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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May. 28, 2006
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    Default Hosting Thanksgiving...help!

    It sounds like I will be hosting the entire family at our house this year...I have never had to be in charge of a huge meal like that. I really want to do it justice and make Hubs proud, I don't want to have to assign dishes to everyone, potluck style.

    What are your tips for successfully pulling this off? I'd love to hear anything from multitasking tips, timing, tips for what NOT to do, recipes, which items I can freeze ahead of time vs make fresh, ways to make my life easier? Share what you wish someone had told you before your first Thanksgiving attempt!



  2. #2
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    Nov. 8, 2010
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    Maryland
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    I would get my mom/sisters to come over early and help

    I did Christmas last year and having my mom there to lend me an extra set of hands and help me with timing really helped.

    Good luck! I'm sure everything will be delicious



  3. #3
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    First, when someone asks what they can bring, let them know! People do usually want to bring something, and there is nothing wrong with that.

    Make a list of all you want to have, look to see what can be made early. It also helps with grocery shopping. If you have things that need something chopped (say, onions) do all of them at once.

    Mashed potatoes can be made days ahead and frozen. Put into a pan and warm in the oven or a crockpot. Mix dressing ahead as well.
    A proud friend of bar.ka.



  4. #4
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    Keep it really simple. Do a couple really well done dishes rather than attempt to make the different favorite dish of each person coming. Make sure you have enough pans, pots, casseroles, etc. Practice making any unfamiliar dishes a couple weeks in advance. If somebody offers to bring something, graciously accept. I would try and pawn off any appetizers and all desserts to those coming
    From AliCat518 "Seriously, why would you NOT put fried chicken in your purse?!"


    1 members found this post helpful.

  5. #5
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    I am a big fan of potluck, don't diss it!

    DH was in charge for a number of years and I found that he actually made too many similar side dishes, that there just weren't enough of us and he got too many pots and pans dirty, where he'd have been better off with three or four large nicely cooked signature dishes on the table at the same time - stuffing and dressing, mash, a green bean casserole, boiled onions in white sauce, yams with marshmallows baked on top. That's what we've pared it down to pretty much.

    We aren't big pie eaters, just try for a happy medium where you, the cook, aren't exhausted and sick of looking at the food before it's time to sit at table.

    ETA try to get things organized so that you have more than one thing in the oven and you have your oven temps going up for whatever is next. If you have a double steamer pot you can cook two things at once, say the mash and onions and then finish prep in other containers. It's always a good idea to wash as you go, extra hands are a plus.
    Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
    Incredible Invisible



  6. #6
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    Feb. 23, 2005
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    Spotsylvania, VA
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    Don't be tempted by the $0.39/lb frozen turkey....buy the best fresh turkey you can find.
    Allow plenty of time for it to cook, it needs to sit for 20 min before you carve it and a large one can sit for an hour.
    If you can, set the table the night before. Set your serving pieces out with the serving utensils and a postit saying what goes in them. If you have cats, cover the set table with a sheet....ask me how I learned that one.
    If you're worried about the gravy this is a good video, substitute turkey broth for the milk http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfTR7...eature=related If you're really worried about lumpy gravy practice ahead of time
    I wasn't always a Smurf
    Penmerryl's Sophie RIDSH
    "I ain't as good as I once was but I'm as good once as I ever was"
    The ignore list is my friend. It takes 2 to argue.



  7. #7
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    "If you have cats" - oh brother, well, don't set the table with a tablecloth unless you soak it so it'll stick or the cats will leap up there at speed and go slithering off the table with your pretty crystal year end award centerpiece (don't worry, I turned the inscription towards the wall, it was just a nice thing) and shatter it and anything else breakable that was on the table.
    I do agree with having that done ahead of time otherwise.
    Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
    Incredible Invisible


    1 members found this post helpful.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Mar. 26, 2005
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    Back to Normal.. or as close as I'll ever get
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    Why resist the potluck idea?
    DH & I used to host what we called the Orphan's Thanksgiving Dinner.
    For those who could not, or would not be going home.

    Hosts supplied the turkey, guests chipped in everything else.
    People really like to contribute and those who don't won't ask "What can I bring?".
    Honestly, we had a bachelor friend who insisted on bringing something. He was no cook, so he was assigned bread and happily brought bakery rolls.
    People like to feel like they helped out.

    If you insist on doing it all, most sides can be done days in advance & reheated and do not suffer for it.
    Even stuffing can be done outside the bird.
    Mashed potatoes can go into a crockpot - frees up stovetop space.
    The Primal Green Bean Casserole can be frozen as well as any homemade cranberry relish/sauce.
    This recipe demands it be frozen:

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/s...storyId=844268

    Make yourself a list & timetable - shop well in advance of the day-before crowds.
    Then cook a dish or two each day for a week prior, so on T-Day all you need to do is put the turkey in the oven, put your feet up, reheat as needed and watch football.
    You can even set the table the day before.

