Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Make Ahead Thanksgiving Dinner!

The following blog is a "Planner" I have put together after years of trial and error.

I can honestly say I follow these directions, step by step, each and every time I cook a turkey dinner and they have never led me astray. The recipes are guaranteed to provide your friends and family with an absolutely delicious Thanksgiving dinner. At the same time, because much of the meal is made ahead, the cook will be able to enjoy the day instead of being stuck in a messy kitchen.

I hope this planner is helpful to you.

Please let me know what you think.


Happy Thanksgiving!


If you're just stopping by and want my printable planner and recipes without the whole blog (though the blog is highly entertaining ;) Click here for the PRINTABLE PLANNER.

Roasted turkey, roasted brussel sprouts, sweet potato casserole, lemon dill carrots, fluffy mashed potatoes, stuffing, fresh baked buns, and gravy make this the ULTIMATE holiday feast.

Thanksgiving dinner this year couldn't have turned out better. My planning and timing resulted in delicious food and a relaxed cook. So much so that I was enjoying a cocktail when the first of my guests arrived.

With all of the prep done ahead of time - including setting the table, getting cranberry sauce into bowls, laying out serving spoons etc. all I had to do yesterday was follow my schedule.

The following is a play by play report on the day's activities.

These links will take you to everything I made ahead:

Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes (can be made two days in advance, cover tightly and refrigerate

Lemon Dill Carrots (can be made a day in advance, cover tightly and refrigerate)

Zippy Glazed Carrots (a side I came up with this year because I wanted more flavour from my carrots - can be made a day in advance, cover tightly and refrigerate)

Sweet Potato Casserole (can be made two days in advance, cover tightly and refrigerate)

Apple Turnip Mash
(Some years I choose to make this side instead of sweet potatoes. I actually prefer it but my son is a die hard sweet potato casserole fan - can be made two days in advance, cover tightly and refrigerate)

There are two choices for your stuffing and both are excellent. For a quick version using Stove Top mix try: My family's top secret recipe for stuffing (can be made two days in advance, cover tightly and refrigerate)

Or for something a little more time intensive but definitely worth the effort: Sausage and Apple Stuffing (can also be made two days in advance)

Easy Pumpkin Cheesecake (can be made a day or two ahead, cover tightly and refrigerate)

Thanksgiving and Christmas are all about old fashioned memories. I like to use my vintage corning ware casserole dishes both to store and serve.

Make aheads give the cook time to enjoy friends and family!
    The next day, you will begin by stuffing your turkey.

    Below is a cooking chart to let you know how long you will be roasting.

    8 to 12 pounds -- 2 3/4 to 3 hours
    12 to 14 pounds -- 3 to 3 3/4 hours
    14 to 18 pounds -- 3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours
    18 to 20 pounds -- 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 hours
    20 to 24 pounds -- 4 1/2 to 5 hours

    Stuffed Hours
    8 to 12 pounds -- 3-3 1/2 hours
    12 to 14 pounds -- 3 1/2 - 4 hours
    14 to 18 pounds -- 4-4 1/2 hours
    18 to 20 pounds --4 1/2 - 4 3/4 hours
    20 to 24 pounds --4 3/4 - 5 1/4

    If in doubt, use use a meat thermometer (available at most grocery stores and kitchen shops) to determine the correct degree of doneness. Turkey is done when meat in the thigh reaches 180°F or (meat in the breast in finished at 170°F).

    Setting the Table

    Because I'm an anal retentive neurotic, the setting of my holiday table in advance has become a bit of an obsession.

    No matter, though.

    Because any good host will tell you that once the table is set, you have created the mood, and mood, after all, sets the tone for all else to come.

    Pictured above is my 2010 table setting.

    I offset the brilliant colours in my Italian pottery Thanksgiving plates with a rustic black table cloth.

    And added a little whimsy with my favourite salt and pepper shakers from the 60's: Owls with googly eyes.

    As an experienced host, I know that the most seemless of dinner parties are always that way because of careful planning...

    The PLAN

    10:00 am - Begin the dinner rolls cover the dough, set aside in a warm place for the first rising. Your dough will sit on your warm stove top and simply do it's thing all day. You will let this dough rise three times - which just means it grows about twice it's normal size - kind of like me after eating this dinner. You will simply put your fist into the middle of the dough to take the air out and then let it rise again.

    11:00 am - Prep the turkey

    Rinse the turkey and then dry it really good inside and out.

