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Nov 13, 2004 08:14 AM

Thanksgving for 20 - what can I do ahead

  • c

We are having 20 for Thanksgiving. We will cook Turkey on the Weber and a ham on the gas grill. What sides can I prepare ahead - can I freeze gravy? Anu ideas for sides to feed 20.


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  1. Considering that the Turkey can rest for up to 45 minutes and the ham can be served warm as opposed to hot that frees up the Weber and the gas grill. I assume you also have an oven?

    Almost all traditional sides can be made ahead, refrigerated/frozen and then reheated. The key is having enough oven space but between the gas grill, the Weber and an oven you should be fine. I usually have turkey day for anywhere from 18-30 ever year and 90% of the meal is done in advance. I then use my gas grill and the oven for re-heating. Other family members provide the dessert and apps.

    Most recipes for sides can doubled and tripled so itÂ’s easy to convert almost any recipe to serve 20 with plenty of leftovers.

    Stuffing: best to make and bake the same day then refrigerated. It can then be reheated gently, and sprinkling with broth if it seem too dry. About a 1/2 to 1 cup person

    Sweet Potatoes: Whipped and/or mashed can be ahead of time and the re-heated on the stove top in a double boiler. Candies can be ahead, frozen and reheated in the oven. Count on about 1/2 a potato per person

    Mashed Potatoes: I prefer mashed fresh with lots of butter right before serving. However you can boil the potatoes the day before and stick in the fridge. Just reheat by dropping them in boiling water before mashing. Again, about 1/2 a potato per person

    Green bean casserole (yuck!) can be made days in advance as it will keep in the fridge but it can also be frozen (with the out the onion topping) Allow for 1/4 to 1/2 cup per person

    Fresh peas w/ pearl onions are easily just cooked up in the microwave right before serving or done on the stove top.

    We serve broccoli at thanksgiving, usually just lightly steamed with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and balsamic vinegar. This is best made right before eating.

    1. Yes, you can freeze gravy. Many cooks in search of sanity and quality control roast turkey parts and vegetables the weekend before the feast and deglaze the pan for gravy making, et cet. I have done this for over a decade and would never again consider trying to make gravy while the turkey is resting for carving and all the last minute sprints are happening.

      Unless I somehow inherited money to pay for staff, as it were!

      1 Reply
      1. re: Karl S.

        I second the do-ahead gravy. I have done it for the last few years and it relieves so much stress.

        I use turkey wings, celery, onion, carrots to make the base. I usually make it on Tuesday and keep in frig so the flavor gets really good.

        My daughter, who has the holiday and is responsible for the turkey, etc., loves it when I come in with a big pan of gravy. D.

      2. Im always struggling to get stuff done in advance. Ideally, weekend before items include:
        DEFINITELY Broth AND gravy (could be earlier-freeze)
        Making pie crust (ditto-freeze)
        cranberry sauce, spiced peaches and other relishes
        braised pearl onions/shallots
        roasted peppers
        cornbread (if needed for stuffing)
        soup or soup base, ahead of garnishing
        day or night before items: pie crusts and/or pies (tho definitely better baked day of, if you have time)
        dry out bread for stuffing
        sauteed sweet potatoes and apples (could be a weekend item, too)
        salad components and crudites
        table setting and flowers
        set up dessert service items
        Cooking green vegetables at last minute can be a crapshoot (by dinnertime I am usually a basket case) with all of the dinner assemblage, carving, making mashed potatoes, etc to manage. I admire anyone who consistently can get them on their thanksgiving table.

        Im thinking of making the PennDutch "dressing" this year, which includes bread,mashed potato and some turkey meat inlieu of stuffing, since it would enable me to sidestep the last minute mashed potato drill. and it can be delicious.

        1. I second many of the posters and have a few make aheads to add.

          Macaroni and cheese - easily assembled beforehand and baked day of or day before. Also can be frozen before or after baking. Serves a lot of people and is a crowd pleaser.

          Onion Soup - actually tastes better if made a couple of days in advance. Also, easy, cheap and pleasing. Skip the individual servings and offer grated cheese to those who want it.

          Corn Pudding/Creamed Corn - People go nuts for homemade creamed corn. The pudding is basically creamed corn with a cuople tblsps of flour added. I'm not sure you can freeze this, but you can definitely make it a couple of days in advance as long as you have room in your fridge.

          Crudite - cheat and buy a platter of sliced carrots, celery, etc. But if you must do it yourself, do it ahead of time and place all the veggies in zip loc bags the day before.

          Hope this helps.

          1. Last year I did it all the weekend and 2 days before with amazing success. I even bought some containers from a restaruant supply place (I think it was Smart and Final) that you can use in the freezer, oven or microwave. They really worked out nicely because they fit well in the freezer. I used a lot of the tips given below, however; my addition would be to make the stuffing the night before in a crockpot. It turned out really well, I usually dislike stuffing but I guess the flavors and the broth really got an opportunity to develope. I didn't use an egg to bind it either. Below is a very basic recipe that you can adjust to your own tastes, I sauteed the onions and celery and just popped it in the slow cooker.