I love this time of year. A slight chill is in the air (although yesterday’s temp and snow are not welcomed!) and the holiday season is fast approaching. In just a few short weeks, we will be celebrating my favorite holiday: Thanksgiving. It’s the one time of year that family comes in from near and far to celebrate the holidays. We spend the day catching up on the happenings that have gone on throughout the year for everyone. The really fun part of this holiday though is we get to cook. Yes, that is exciting to me!
I come from a family of wonderful cooks. Grandmothers, aunts, cousins and of course, my Mom, have all been amazing cooks, bakers and grillers (won’t leave you out of this one, Cousin). For us, the food we prepare is tradition. With a good number of people attending Thanksgiving dinner, some with food allergies and some with food preferences, we have the meal down to a science. If you want to bring a new dish, you are welcome too. But, you need to still bring the recipe you are known for. It is honestly where the anticipation comes from for this meal. You know what you loved eating in the past will be there again. What can be better than that?
This post isn’t so much on recipes to make for Thanksgiving because there are tons of websites offering just that. Instead, I wanted to share my recommended tools and tips in preparation for the holiday.Whether you are hosting small or large gatherings, I think you will find these items to be beneficial to a smooth cooking marathon otherwise known as Thanksgiving dinner.
- Roasting pan – a quality, heavy duty stainless steel pan. No flimsy aluminum pans, please! I am a long time fan of All-Clad’s large roaster for meats, vegetables and potatoes. (All-Clad 501631 Stainless Steel Large Roti Combo with Rack and Turkey Lifters Cookware, Silver)
- Thermometer – make sure your meat and poultry is done to the right internal temperature. A number of years ago, I invested in a remote thermometer which allows you to monitor the temperature of the turkey from whatever room you are in. (Ivation Long Range Wireless Digital Thermometer Set – Dual Probe – Remote BBQ / Smoker / Grill / Oven / Meat / Thermometer – Monitor your Food From up to 300 feet away)
- Gravy separator – removes the fat from the juices to help you have a healthier gravy (OXO Good Grips 4-Cup Fat Separator)
- Turkey baster – easy way to disperse juices over the cooking turkey (Norpro 5898 Stainless Steel Baster)
- Ricer – makes smooth mash potatoes every time. (OXO Good Grips Potato Ricer)
- Food mill – perfect for homemade applesauce or marinara sauce as the screen catches the skins of the apples and tomatoes. (OXO Good Grips Food Mill)
- Food processor – for dough, slicing and chopping vegetables and potatoes in quantity and many other purposes. (Cuisinart DLC-2009CHB Prep 9 9-Cup Food Processor, Brushed Stainless)
- Immersion blender – useful for pureeing sauces, vegetables, stocks, soups, and potatoes in the pot itself. (Cuisinart CSB-75BC Smart Stick 2-Speed Immersion Hand Blender, Brushed Chrome)
- Carving set – slicing knife and fork that is razor sharp and will aid you in highlighting the main course of this meal (Shun DMS200 Classic 2-Piece Boxed Carving Set)
- Casserole or cake pans – approximately 9×13 in size for vegetables, stuffing, grains, etc. (Le Creuset Stoneware Classic Rectangular Bakers, Soleil)
- Fresh herbs and seasonings – Turkey herbs, Sage, Thyme, Basil, Oregano, Garlic, lemon juice (not from a bottle!). Dried herbs last about a year so this is always a good time to clean your spice cabinet.(www.penzeys.com)
- Cookie sheets – for catching spillovers from pies, casseroles, etc. Bonus is to use a Silpat on the cookie sheet to make clean up a snap.(Silpat AE420295-07 Premium Non-Stick Silicone Baking Mat, Half Sheet Size, 11-5/8-Inch x 16-1/2-Inch)
- Serving pieces – ladles, large spoons and forks for serving and cooking with, cheese knives
- Clean towels – lots of them! You will go through them very quickly and not just at clean up time. Personally, I like Williams-Sonoma striped towels as I find them to be very absorbent while leaving little to no lint behind on the glasses. (http://bit.ly/1pUxifo)
A couple other organizational tips:
- Write down your whole menu, then put each the name of each dish on a post-it. Assign a serving bowl or platter to each post-it. This will keep you from rushing around at the last minute trying to find a serving piece.
- This same approach works on cookware too for those dishes being done at the time of the dinner itself instead of in advance.
- Pull out all your dinnerware, flatware, glassware and coffee/tea cups to make sure you have the number you need for your guests. This gives you the chance to wash what needs to be washed or purchase matching pieces of silverware for example.
- After meal storage containers, baggies, saran and foil — have plenty available should there be leftovers that you want to share with your guests.
- The day before Thanksgiving, put bottles of wine that should be chilled in the refrigerator or in the garage — weather permitting.
- If you are serving coffee with dessert, you can set up electric coffee makers (one decaf and one regular coffee) with grounds and water the morning of the dinner. This allows you the chance to simply push a button to have brewed coffee ready for your guests once dessert is served.
For Thanksgiving 2013, I added a creative touch to our menu in the form of a vegetable platter in the shape of a turkey. Everyone’s response was pretty amusing as some didn’t know if they should eat the vegetables or not! There are so many ways that this can be designed using vegetables that you like most.
Two suggestions should you decide to make this:
- For the turkey body, I used a yellow squash slicing the bottom so it is flat and will stand up.
- To hold the eyes, nose and mouth on, I used softened cream cheese.
In each picture, you can see the steps to completion. I highly recommend you make your own version and share your pictures with me. I’d love to see your creativity!
I am sharing this post a few weeks before Thanksgiving to give you a chance to evaluate what you have in your home now and what you might need to add to your kitchen. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask me.
Thanks for stopping by! Happy Thanksgiving!