    If you plan on sending leftovers home w/guests, hit the $1 Store and buy knockoff tupperware containers - sometimes you can get 4 or 5 for $1.


    And never turn down an offer of help cleaning up after
    *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
    Steppin' Out 1988-2004
    Hey Vern! 1982-2009
    Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009


    1 members found this post helpful.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug. 15, 2008
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    4,581

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    Agree with the fewer knock out dishes (that you've tested ahead of time). Quality over quantity!

    Think really hard about how much stove top and oven space you have vs. what you have planned.

    Pick a few dishes that can be mostly or completely prepped ahead of time and will still be wonderful reheated the next day (or served cold or room temp like cranberry sauce). Sweet potato casseroles and the like are always wonderful if not better the next day.

    Depending on how many people you are hosting, think about whether you want to do one large bird or two smaller ones.

    Definitely parcel out some duties or dishes to others, even if you really want to do it all yourself. Having someone else bring pre-dinner pickables (like veggie trays, dips etc or whatever you like) and having someone else bring the dessert will take a giant load off of your already busy cooking schedule!
    "Aye God, Woodrow..."



  10. #10
    Join Date
    Oct. 29, 2003
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    Ocala, FL
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    My family likes the home-made cranberry sauce that you make using the receipe on the bag of fresh cranberries. That is best made a day or 2 ahead and refrigerated. Have hubby or someone cut up the butternut squash ahead of time or buy it already peeled/chopped. I like to add brown sugar and butter once I pureee it.

    This is our traditional fare:
    - Turkey stuffed with my MIL's stuffing receipe
    - my Mom's stuffing receipe on the side
    - Waldorf Salad (Macintosh apples cut up into bite-sized pieces with chopped walnuts, celery, dried cranberries and Helman's mayonaise)
    - butternut squash
    - pearl onions
    - corn
    - asparagus
    - mashed potatos
    - gravy - a secret to good gravy is to use the water from the vegetables along with the water from the pearl onions to flavor it as you stir it. I use the pan that the turkey was in, add about 2 cups of the vegetable water or chicken bullion, take the jar from the pearl onions and remove the onions while keeping the liquid in the jar. Add about 2 tablespoons of flour to the jar and shake until smooth. Add this to the gracy along with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add Gravy Master or Kitchen Bouquet for color and flavor. Stir until it is the consistancy you want and add more water/bullion as needed for volume

    Have everything out and ready the day before. You have to start super-early for the turkey anyway, so if you can, set the table ahead of time and set up a separate area out of the kitchen for drinks. Ask your husband or a family memeber to be in charge of drinks and setting out any appetizers for you so that you cna focus on the meal.

    Have fun and take a picture of the turkey before it gets carved up! I used to have my neices and nephews over early and we would make Pilgrim and Native American hats out of construction paper for everyone. Even the dogs got in on the action!



  11. #11
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    May. 28, 2006
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    Default

    Thanks for all the ideas! This is our first Thanksgiving being married, so I really wanted to be all Suzy Homemaker DIY Superchef. But honestly, the potluck is sounding better and better.


    So....turkey tips? Please speak slowly, and use small words, as if speaking to a small child!



  12. #12
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    Aug. 17, 2004
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    Rixeyville, VA
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    Default

    I agree with the others. If someone offers to bring something, say YES! Really, it makes your life so much simpler and it tends of please others.

    Be sure to have PLENTY of container/baggies for leftovers, particularly if you are going to send food home with family members. If the crowd is big enough, consider having another main dish besides the turkey -- I know, sacriligious, but a ham seems to be a real crowd pleaser and they seem to be on-sale for the holidays.

    Don't try to do it all yourself. Honestly between the cleaning and cooking, you just want to fall over. I am sure your husband will be proud of you regardless.
    Where Norwegian Fjords Rule
    http://www.ironwood-farm.com



  13. #13
    Join Date
    Apr. 28, 2008
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    7,301

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    Turkey Tip #1: brine beforehand (soak in saltwater for a few hours), and use a meat thermometer so you don't over or undercook it.

    Brine in a big pot or a cooler -- make a saltwater solution and stick the turkey in for 8 hours (last year I just did about 4 hours and it was just as good). Recommended by America's Test Kitchen and makes a really good, tasty turkey.

    Pull it out, dry it off with paper towels, and stick a lemon cut in half and an onion or two cut in half in the middle. Roast it on a rack (not in the bottom of the pan but raised up a little.) Then -- I know this sounds weird -- smear the turkey with a stick of butter, softened. It will brown beautifully and get that gorgeous crisp skin. Use the meat thermometer and take out around 158 (it will keep cooking and get up to 160). I have a remote one that beeps when it is done. That was not expensive, around $20, and well worth the $$ to not ruin a pricey turkey (and tons of other roasts, I use it often).

