Timing is everything. Really, it is. We’ve covered brining your turkey and seasoning your turkey. Now I’m gonna briefly step away from talking turkey to go more into the planning phases.
Simply put, much of what you plan on eating on Thanksgiving day can be made, at least partially, ahead of time. Even better, much of it can be done with little to no loss in quality to boot. Of course, this is pretty broad, but the important factor here is thinking it through. What’s your menu? How much work do you already have to do on T-Day? What work do you have on T-Day no matter what? These are questions you should ask yourself to help you plan ahead. Here’s what I’m probably gonna do, to a small extent. I don’t have my recipes together or my complete menu yet.
- First thing’s first: I’m gonna plan my menu well ahead of time in order to know exactly what to buy and how much. Always buy at least a little more than you need because what if you drop that lone onion on the floor while you’re cutting it? French Onion Dog-Hair Soup does not sound very tasty, does it?
- Second, I’m gonna buy my groceries early, but not too early. Since I’m off from work on Mondays, I’ll probably go the Monday before T-Day. This ensures that I will not hit a HUGE crowd and want to kill someone. It also is a sure-fire way to still have fresh product come Thursday, and also if I find that I forgot something, I still have time to go get it.
- Prep list. After I breeze through my recipes, it’s time to look at what I can do ahead of time. I have designated Wednesday as my do-ahead day, which is perfect if you can afford it. The longer things are in your fridge, the less awesome they will taste (for the most part.)
- I will certainly make sure I have plenty of resealable bags for use, too. This is what I am gonna store everything in, appropriately labeled.
- Label everything you do ahead separately. Plain and simple. Maybe not so plain. Allow me to explain with a personal example.
- If I need diced onions for 3 recipes, I will dice and measure out the onions for recipe 1, and put them in a bag labeled “Diced onions, recipe 1.” And I’ll do the same for 2 and 3. The same for all my ingredients. This way, you make sure you have all the product you need for everything you’re gonna cook.
- I will then do all my knife work and cutting and such, bagging and tagging. Finding room in the refrigerator is usually pretty fun, since I also have a turkey hanging out in there, brining of course.
- Once I have as much mise en place done that I possibly can, I start looking at what I can cook ahead of time. Mise en place: A French term that roughly means “everything in its place.” We use this term to designate that things are done and ready to go.
- Some things can be (partially) cooked ahead of time. I want to make a green bean casserole. So on top of trimming the greens, and slicing the shallots, I will also blanch the beans, dry them and bag them. Then, they’re cooked. So on T-Day, all I need to do is assemble the sauce and put the beans in there and finish cooking.
Some things just cannot be done ahead of time. I would not advise cooking your bird ahead of time and then reheating it. You miss a lot of flavor possibilities doing that. I would also not fry anything more than an hour before they are going to be eaten. Ever have french fries that have been out for more than 30 minutes? Yuck.
If you’re unsure about what you can do ahead, shoot me an email. I’ll be happy to review the recipe for you and suggest what can be done ahead of time. Planning and pre-prep is really important in my mind because let’s face it, your family probably doesn’t want to hang around and watch you cook. They wanna eat! So do what you can during the week. Get stressed during the week. But have fun on Thanksgiving. Afterall, that’s what it’s all about.