of the recipes I made.
Here’s the complete menu:
Breakfast: Steel-Cut Oatmeal with Maple Sautéed Apples
Snack: Glazed Pecans
Appetizer: Phyllo Cigars with Squash, Pancetta and Rosemary
Turkey: Salted Roast Turkey with Herbs
Gravy: White Wine Gravy
Stuffing: Cornbread Dressing with Roasted Root Vegetables
Potato: Yukon Gold and Sweet Potato Gratin
Vegetable: Cauliflower with Mustard Lemon Butter
Cranberries: Cranberry Sauce with Port and Dried Figs
Bread: Cheddar Puffs with Green Onions
Dessert: Maple Pumpkin Pots de Crème