It’s almost here! If you are hosting Thanksgiving this year you are somewhere in the range of having your plan set with multiple lists color coded by day for shopping, prepping and cooking or… you don’t even know where you are getting your turkey from. Here are some ideas that will help inspire your holiday celebration along with some tips to help it run more smoothly. Jump to the bottom of the post for my suggestions for great locally prepared items to make this the easiest holiday ever without missing that homemade feeling.
Tips for efficiency:
Menu planning considerations:
-Make sure you have enough room in your oven, on your stove top and in your refrigerator for each dish from prep stage to heating to to the table before you set your menu.
-Think about how far in advance you can prep certain components of each dish. Most desserts can be made a few days in advance. You can cut veggies on Wednesday and fully prepare the stuffing (technically the “dressing”). This way you can have a more relaxed Thanksgiving.
-Make lists for everything, each store should have it’s own list.
-Each day of prep leading up to Thanksgiving should have its own list.
-Have a timeline for your prep days and if possible recruit a family member for dishwashing and general kitchen cleaning assistance to keep yourself clutter free and organized.
-If you have the same ingredient in multiple dishes, prep it at the same time. For example, if you have onions in 3 dishes, cut them all at once to save time.
-When making your timeline start at the bottom with dinner time and work backwards to assure you leave enough time for each task. Think through what each dish needs to see where you can most efficiently multitask.
-Make sticky notes for each dish and have your platters set aside and ready for plating so you are not scrambling at the last minute.
-If you have the plates to spare you can set your table the day before. Put any fresh flowers out on Thursday.
-Use your Sharpie to write any last minute additions to each dish and cooking directions right on the foil or plastic. That way you won’t forget anything and if anyone comes in to help you prep they have the directions right in front of them!
What a better way to keep your guests occupied while you finish cooking and stretch out their stomachs for ultimate turkey consumption.
Here are some ideas for your table:
-Charcuterie Board: There is so much you can do here. I am not giving you a recipe, but I suggest (of course always the best quality and local if possible) 3 types of cheese, 2-3 types of meat, olives, pickled vegetables, dried fruits, nuts and fresh grapes still on the vine for a little height on the board. For crackers I suggest a GF option, a plain cracker and a flavored flat bread or bagel chip.
–Bacon Roll-Ups: This is my husband’s request every party/holiday as it was his favorite growing up, a recipe of his mom’s! As it goes, it has now become the quickest appetizer to disappear every time. Definitely give it a try and let me know how your family liked it!
-Baked Brie: This is a classic appetizer. I love it most with brown sugar and pine nuts or hot honey and bacon crumble, but for Thanksgiving I would change it to brown sugar, walnuts and cranberries. Simply take a sheet of puff pastry, place and handful of chopped walnuts and cranberries and sprinkle it with some brown sugar. Cut one of the flat sides of the brie rind off and place cut side of the wheel of brie on top and then wrap it up in the puff pastry. Place it seam side down and secure on a parchment lined sheet tray. Brush with egg wash (1/2 egg, 1/2 water), another sprinkle of brown sugar or sugar in the raw for crunch and bake at 400* until GBD, about 35-45 minutes. Let sit about 10 minutes and serve with apple slices, pear slices, crostini or crackers.
-Hummus and Veggies: Not only delicious, but a light app that will not drag you down and gives the fit and GF guests something to savor.
-Crostini: I like to cut up baguettes, toast them gently in the oven with just a little brush of olive oil. Top with ricotta, a drizzle of hot honey and cracked black pepper. Delicious.
-Deviled Eggs: A (GF) classic. I haven’t written a recipe for this, but I put the yellows and any broken whites in a food processor along with dijon, mayo, relish, a little dill, hot sauce, salt and pepper and make it a nice creamy texture. Adjust seasoning to taste a splash of vinegar or mince shallot are great additions. My favorite garnish is quick pickled jalapeños and bacon crumbles!
-Mini Meatballs: You can make them unique/stand alone or you can serve them in sauce. Try these or get some inspiration here!
The Main Event!
