Thinking of hosting Thanksgiving this year? Whether you’ve hosted many-a-meal before or you’re a first-timer, there are likely some tips you can pick up to make the special day more stress-free. Here’s some advice that will help you create the perfect Turkey Day package for both you and your guests.
The first thing you should do, and also the most important step, is creating a master list for the special day. This list should include a number of main things.
Your first decision should be the recipes you want to make. Decide on the exact recipes you plan to use for each dish so that you can buy ingredients accordingly. You don’t want to find one recipe for cranberry sauce then use another only to find it requires a different type of citrus juice day-of. Based on this list, create another one that is exclusively all of the ingredients you plan to buy for these recipes. Especially if you’re getting fancy with ingredients or cocktails, you’ll want to make sure you have a list of all the different stores you might have to hit up, too.
Another list you’ll want to have is of your guests. You’ll have a few decisions to make: is it strictly an RSVP event? Are you going to leave room for floaters or chance surprise guests? You will need to know the estimated maximum numbers down so that you have enough food. And remember, it’s much better to overprepare than underprepare. Not enough food means unhappy guests, while too much food means lots of delicious leftovers.
You’ll also want to make a schedule for the day. It likely means getting time estimates from the different recipes you plan on making. When will you put the turkey in? When should you get started on the mashed potatoes? What time should guests start to arrive relative to when the main dishes will be ready? You will thank your past self if you set a schedule, whether its loose or strict.
Lastly, as far as the food itself goes, you might want to find recipes that can be prepared ahead. Whether it’s something that can be totally complete, like a pumpkin cheesecake, or something that can be prepped day-before and cooked day-of, like green bean casserole, you should maximize the number of these kinds of dishes. It’ll save you time and lots of headaches on Turkey Day itself.
Be Accepting of Help
Especially on the first Thanksgiving that one has at their home, many people will want to make a great impression of themselves as a chef, baker, and host. However, don’t let your pride get in the way of accepting help! It’s easy to think we can handle more tasks than we actually can, which may simply be human inclination. Not only will you likely find yourself desperately desiring the help day-of, but cooking such a feast is actually quite fun when accompanied by a loved one. Put on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in the background or holiday movies to get in the mood, or maybe reruns of your favorite show and Christmas music are more up your alley. Enjoy the time together and remember that more hands will make a more fantastic meal!
Around the holidays, you might see lots of creative recipes pop up for twists on classics to spice up the season, like the famous “Turducken” – a deboned chicken stuffed into a deboned duck, all stuffed into a deboned turkey. While this is quite the culinary masterpiece, it also requires lots of effort and is easy to mess up. So, save the experimentation for cooking on your own time as opposed to when you have lots of hungry mouths to feed (and impress).
Take Shortcuts When You Can
Taking advantage of shortcuts is nothing to be ashamed of! Pie, for example, is a dish that often requires a lot of time to prepare and a lot of potentially less-than-desirable attempts at making before it comes out perfect. So, save yourself the stress and time by picking up a pie from your trusted local bakery, which you will have no trouble finding in Asheville.
Even for the things you do decide to make at home, ingredient shortcuts can be lifesavers. For example, many professional bakers will suggest using canned pumpkin purée instead of one you make at home, as it is much more consistent in flavor and texture. Additionally, things like pre-made dinner rolls and pie crusts will save a lot of time in otherwise extremely time-consuming processes.
Cocktails and More
For some, even more important than the food is the beverage situation! Make sure to stock up on your liquor and related drink items before the big day. Eggnog and apple cider are staples for both drinkers and non-drinkers, so make sure to add those to your list. Keep versatile liquors for the season around, like whiskey and brandy. Wine and beer are always great to have in stock with company over as well. If you want to get extra fancy, pick up some fresh fruit as well, like apples for some apple cider mimosas! Additionally, many people want to get started on the drinking right when they walk through the door, so you’ll probably want to have those cocktails or other drinks ready to go once guests start arriving.
Thanksgiving is focused all around the food, and it’s not hard to get caught up in the food-dominant aspect of the day. However, there is much more to prepare than just what people will be eating. Make sure you have enough nice plating and silverware ready for everyone, along with enough glasses for water, cocktails, wine, and coffee. It’s also very easy to overlook seating, though this is one of the most critical parts – do you have enough seats for everyone?
You’ll also maybe want an idea of what TV programs people would like in the background – are your guests riled up by Thanksgiving football, would they prefer Christmas movies, or simply music? Do you want any other kinds of activities to do with everyone after dinner, or does everyone enjoy chatting and drinking? These are things to think about leading up to the big day.
This day couldn’t have been possible without you! Pat yourself on the back, enjoy the delectable food you’ve made, sip on some eggnog and bourbon, and enjoy the time with your guests. Plus, the best part is yet to come… all of the leftovers you’ll enjoy the rest of the weekend!