Thanksgiving is still two months away. (And, ironically, Christmas is three months away...) This makes me sigh in relief, and also smile in anticipation. Since Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday... well, I shouldn't say favorite, more like tied for favorite with nearly every holiday... I am already getting excited for it. And how does that excitement translate for me? Into preparation!
Here's my task for the next month for Thanksgiving:
-Make the final plans for Thanksgiving. Where will we be? Are we guests or hosts? Do I need to buy airline tickets or make hotel reservations? Do we need to request time off of work? Do I need to pull the kids out of school? Do I need to find substitutes for church or any other obligations I might have?
-Decide what recipes I am going to make. If I'm traveling and someone else is in charge of the bulk of the menu, this might be a very easy task. If I'm in charge, this might take longer. Either way, I need to choose what I'm making and what I'm not. I usually go with mostly family favorite recipes (Like my great-grandma's recipe for orange glazed yams, Alton Brown's brined turkey, my mom's rhubarb pie, my personal recipe for apple pie, dad's family's favorite pineapple cheese salad, and Nan's Yummy-Nummy rolls) but I always add at least one or two new things just to keep life interesting. Maybe stuffed mushrooms for an early appetizer? What about Rachael Ray's pumpkin-muffin stuffing? Don't get rid of those recipes that you take a bite of and say, "Yes. It is officially Thanksgiving." But having something new can really be the talk of the table.
-Once I've made the decision, I might want to test the recipe if it is new. Now is a good time to test--here in September and early October, which will give your family a few months to forget you ever made it before Thanksgiving comes. If you test that sweet potato souffle the day before Thanksgiving, there's no way you'll want to make it again the day of!
-If there is ANYTHING you can make in advance, make a note to do it. Another thing that will really help the day of is to use cooking devices other than the oven. We do our yams in an electric skillet. Stuffing goes in the crock-pot (No, NOT in the turkey! NEVER in the turkey! That's just food poisoning waiting to happen!... more on that later...). We always make our pies at least one day in advance. Mashed potatoes can be frozen weeks in advance and then warmed in the microwave, if that's not a travesty. All these little things help add up to less time waiting for the oven to be done. In the end, we typically only need to use the oven for the turkey, and then while the turkey rests, the rolls can go in, and then we eat.
-Think about buying a really good meat thermometer, whether probe-style or instant read, this will be the #1 thing to insure the perfect Turkey. Just giving you guys a heads-up. I would NOT make a turkey without one. NO, the little white-and-red pop-up doo-dads that are stuck in a turkey breast and they claim are thermometers do NOT work. More on this in my amazing turkey how-to.
-Make sure you have the other necessary equipment. If you need to borrow an extra table or chairs, get that in line now. Think through it all: beds, bedding, cooking equipment, dishes, etc. I'm not suggesting to go buy a bunch of expensive new china and a dining room set--but if you think about it now, you have a chance to borrow from friends or find the resources available to you.
As with all my holiday prep posts, I hope you take from it what you want and discard the rest. These posts are mostly for me, and because they make me happy to write up.
If you would like any of the recipes I mentioned above, hang on. I will be posting my personal favorites in a few days. If you have a specific request, you can comment now or when you see what recipes I put up. There will also be special demonstrations on the brined turkey and pie crust. (And gravy, if I can talk my mom into it...because I am really bad at gravy...)