Before you start reading …
..if you are looking for Thanksgiving menus, click here. On the other hand, if you’d rather build your own menu by picking and choosing from a long list of Thanksgiving-friendly recipes, that list is here.
Recently a friend reminded me of a piece of advice she’d once received from a food writer. She noted that the timing had been uncanny. In the run up to Thanksgiving, her guest list kept growing. From six to nine and then another four and another two. There seemed to be no end to hungry friends and family looking for a spot to land. If you haven’t guessed already, the food writer was me. The advice? Thanksgiving is not a sprint; it’s a marathon.
I developed this philosophy ages ago. Over the years, I’ve thrown a bunch of Thanksgiving dinners. At least a handful of times, I was both surprised and pleased that every single invitation was accepted – and then some. No one had a conflict, another commitment or somewhere else to be. Not only that, they all seemed to have a brother or cousin or old family friend in town.
Cooking dinner for twenty in a tiny kitchen, leaves you with two choices. Freak out or pace yourself. I chose to pace myself. Over the years, I moved to bigger digs with better kitchens but I still paced myself. Now, I have my beautiful dream kitchen and, yes, I still pace myself.
It all comes down to a realistic menu and comprehensive shopping and to-do lists. And by comprehensive, I mean absolutely everything. Yes, set aside a time to set the table. Yes, include the obvious on your shopping list. If you’re like me, you can forget to buy milk if it’s not on the list. So, unless you have a crush on the produce guy and want go back time and time again – write it down.
By the way, you’ll need two shopping lists, one for each trip. That’s right, two shopping trips. Make the first one in the next few days. That’s when you buy anything with a long or long-ish sell-by date like flour, hardy vegetables and wine. A day or two before Thanksgiving, do a quick fly-by for the turkey, perishables and whatever you forgot on the first go-round.
As for that to-do list, be sure to be realistic with timing and deadlines. Once you map everything out, the reality of the space-time continuum will be clear. Sorry, no matter how good you are at multi-tasking, you can’t singlehandedly run the local 5K Turkey Trot, set the table, bake three pies, peel the potatoes and make the stuffing between seven and ten on Thanksgiving morning.
Anything you can do ahead – do ahead – way, way, way ahead. If you can freeze it, cook it now. Not to brag but I whipped up my family’s favorite Butternut Squash Soup last weekend. Five quarts are ready to go in the freezer. Set the table on the Sunday. Make the cranberry sauce on Monday. If you are making a veggie casserole or two, get them done on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Don’t hesitate to ask for help. If your brother loves to smash potatoes, let him have at it. He can peel them too. If your neighbor is famous for her apple pie, invite her to bring one along. She’ll be flattered. Thanksgiving is all about sharing. Sharing a meal and sharing at least some of the joy of cooking it.
Revise your plan if the situation changes. Wait a minute, make that when the situation changes. Have you ever known a Thanksgiving to go without a hitch? The dog will steal the turkey. The supermarket will run out of butternut squash or cranberries or whatever. Your uncle’s car will break down and he’ll need a lift. Out of blue, a long-lost cousin will show up on your doorstep. Meanwhile, your niece’s kids will get the flu and they’ll cancel at the last minute. You’ll break your ankle. (I’ve got that one covered – did it a few weeks ago.) It will snow and the power will go out … or something like that.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and bon appétit!
About 3 pounds Sweet Dumpling Squash, halved, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
2 medium red onions, halved and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
Apple cider vinegar
Arrange the racks in the upper and lower third of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees.
Put the rosemary, thyme, salt, pepper and paprika in a small bowl and whisk to combine.
Put the squash in a large bowl, drizzle with enough equal parts olive oil and vinegar to lightly coat and toss. Sprinkle with half of the herb-spice mix and toss again.
Spread the squash in a single layer onto rimmed baking sheets. Roast the squash for about 15 minutes at 425 degrees.
While the squash roasts, put the onion in a large bowl, drizzle with enough equal parts olive oil and vinegar to lightly coat and toss. Sprinkle with the remaining the herb-spice mix and toss again.
Remove the baking sheets from the oven, give the squash a toss and arrange the onion around the squash. Switching pan positions from top to bottom and vice versa, return the vegetables to the oven. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees and roast for 15 minutes or until tender and browned.
Can be prepared in advance, cooled to room temperature, covered and refrigerated. Reheat at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or until piping hot.
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One Year Ago – Cheesy Pumpkin-Sage Biscuits
Two Years Ago – Butternut Squash Tartlets
Three Years Ago – Lemony Kale & Radicchio Salad
Four Years Ago – Wild Rice & Mushroom Stuffing
Five Years Ago – Sweet Potato & Goat Cheese Crostini
Six Years Ago – Pumpkin Cheesecake
Seven Years Ago – Rustic Apple Croustade
Eight Years Ago – Cranberry Sauce
Nine Years Ago – Decadent Cheesy Potatoes
Ten Years Ago – Broccoli Puree
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!
Are you a host or a guest this Thanksgiving? Either way, do you have a plan? Feel free to share!
Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2018