The Absolute Turkey Day Play by Play
Thanksgiving is seriously sneaking up on us, and while I've got my turkey in the freezer, I haven't done much else. No one wants to bust out a frozen turkey the day of or dash to the store at 2pm for the missing whatever. My game plan is as solid as my turkey currently is! A good plan is key here. Plan ahead, stick to the schedule, and drink some wine. And jot down which grocery store is open. Because what if the pie Aunt Chanie brings isn't exactly edible?
One to two weeks before:
Plan the menu. Ask about allergies (no nuts at all if Cousin Yosef is allergic!), intolerances, and any must-haves. Potluck style is a huge relief for the host, but not if everyone shows up with mashed potatoes. Confirm the guest list and send around a google doc with the menu. Have each family member sign up for a dish. If you're the hostess, check to make sure you've got enough oven space to heat everything and platters to serve.
The weekend before:
Buy the bird. Buy it fresh or frozen, but buy it! Figure about 1.5lb per person. Serving another main? (Yes, I know all about Grandpa Yitz who only eats red meat). Plan on 1lb per person.
Buy the pantry staples and frozen food. Everything goes in a basket on a shelf and in the freezer. That way, the darling family members won't hijack the cranberry sauce or make a kugel out of the potatoes.
Two days before:
Master prep marathon. Make sure the bird is defrosting safely in the fridge. Wash, clean, and chop any heartier vegetables. Butternut squash, acorn squash, zucchini, sweet potatoes (in water!), carrots, celery, onion... these can all be prepared and stored in labeled ziplock bags in the fridge. I prefer ziplocks since they take up less real estate than plastic containers.
The day before:
Set the table. No one wants to find their tablecloth gone or that they don't have enough water glasses. Leave a small area of the dining table or kitchen table as a holding area for dishes waiting to go into the oven or to cool off. Now's the time to get that cranberry sauce and gravy cooking. Prep your green bean casserole, stuffing, and any kugel-type dishes. Cover them and pop in the fridge for baking the next day.
The day of:
Plan to cook your sides early. The turkey needs about 3-4 hours depending on sides, and will likely take up the entire oven.
Roasted vegetables can go in, brussels sprouts can be cooked, and any stovetop dishes can be sautéed and transferred to foil pans or oven-to-table serving platters.
Wash and clean any greens for salads. Make the dressings and put them in containers. Label each, say "cranberry pomegranate vinaigrette + kale salad" and store the container in the serving bowl with the greens and toppings.
Make the mashed potatoes early— warm them up before the meal in the slow cooker with a splash or two of liquid.
At showtime, serve all of the sides first. Bring out the bird, the carving tools, and a plate or bowl to hold any bones.
Mazal Tov! It's a turkey dinner and you did it!
Planning ahead for a huge meal puts you ahead of the game. Write lists, use post-its, delegate, buy the dessert... whatever you need to do to make it happen. As long as Aunt Martha gets her cornbread stuffing, and Grandma Gert doesn't have a seat near Aunt Perel, it'll all be perfect. And if the apple pie isn't edible? No worries, there's always some parve ice cream in the freezer.