Local farms are the absolute best choice if you are close enough to one and can afford it. If you have a small crowd, and won’t miss the dark meat there are some places that offer just the breast.
Here are some great choices for local, fresh pasture raised turkeys:
Halas Farm Market in Danbury, CT: This is where I got my turkey last year and it was the best turkey I have ever had. This year they are also offering a produce box, I can’t wait to try it!
Fable Farm in Ossining, NY: offering a selection of fresh pasture raised turkeys (3 breeds to choose from) along with farm boxes that will cover your whole meal.
Harvest Moon Farm and Orchard in North Salem, NY: Along with the turkeys they also have a selection of pies that are sure to impress.
Hemlock Hill Farm in Cortlandt Manor, NY: They have many options for turkey, goose, duck, rabbit and ham.
Holbrook Farm in Bethel, CT: Offering thoughtfully sourced local turkeys.
Purdy’s Farm Shop in North Salem, NY: A very nice selection and a great reputation.
Some recipes for the Main event:
Roasted Turkey from Ina: Last year I used a combination of this recipe and Bobby’s from Flav City…
Roasted Turkey from Flav City: The dry brine is much neater than a wet brine. It came out perfectly using the thyme, lemon, onion and garlic from Ina’s recipe because I didn’t want cinnamon in my gravy…
Roasted Turkey with Gravy from Chef John at Allrecipes: I haven’t made this recipe yet, but this year I am going to follow it to a “T” and will amend this for next year. I am always in search for the perfect bird and the perfect preparation!
Do NOT throw away the carcass when you are done carving. We address leftovers at the bottom of this post!
Best Creamy Mashed Potatoes:
-4lb evenly cut (so they cook at the same rate) peeled Yukon Gold potatoes, straight into cold salted water. Bring to boil, cook until no resistance when poked with fork.
-Meanwhile gently heat 2 cups of heavy cream in a small pot with 1 bay leaf, 2 gently smashed garlic cloves and 5-10 peppercorns. Do not let it come to a boil. (You will strain this right before you add it to the potatoes.)
-When the potatoes are ready drain them in a colander and put them through the fine holes of a ricer back into the hot pot they were cooked in. Work quickly here, you want them to maintain their heat. You can use any potato masher, the ricer just makes them the smoothest.
-Slowly stream in/stir in your strained hot cream, when fully incorporated stir in 6T of room temperature butter. Season to taste with salt and finely cracked black pepper if desired. Garnish with chopped chives.
You can always go the Thomas Keller route and continue to put butter and warm cream until it stops incorporating (a la his Masterclass). I’m sure it’s incredible.
I always make this Easy Sausage and Herb Stuffing recipe from Once Upon a Chef on Wednesday so the flavors marry a little extra and I save some time on Thursday for my favorite annual Holy Yoga class! This stuffing is simple and delicious. The only changes that I make with this recipe is to use my own croutons from homemade bread. I also season the vegetables while they are cooking. Finally, after putting the browned sausage in the bowl, I put the chicken broth in the pan and heat it slightly while scraping up all of the beautiful fond that we build on the bottom of the pan before adding it to the bread. Fond is flavor, don’t leave it behind!
I will be making this recipe again from Christian Petroni. It is to die for. As is Christian, amazing guy.
-I am all about simply presenting the best vegetables you can find. See what your local farm has to offer and simply roast and season them with care.
-I also always have peas because my husband can’t eat this meal without them! I simply steam them, then I melt some butter in a pan, cook a shallot to translucent, add a clove of garlic for a minute, then the steamed peas go in and season with salt and pepper.
-Last year I made this brussels sprout salad with apple and pomegranate and it was incredible. Will definitely make it again.
If you are one of the 5 people who didn’t take up sourdough baking in 2020 you are going to have to track down some good bread! If you do not live within a one hour ride from the Bronx (or have family coming to your house that does, hint, hint). Here are some suggestions for you:
Flour Water Salt Bread in Darien, CT: Hands down the best bread around. I got my sourdough starter from them in February 2020 and have made some amazing loaves with it. You can go ahead and save yourself many hours and some dishwashing and grab their beautiful loaves, baguettes, croissants and so much more. Trust me on this one. They do everything right.
