First Thanksgiving Dinner
A quick question on Thanksgiving! I am cooking for the FIRST time this year (for about 10 people)... and need some help!
How do you time things?! I only have one overn, and will the turkey take it up the whole day?! Basic question, I know, but I am sort of baffled. We always ate at my Aunt's who has a double oven, and so I have no clue!
I will be having my second Thanksgiving this year (and the first was about 8 years ago). We will be having 10 guests, so that is 12 with my husband and I. I too only have one oven and I actually did a "test run" yesterday so that I could finalize my menu and work out any anticipated one-oven kinks.
I used Alton Brown's turkey recipe and it was fantastic, I highly recommend. I bought a turkey brining bag and started brining the night before. I took it out of the bag, rinsed and patted dry with paper towels about an hour before cooking. My 12 pound turkey (you will want 1 lb/person) took about 2 and a half hours. While the turkey was "resting" and you definitely want it to rest for a minimum of 20 minutes I slid my sides into the oven. So I timed it as this--made the winter squash soup with gruyere croutons earlier that day, reheated on the stove and topped with croutons at the last minute. Turkey was resting, sweet potato soufflé went into the oven as will my wild rice casserole. Mashed potatoes were made about an hour before, kept at room temp and reheated on the stovetop. I made my stuffing in a slow cooker, and while I didn't particularly care for it, I really needed to. Husband and friend really liked the stuffing. I think gravy is the biggest pain in the neck to do at the last minute. I'm not going to lie, yesterday I just heated some Plainville Farms gravy but for the big day I think I would roast some wings/neck/legs or whatever with some onions/carrot/celery and make the gravy ahead that way.
The Turkey cooking time will depend on it's weight; the heavier the bird, the longer the cooking time. You can expect the turkey to take up a fair bit of the oven time the day of the meal so stove-top or make ahead side dishes/desserts are always a good idea. There are oodles of Thanksgiving recipe threads here... Do you have a menu planned?
The timing of the meal will depend on when the bird is due to come out of the oven and rest(we leave it to "rest" in the pan on the counter at least 20 minutes). To work out the timing: take the end of the rest time ie: 5:00pm and count back .... for instance if mashed potatoes take 20 minutes to boil, 10 minutes to mash and season, then start them at 4:30 (30 minutes before the turkey is ready)... and do the same for the rest of the dishes in your menu.
So that guests aren't sitting around waiting for a late turkey (in case you miscalculated and the bird isn't done when you think it should be) have some appetizers/nibbles on hand: veggies and dip...other finger foods work well and can be prepared well in advance and set out when guests arrive.
Hope that's a start... I'm sure other CHrs will have more input :)
The most important thing: the more you can do ahead of time, the lower your stress levels will be. Set the table the night before if you can. Make-ahead, reheat-when-needed dishes are preferable. And remember that it takes a lot longer to peel and chop enough potatoes for 10 people than it does for 2! (And mashed potatoes hold well in a slow cooker if you a bit of add extra dairy.) And if you get volunteers, sub out the snacks and desserts so you can concentrate on the main event. Good luck!!
Do you have a toaster oven or microwave? Those can definitely help you. I find it helpful to keep a detailed list (actually an Excel spreadsheet) of what I'm serving, when it needs to go in the oven (or microwave or toaster oven or stovetop) and even what serving dishes will be used.
As GretchenS said, do as much ahead of time as possible. Not to scare you, but everything takes longer than you think!
I have some suggestions re gravy and cranberry sauce:
Whole Foods has a great "Stress Free Gravy" recipe you can make most of it the day ahead.
3 T unsalted butter
1/3 c. flour
4 cups homemade turkey stock or chicken stock, heated to a simmer
Pan drippings from one turkey, with fat poured off (in the roasting pan) (if you brine, I think the drippings will be too salty for gravy)
1/2 cup red or white wine
S & P to taste
Heat butter in a heavy large saucepan over med-high heat until foaming. Add flour while whisking and cook 1 minute; keep whisking. Pour in hot stock, while whisking.
Simmer while whisking about 1 minute. Gravy can be made to this point up to two days ahead. Set aside and refrigerate if not using immediately.
When you are ready to finish, reheat over med heat. When turkey is done, remove it from roasting pan, then tilt the pan and pour the fat off, leaving the drippings. Place the roasting pan on the stove burners over med heat. Pour the wine into the pan with the drippings, stirring and scraping with a wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. Cook a few minutes then pour this into the warm gravy and cook at a simmer for 5-10 minutes. Season with S & P.
1 cup Bourbon
1/4 cup minced shallots
grated zest of 1 orange
1 12-oz pkg fresh cranberries (I prefer the ones from Whole Foods)
1 cup sugar
freshly ground pepper
In a nonreactive saucepan (I use my teflon pot), combine bourbon, shallots and zest. Bring to a boil over med. heat, then simmer until reduced to a syrupy texture, about 10 min.
Add cranberries and sugar, stirring well. Lower heat slightly and simmer, uncovered, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in pepper. Transfer to a bowl, let cool to room temp, cover and refrigerate. (can be made several days before serving.)
(I love this stuff!!)
I'm a big fan of "pre-made" gravy. My wife uses turkey wings that have been baked to achive the drippings, then braised in chicken stock and stuff. Can be made ahead of time and the left over wings, after being cooked in all stuff are to die for! I'll post the receipe if you want.
It came from Women's Day mag.
We add a dash of water in the pan with the wings before baking. Cover the pan or else the onions will burn. Don't add any salt - adjust at the end if needed. It seems best if made 2 days ahead of time. Dried thyme works best. Good luck!