    Salt the cavity and then stuff with the dressing you made the day before.

    Rub the outside skin with softened butter and then sprinkle all over with kosher salt, garlic powder, and fresh cracked black pepper. Be generous - turkey tastes great with these seasonings.

    Put breast side up onto a roasting rack in your roaster and cover with lid or tin foil.

    12:00 pm - Turkey goes into oven at 325 (baste every hour) My times are based on a 15 to 17 pound turkey, adjust yours accordingly and start earlier for a bigger bird. The idea is to have things timed so your turkey comes out of the oven at 4:00 pm.

    Baste your turkey every hour. If there are a lot of pan juices, remove them as you go and set aside for your gravy.

    3:00 pm - Prep Brussel Sprouts (follow this link to the recipe) set aside until ready to roast.

    3:30 pm - Remove Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes and the other sides from fridge and set on counter.

    3:30 pm - Remove turkey from oven. Using your baster, remove all excess pan juices and set aside to use for gravy. Remove cover from turkey and return it to the oven to really brown up for the last half hour of roasting.

    3:50 pm - form the dough you made for the rolls in the morning into buns. It will have risen three times by now. Cover and set aside to rise again.

    4:00 pm - Turkey comes out of oven. Put on platter, cover with tin foil, leave to rest. (Don't worry, it won't get cold).

    4:05 - Put pan drippings into a fat seperator. if you have one - it's an easy way to remove excess fat from your gravy.

    Leave about 1/4 cup in the bottom of your roaster pan.

    4:10 - Add 4 tbsp flour to the pan drippings to make a roux. Add all the pan juices, one tbsp cranberry sauce, and three packages of Clubhouse roast turkey gravy mix that has been shaken up with three cups of water. Trust me on this, it makes a great gravy. While that heats up, scrape all the good brown stuff off the sides and bottom of the pan. Get every last bit of flavour off that sucker!

    Whisk, whisk whisk! Bring to a boil and thicken with more flour if needed.

    When it's a nice consistency, transfer to a sauce pan and keep on low until ready to eat.

    4:20 - Preheat oven to 350, Wash your roasting pan and put it away. No more mess, no more mashing, no hot steamy kitchen, gravy's done.

    4:30 - Put potatoes into a 350 oven.

    4:35 - Have another cocktail, relax, put out some appetizers - we always have fresh prawns with cocktail sauce. and some nice brie with crackers and grapes - enjoy your guests.

    4:50 - Put turnip mash, and sweet potato casserole into the oven alongside the potatoes give potatoes a stir while adding a little warm whole milk or cream at their halfway point. This will give them a nice creamy consistency)

    5:25 - Remove veggies from oven (making sure they're heated all the way through), cover with foil and a t-towel, leave to rest on the warm stove top (don't worry, these won't get cold either)

    5:30 - Increase oven heat to 400. Put brussel sprouts in to roast.

    5:35 - Carve the turkey

    5:55 - Put your buns in the oven (I always wanted to say that) They just go in alongside the brussel sprouts. Both buns and brussels will take another 15 minutes.

    6:05 - Heat the carrots in the microwave on high for app five minutes.

    6:10 - Pull your buns and brussels out of the oven, uncover everything else, stick a ladle in the gravy, and serve. (We usually just do it buffet style as that seems easiest)

    6:15 - Toast the cook and Happy Thanksgiving

    (Maven's Thanksgiving plate 2008)

    And don't forget dessert!!

    Easy Pumpkin Cheesecake

    "Gratefulness is the key to a happy life that we hold in our hands, because if we are not grateful, then no matter how much we have we will not be happy -- because we will always want to have something else or something more."



    Lyndsay Wells is a professional trainer, writer, and program developer with a passion for food and cooking. She is an award winning recipe developer, and a website ambassador for Kraft Foods Canada. Lyndsay believes cooking should be approachable and easy and has great tips and ideas for putting together sophisticated looking dishes that cooks of all levels can accomplish.

    Visit her daily on her blog, The Kitchen Witch or on her YouTube Channel, CHARMED With The Kitchen Witch.

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    1. I love your blog! Thanks for finding me and leaving a comment on my blog. I love how you were cooking Giada's recipes. I really love her shows, but haven't cooked much of her recipes. Sounds like you've had great success. I took a break from Tyler this summer, but I'm back on to doing one every week now.

    2. Of all the US holidays I miss the most after moving to the UK, its definitely thanksgiving!