By the time you read this, I will have made over two dozen Thanksgiving dishes.
I am not boasting about how ahead of the game I am; I developed them for magazines or corporate clients and they are long gone. My personal Thanksgiving larder, so to speak, is still entirely empty.
I’ll be out of town until the Saturday night before the big feast (shooting a slew of videos like this for Ask the Expert), which gives me Sunday and Monday-through-Wednesday evenings to do my shopping and cooking. Go ahead, say “Whateva. You’re a professional. This should be easy.” You’re right– the cooking part is easy. But, as is the case for most of you, it is finding the time to do it that is the challenge.
Since so many of you are equally pressed for time, I thought it might be useful to share my strategy (and recipes), including what can be done ahead.
First, my menu:
As a nod at Chanukah, this year we ‘ll serve the gravlax on little silver dollar sized latkes. (We usually serve it with flatbread or crackers). Unlike regular latkes, these can be made ahead.
Cure the salmon Tuesday night
Make the latkes Wednesday night. While I am not normally a fan of cooking latkes ahead, because of the way we are serving these– as vessels for the gravlax the way one might serve blini under caviar– we can make them ahead and reheat them in the oven on Thursday.
Herb Roasted Turkey (of course). There have been rumblings from the other side of the kitchen about smoking the turkey, and it is fine with me if that rumbling person wants to do it– as a second turkey. (Lots of the in-their-first-apartment kids at the table would love the additional take-home for their dinners in the next week, I’m sure). This is our Important Turkey. (This link includes all the information you need about thawing, roasting time, taking the turkey’s temperature and carving.)
We always cook the stuffing separately. Not only is it safer and healthier, it also makes it much easier to control cooking times and ensure everything gets to the table hot. We haven’t decided which of these stuffings of ours we’ll make:
Any of these stuffings may be fully prepared but not baked on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Sweet Potato Casserole
Whipped Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Streusel Topping is my sisters’ favorite. The potato mixture is light and the topping is nutty and sweet– but not obnoxiously sweet.
For a more decadent sweet potato casserole, check out this show stopper Sweet Potato Gratin we did for Circulon.
Make the Streusel topping Sunday
Cook and puree the sweet potatoes (and combine with the spices) Tuesday night.
I’m torn between these two: Roasted Shallots and the Roasted Red Onions (recipe below) I taught in class last week. Either way, the do-ahead plan is the same, as you will see below.
Roast the onions or shallots Thursday. They’re a no-brainer.
A bunch of us love Brussels Sprouts, but since my Dad can’t stand them (even when they are cooked with bacon and lots of garlic, like here!), we make two green vegetables. This year I’ll make another perennial favorite, Green Beans and Balsamic Glazed Onion. Somehow, no matter how many vegetables we make, everyone ends up fighting for those as the take-home. I wonder if it is because at the end of the meal we have all sworn to live on healthy plants for the next month.
(By the way, in the next few days I will publish several more really simple do-ahead side dishes. S if you are looking for other ideas, stay tuned).
The green beans may be blanched on Wednesday and the onions glazed on Monday.
The Brussels Sprouts may be cooked (slightly undercooked, to be precise) on Wednesday
I love this simple, classic Cranberry Orange Sauce
Make it Sunday
I’m thinking about making a Pumpkin Cheesecake, Apple Galette (I did this one for Cooking Light and often teach it at ICE) and a wonderful Pecan Tart with Sea Salt I created last year and seemed to have forgotten to write down, which means I will be re-creating it again this year. I’ll post the recipe as soon as I, uh, figure it out. I do know I used Ebo’s no-fail, absolutely perfect pie crust recipe for the shell. You can make the crust dough today and stick it in the freezer, if you are so inclined. At this time of year, you can’t go wrong making a couple of them to keep on hand.
Make the pie crusts any day you can– it doesn’t take long and you can cross it off your list. The recipe is below.
Okay, a quick look at my Thanksgiving strategy organized by day. I am figuring on spending most of my Sunday and about 2 hours or less each weeknight evening.
Sunday, November 24th
Monday, November 24th
Gather serving dishes and utensils and mark each with a sticky note
Set up tables
Glaze onions for green bean dish
Tuesday, November 25th
Cure salmon; gravlax sauce
Sweet potato puree
Wednesday, November 26th
Blanch green beans
Thursday, November 27th
In the morning:
Roast onions or shallots
Assemble the sweet potato casserole
Ebo’s Perfect Pie Crust
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold butter, cut in bits
2 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
3 1/2 to 4 tablespoons ice water
1. Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Cut in the butter and shortening using a pastry blender or forks until the mixture is in coarse crumbs. Add the vinegar and 1 tablespoon of water; stir with a fork. Add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring between additions, until a dough forms.
2. Knead the dough in the bowl until it just comes together and form it into a 4-inch wide disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour before using. Or, wrap in plastic wrap and place in a freezer bag. May be frozen for 1-2 months.
3. Proceed with your pie or tart recipe, or to “blind bake” the crust, preheat the oven to 375F. Roll the dough out to a 12-inch circle and press into the pie or tart pan. Freeze 20 minutes; line the top of the crust with foil and add dry beans or pie weights. Bake 15 minutes; remove the weights and foil and bake another 10 minutes or so until lightly golden and slightly under-baked.
Roasted Red Onions
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
4 medium red onions, cut in half horizontally
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 9-by-12-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
2. Combine the olive oil and vinegar in a small bowl.
3. Make a small cut along the bottom of each onion half so it will lie flat on the baking dish. Place onions in the baking dish and brush the top surfaces with the oil-vinegar mixture. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
4. Roast in the oven for 1 1/2 hours, or until very tender when poked with a fork.
Makes 8 servings.
Nutritional analysis for each serving: 54 calories, 1 g protein, 5 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 4 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 221 mg sodium