    That's all there is to it! Let it sit for a while, half an hour or so, and get someone to slice it that knows what they are doing (or assign your DH the job of watching some youtube videos to learn how to carve a turkey so he can take that over).

    For gravy, take all the drippings and pour them into a gravy separator. The fat will rise to the top and you pour off the good stuff plus a little fat into a pan. In a separate bowl, mix a few tablespoons of cornstarch or flour to a tiny bit of canned chicken stock -- just enough to make it a very thick liquid -- and whisk until there are no lumps. Use COLD stock or it will be lumpy. Then you can add a little at a time to the drippings, cooking on enough heat to have a soft boil. let it cook for a few minutes -- add more cornstarch as described above as needed to make it the consistency you want. It will thicken after a little cooking so hold off on adding more until you see what it is going to do. Flour is harder than cornstarch (gets lumps easier) but more authentic, so maybe save flour for next year unless you are really confident.

    Have a couple cans of gravy in the pantry in case yours goes awry.



  14. #14
    Join Date
    Oct. 14, 2003
    Location
    Florida
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    Default

    Planning way ahead will be necessary.

    Make final decisions on your menu about two weeks ahead of time. What I've done is use a notebook. On the first page, make 3 columns. First column is a list, triple-spaced, of all your menu items. Second column is to write down the day on which you're going to make that item (or part of it). Third column is for grocery list, and can be cut/torn off to take to the store with you. Try to finish your grocery shopping about a week ahead of time.

    Like so:

    Column 1 / Column 2 / Column 3
    Apple Pie Bake Wed. 5# Granny Smith apples
    Apple filling Tues. AM Unsalted butter
    Pie crust Mon. PM Cinnamon, flour

    So you could plan to make pie crust Monday evening (definitely make it a day or two ahead, by the way, then wrap in plastic and stick in the fridge), the pie filling Tuesday morning, then assemble and bake on Wednesday (if you want to bake your pie a day ahead, which I like to do--allows filling to set and frees up oven).

    On that note, when you're planning when you are going to make certain things, remember oven space and temperature. I try to reserve the oven for the turkey on Thursday, and just stick anything else in there to warm up/ stay warm while the turkey rests and gravy is made.

    Once you've worked out when you're going to make each piece of the menu, then use the following pages to plan chronologically. For example, if you want to start prepping the weekend before, next page could be for Saturday. Write down the few items/pieces you want to prep that day, with plenty of space in between. Use the space to either insert the recipe (or relevant portion thereof) or the location of the recipe (eg My Favorite Cookbook, p. 103), and note whether you're increasing the recipe (eg Cranberry Sauce (x3)).

    Last page is for Thursday, and should have a timeline, with a bit of cushion between each part as nothing ever goes quite according to plan.

    Depending on the crowd you're feeding, you may want to reserve one day just for prep work (cleaning and chopping). Many fruits can be chopped and tossed with lemon juice and stored for a couple days; many vegetables can be chopped and submerged in water (maybe with a bit of lemon juice or vinegar) and stored likewise.

    If you're making the bulk of dinner, I think asking visiting family to bring appetizers (if there will be bunches of people wandering around for a while before dinner), desserts, wine/beer, and dinner rolls is very fair.

    Miscellaneous tips:

    Epicurious.com is my go-to for new recipes, in large part thanks to the often-helpful reviews.

    If you're nervous about how a new recipe will turn out, do a trial run beforehand. Far enough beforehand you can change gears if it bombs.

    As you plan you'll probably come across recipes for leftovers. Stick those in the back of your notebook so they're easy to find when you're in Day Two of Turkey Coma.

    If you make an awesome dinner and two lovely pies, don't be offended if adults don't have room for pie at the end. Don't pressure people to try your two lovely pies, even though they're stuffed, because they'll only be able to take 3 bites, and the rest of each piece of lovely pie is wasted, deforming on a dessert plate in a little puddle of liquifying homemade whipped cream. (Not that I'm speaking from experience or anything....) Save those pies for breakfast the next morning.


    3 members found this post helpful.

  15. #15
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    Feb. 26, 2011
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    We do lemon, onion, celery, garlic and rosemary in the cavity and if you want to get really fancy, large sprigs of fresh rosemary under the skin. Looks amazing. Yes, brine that bad boy if you want any flavor at all.

    That being said, we eat ham at TG now that I'm in charge
    From AliCat518 "Seriously, why would you NOT put fried chicken in your purse?!"



  16. #16
    Join Date
    Jun. 26, 2001
    Location
    California
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    1,322

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    Turkey Tip: I wrap the ends of the wing tips in foil throughout most of the cooking cycle. Then remove say 30 minutes prior to turkey being done. Keeps them from turning into weapons and keeps them edible.