Ace Endico in Brewster, NY: You can get some Italian bread that is delivered from the Bronx right in upstate New York.
When I was little, after dinner we would clear the table then all fall into turkey comas while our parents prepared coffee and dessert. Those were the days!
So, let everyone take a little digestion break while you get your desserts together and make the coffee.
This is what will be on my table:
-This Pumpkin Cheesecake with gingersnap crust and caramel sauce from Once Upon a Chef: The best recipe, everyone absolutely loves it. I have made countless over the years and it never gets old.
-This Apple Crostata from Ina Garten: Simple, classic and delicious. What else would you expect from the Queen?
-Pumpkin Pie: My husband prefers the can and it’s recipe… my sister in law brings these. I have tasted pumpkin pies many times over the years and I just can’t get on board, but I totally understand the nostalgia and always have one on the table, even if I have to make it myself!
-This Cranberry Tarte from NYT Cooking: I haven’t made this yet, but it’s on my menu this year as it has fantastic reviews, it’s gluten free and looks pretty incredible.
-Pecan Pie: My grandma made the world’s best pecan pie, but unless someone magically happens upon her recipe… I am destined to try every recipe I find until I find one that can compare. This year I am going with this recipe by Smitten Kitchen. Will report back with review.
Where to buy great locally prepared items this holiday season:
-Jean-Jacques’ Culinary Creations in Pleasantville, NY: If you are looking for an easy and delicious holiday, you can get your whole meal here at very small or very large quantities! Their desserts are out of this world and there couldn’t be a better group of people to support locally. In addition to a wonderful menu and absolutely perfect food they are the greatest family you may ever meet.
–Jane’s Good Food out of Fairfield County, CT: I will be serving the cranberry tangerine ginger relish at my table this year. Head to the website to see what else is available and where to find it!
–The New Fairfield Food Center in New Fairfield, CT: a great local, family run business that is offering the whole meal!
– The Clocktower Grill in Brewster, NY: A wonderful family run restaurant that sources locally and thoughtfully. I am confident that their offerings will bring your Big Meal to the next level. They are also offering options from appetizers to desserts.
–Fortina Pizza in Stamord, CT, Yonkers, Armonk, Brooklyn and Rye Brook, NY: What?! For those of you who don’t know, this is the restaurant kingdom of Christian Petroni who leaves no dish un-parmed. I haven’t had their holiday offerings, but I have had their pizza, pasta, salads, veggie dishes and desserts. They are offering the whole meal! I have to tell you, you will not be sorry.
-Sport Hill Farm in Easton, CT: Not only do they still have some incredible local produce, head to their website for links to local business serving up some beautiful pies, quiches and other sweet treats!
I don’t know about you, but when I am having Thanksgiving leftovers I don’t want a straight replay. I want a little simple transformation without any heavy oil or fat added.
Some ideas that have been great for me in the past:
– Turkey soup: I make a quick stock with the turkey carcass and the veggies that I have saved in the freezer. I make it just like a traditional chicken soup. This is the perfect thing to eat and serve your family the day after indulging. I like to go easy on the body and warm up after picking up the Christmas tree (our favorite tradition for the day after Thanksgiving). I will add my recipe for this asap!
-Warm turkey sandwich: Take that leftover cranberry sauce and mix it with some mayo for the spread. Layer thin slices of turkey, some stuffing and thin slices of celery for a fresh crunch. So tasty.
-Warm turkey sandwich, elevated: You could pick up some brie, make the sandwich above on baguette, top with brie and stick under the broiler until melty then top with thin apple slices… Yum!
Check out my Thanksgiving Host Gifts and Drink Tips post for wine, beer and cocktail pairing for the Big Meal!
I hope you and your family have a fantastic, blessed holiday. Remember to stay relaxed and go with the flow, no one notices your mistakes unless you call attention to them (I might only be comforting myself with that statement 😉 ).
Happy Thanksgiving and please let me know if you have any questions that I might be able to help you with!