Countdown to T-Time & Cranberry Sauce

Thanksgiving is all about family and food, and maybe a little football. More than any other holiday, dinner is the main act. There is nothing else to distract us, no jolly guy in a red suit, no fancy disguises or bunny rabbits. The table positively groans with fabulous dishes we only make once a year.

It you are hosting Thanksgiving this year, no need to panic. All you need is a good plan and maybe a little help. At least one or two friendly volunteers will probably pop up. Whether they offer to run an errand, bring dessert or carve the bird, don’t hesitate, accept!

For this feast of feasts, I offer you some of my tried and true recipes, foolproof timeline and my mantra, “it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

The Menu

You may have your own favorites. If not, I offer some of mine.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
Roast Turkey with My Mom’s Stuffing (stay tuned – it’s up next week)
Cranberry Sauce (today!)
Roasted Green Beans & Tomatoes
Decadent Cheesy Potatoes
Mixed Greens with Roasted Mushrooms
Apple Crisp with Cranberry Coulis

And now for the Countdown

Before it’s too late:

I order my fresh turkey a week to ten days before Thanksgiving.

Saturday morning before Thanksgiving:

I grab a mug of tea (coffee if I’m feeling particularly groggy), take a deep breath and get ready to make some final, yes final, decisions. I review my menu and cast it in stone. I pull out my recipes and make my shopping list. Even if I have made the dish hundreds of times, I check the recipe to make sure I don’t forget anything. As I build my list, I check my cupboards. The last thing I need is to discover I’m out of cinnamon on Thursday morning. I also check expiration dates. If the sell-by date is May 1994, it’s probably time to buy a new jar! Then it’s off to the supermarket and farm stand for the first round of shopping.

Sunday:

If I don’t already have a batch in the freezer, I roast and puree the vegetables for the butternut squash soup (steps 1-3). I cool and store the puree in the freezer until Thursday morning.

Monday:

I find a half hour to make the Cranberry Sauce, Cranberry Coulis for the Apple Crisp and the Vinaigrette for the salad. Each takes about ten minutes. I like getting these tasks out of the way and the sauces into the refrigerator so I don’t have to worry about them. (Or, in the confusion, forget them.) It’s incredibly satisfying to check three things off my to-do list so early in the week!

Tuesday:

I set and decorate the table and pull out my serving dishes. Yes, I have one of those silly gravy boats shaped like a turkey … and pumpkin salt shakers. I throw together a quick and easy centerpiece of gourds and a few ears of Indian corn, add some candles and my table is picture perfect.

Wednesday:

It’s Thanksgiving Eve and I move into high gear. I clear my calendar and devote the day to cooking.  First I check and double check my lists and head to the store. I pick up my fresh turkey, greens, beans and anything I forgot on Saturday.

Home again, I make My Mother’s Stuffing and store it in the refrigerator. Next, I prepare the Decadent Thanksgiving Potatoes. A cross between smashed and scallop potatoes, they are not only delicious, they can be prepared in advance and baked at the last minute. It’s great to have one more thing out of the way and safely stored in the refrigerator.

Next, I roast mushrooms, crumble gorgonzola, prep onions and chop and toast walnuts for the salad. If I have time and no one has offered, I prep everything for the Roasted Green Beans and Tomatoes. Since there are walnuts on the salad, I don’t bother on the beans.

Turkey Day:

First thing in the morning, I make the Apple Crisp. With sweet and spicy apples bubbling in the oven, the house begins to smell like Thanksgiving.

Before I forget, I remove the squash puree from the freezer and put it in a large soup pot to thaw.  Then I take a walk. We have our feast in the late afternoon so I have plenty of time.

About a half hour before it’s time to shove the turkey into the oven, I stuff, tie and truss the bird. (Not forgetting to remove the neck and bag of giblets from the turkey’s cavity.)

While the turkey roasts, the house fills with delicious aromas and ravenous family and friends. I hold court in the kitchen and make broth for the gravy with the turkey neck and giblets. As we get closer to T-time, I roast the Green Beans and Tomatoes and bake the Decadent Thanksgiving Potatoes. To ensure no one faints from hunger, I finish the Roasted Butternut Squash Soup and serve it in mugs. Some of us stand around the kitchen while we sip our soup while others relax in front of the fire.

When the turkey has finished roasting, I let it rest for about thirty minutes. About this point, chaos starts to ensue.  There are usually at least ten extra people in the kitchen. Unless they offer to help, I do my best to ignore them while I keep an eye on the vegetables and make the gravy. A few deep breaths help a lot.

Somehow or other the well-rested turkey gets carved, the salad is tossed and everything ends up in a serving dish and on the table. Following my Nana Nye’s example, before sitting down, I put the apple crisp back into the oven which is off but still warm.

Finally, thankfully, we are all around the table. We raise our glasses in a toast to health, happiness, friends and family. Bon appétit and Happy Thanksgiving!

Cranberry Sauce
My grandfather lived on Cape Cod after he retired. He did a lot of odd jobs to keep himself busy, including harvesting cranberries in the fall. Enjoy!
Makes about 2 cups

12 ounces of fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
Grated peel of 1 orange
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger

Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a small bowl and let cool. Cover and refrigerate.

Just in case you find it useful … here’s my My Thanksgiving Checklist.

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What’s your favorite way to spend a cold, rainy day? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below. I’d be delighted to add you to the growing list of blog subscribers. To subscribe: just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive a new story and recipe every week.

Feel free to visit my photoblog, Susan Nye 365 or my cleverly named other blog, Susan Nye’s Other Blog, or website www.susannye.com. You can find more than 200 recipes, links to magazine articles and lots more. I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. ©Susan W. Nye, 2010

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