    Also tent your turkey with foil so it doesn't brown too quickly. Baste, baste and baste!!! About 1 hour prior to turkey being done remove foil tent for browning.

    I always slow cook my turkey, 20 minutes at pound at 325.

    What are your gravy plans? Homemade or ?????

    Also I do a mashed potato casserole that everyone loves. Make mash potato with sour cream, and fresh minced chives. Salt and pepper to taste. The place in a baking dish in fridge. Just pop into oven while turkey is resting at 375 for 25 minutes and you have a delish dish. The top gets nice and brown and you have no mess to clean up other than baking dish. This will keep in fridge for at least 48 hours no problem prior to baking! Easy peasey!
    Last edited by Brookes; Oct. 31, 2012 at 03:13 PM. Reason: adding a recipe
    Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my!!



  17. #17
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    May. 28, 2006
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    There's no way it can be that easy....

    Quote Originally Posted by fordtraktor View Post
    Turkey Tip #1: brine beforehand (soak in saltwater for a few hours), and use a meat thermometer so you don't over or undercook it.

    Brine in a big pot or a cooler -- make a saltwater solution and stick the turkey in for 8 hours (last year I just did about 4 hours and it was just as good). Recommended by America's Test Kitchen and makes a really good, tasty turkey.

    Pull it out, dry it off with paper towels, and stick a lemon cut in half and an onion or two cut in half in the middle. Roast it on a rack (not in the bottom of the pan but raised up a little.) Then -- I know this sounds weird -- smear the turkey with a stick of butter, softened. It will brown beautifully and get that gorgeous crisp skin. Use the meat thermometer and take out around 158 (it will keep cooking and get up to 160). I have a remote one that beeps when it is done. That was not expensive, around $20, and well worth the $$ to not ruin a pricey turkey (and tons of other roasts, I use it often).

    That's all there is to it! Let it sit for a while, half an hour or so, and get someone to slice it that knows what they are doing (or assign your DH the job of watching some youtube videos to learn how to carve a turkey so he can take that over).

    For gravy, take all the drippings and pour them into a gravy separator. The fat will rise to the top and you pour off the good stuff plus a little fat into a pan. In a separate bowl, mix a few tablespoons of cornstarch or flour to a tiny bit of canned chicken stock -- just enough to make it a very thick liquid -- and whisk until there are no lumps. Use COLD water or it will be lumpy. Then you can add a little at a time to the drippings, cooking on enough heat to have a soft boil. let it cook for a few minutes -- add more cornstarch as described above as needed to make it the consistency you want. It will thicken after a little cooking so hold off on adding more until you see what kind of product you want. Flour is harder than cornstarch (gets lumps easier) but more authentic, so maybe save flour for next year unless you are really confident.

    Have a couple cans of gravy in the pantry in case yours goes awry.



  18. #18
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    Feb. 23, 2005
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    Quote Originally Posted by talkofthetown View Post

    So....turkey tips? Please speak slowly, and use small words, as if speaking to a small child!
    If you can, buy one or two containers of turkey stock. I'll explain later
    There should be time and temperature instructions for cooking the turkey on the package. They are usually for a room temperature bird.
    Don't stuff the turkey, cook the stuffing separately. I use Peperidge farms stuffing and add a package of cooked sausage and some of the broth. Cook it in a covered dish.
    If there is any fat in the body cavity, usually around the tail, remove it and slip it under the breast skin. It's bastes itself that way.
    Hopefully the turkey has a pop up thermometer. when it pops let turkey sit for 10-20 min then move it to a carving board with edges so the juices don't run all over the place.
    Heat remaining turkey broth in microwave. Dump fat from roasting pan (don't be to obsessive about this) and put the roasting pan on your stove on very low heat. Add broth and scrape up crusty bits from pan. Dump this into roux and cook over LOW heat. This burns easily.
    Carve turkey....done!
    I wasn't always a Smurf
    Penmerryl's Sophie RIDSH
    "I ain't as good as I once was but I'm as good once as I ever was"
    The ignore list is my friend. It takes 2 to argue.



  19. #19
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    May. 28, 2006
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Brookes View Post
    What are your gravy plans? Homemade or ?????
    Pshh. Plans, what plans? I have no idea, I am helpless.

    Seriously though, I don't know, I have never made homemade but I know that it's not difficult. I'm sure I'll attempt.


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  20. #20
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    Jul. 5, 2007
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    Quote Originally Posted by rustbreeches View Post
    I would try and pawn off any appetizers and all desserts to those coming
    ^^That's how I handle it.^^

    As for coping with the rest, make a schedule backed off from serving time as to what needs to be done when, and stick to it. Having two ovens never hurts.

    My mother has a convection oven with two ovens, as well as a convection gas grill, and she uses them all!



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