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Thanksgiving: What do you make ahead?

Just curious what dishes, etc different folks will make ahead of time. I've been doing the T-day dinner for a few years now and am always on the hunt for ways to make life easier on the day itself. :)

I always do all of my prep the night before, chopping vegetables and all of that sort of thing. Everything is premeasured and put in containers labeled w/ their use. I've taken to prepping the dressing the night (not cooked though), and last year made an onion gratin from food & wine ahead of time - basically you set it up, then the next day before heating sprinkle on the bread & bacon topping.

We hoping to see what sorts of dishes & shortcuts folks had, idea gathering as it were.

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  1. We always make any pies the day before-and then have to hide them from ourselves so we dont eat them Wed night. Cranberry sauce is also made the day ahead, and then this year I think Im doing a roasted veggie salad-and Ill do the roasting of all of those the day before.

    15 Replies
    1. re: fmcoxe6188

      I make cranberry sauce several weeks ahead of time - it keeps forever, as far as I can tell (well, a year!). The one I make has crystalized ginger in it, and I like for it to sit for a couple of weeks so that the ginger flavour is really infused.

      1. re: MMRuth

        It certainly does keep forever! My mom used to make chutney's around the holidays and they would keep as well. Its just become a tradition though for me to make the cranberry sauce the day before- I used to do it when I was in school and I got that great half day on Wednesday-Id run right home and make the sauce. Been my tradition ever since

        1. re: MMRuth

          Can you share your recipe for cranberry sauce with the crystalized ginger? Thank you.

          1. re: KellBell

            I just make the recipe on the back of the bag of cranberries, but do use a little less sugar. This time I cut the sugar in half and it's too sour, so I'm going to have to add a little sugar syrup to it I think. Then, I sliver crystalized ginger coins (usually slice them in half through the middle, then julienne) and stir them in. Can't tell you a quantity - I just keep adding and tasting. It does get more gingery over time, but you can also add more later on. Then, right before serving, I stir in toasted almond slivers. (You can toast ahead of time.)

            My mother always said to make sure to use a high quality ginger - I like the Australian one from Williams Sonoma. The stuff lasts for a long time.

            1. re: MMRuth

              I just got around to adding the ginger - and tasted the sauce first. This time, I thought it was just fine, and didn't need more sugar. Plus the ginger of course has sugar. I used about ten coins, which I added to the sauce made by two bags, minus about 1.5 cups, which I'm keeping aside for those who don't like ginger. I'll taste again on Thursday morning and add more if I think it needs it.

              1. re: MMRuth

                This sounds very good - my mother-in-law makes a spiced cranberry sauce which I don't particularly like (not fond of cloves) but ginger definitely appeals.

              2. re: MMRuth

                I've made a peach-cranberry compote (really cranbery sauce with [frozen] peaches) with crystallized ginger that was very good, but this year I'm going to add minced crystallized ginger to my fallback cranberry sauce, in which the liquid is a combo of OJ and raspberry vinegar. The raspberry vinegar makes a really geat sauce (especially if you can get Koslowski Farms black raspberry vinegar, which is local to Northern California - I used to tote bottles back to NY). Honestly, I'm a bit obsessed with cranberry sauces and chutneys, and have made lots with and without ginger. Ginger is always great in it.

                1. re: MMRuth

                  use the small cutie oranges instead of reg.. you can also put in the segments.. it is really yummy and for a twist add some chopped fresh mint and cinnamon .. or if you like it more savory.. add just a touch rosemary... which goes well with the orange.. yum!!!!

              3. re: MMRuth

                I put orange liqueuer in mine, so it does keep forever, but a few weeks would make me wonder. I know, I eat it for two weeks afterward. I used to think the alchohol kept it okay. Regardless, that is the one dish you have to make ahead because it has to cool.

                1. re: RGC1982

                  I've served it the next year for Thanksgiving. I think all of that sugar helps too. I just keep in a glass jar in the back of the fridge.

                2. re: MMRuth

                  MMRuth, do you use water or orange juice. I always use orange/tangerine juice and zest and wasnt sure how this would be with ginger- prob good no?

                  1. re: cassoulady

                    I use water, but I think the orange would be nice with the ginger. Do you use less sugar when you use juice?

                    1. re: MMRuth

                      I do, I squeeze my own juice and add about a quarter to half of the sugar in the recipe and the zest of a whole tangerine. One year, I served it in the hollowed out tangerine halves, but it looked pretty silly!

                3. re: fmcoxe6188

                  The roasted veggie salad sounds great. Do you have a recipe?

                  1. re: janehathaway

                    Oops! Sorry just seeing this- my take on the roasted veggie salad is described here:

                4. I make gravy ahead of time, a few a days ahead with stock I make from turkey parts. I also make cranberry chutney ahead of time ( the weekend before). I prepare a lot of the sides the day before as well.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: cassoulady

                    I usually make turkey stock ahead of time, have always been leery of making the gravy beforehand though. That's a good idea, the gravy making is always the most hectic time period.

                  2. Last year I made mashed potatoes the day before and reheated in the slow cooker. Was great. I think I got that tip on CH.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: c oliver

                      Another thing I've always been leery of doing in advance. Did you bring them to room temp before putting in the slow cooker (i'm assuming on low?) or just right out of the fridge?

                      Did you alter your recipe at all?

                      1. re: jgg13

                        Once I made them, I put them in the slow cooker and refrigerated over night. I don't remember but probably had them out of the fridge quite in advance of turning on the heat (yes, low). The only downside :) is we have a real skinny friend who is a carbo-holic. So he kept slipping over for little nibbles.

                        1. re: c oliver

                          I have to make them ahead this year and will do the same. Did you adjust your recipe? stir it often to keep it from baking on? or everything went tickety-boo?

                          Edit: My make-ahead is for Christmas, haha! Canadian Thanksgiving is long gone, boohoo...

                          1. re: Full tummy

                            Just a normal recipe. I'm sure I probably did a minimum of stirring but not alot as I wanted them to still have lumps in them. We're fixing dinner at my MIL's this Friday and I'll be taking made-ahead mashed potatoes. People also mentioned MW them.

                            1. re: c oliver

                              That was what I was going to do, but I'm taking mashed potatoes (and other things) to a relative's home, and it would just be so much better to not rely on any of their appliances when I know there will be so much activity looking after other things in the kitchen already.

                              1. re: c oliver

                                I was looking for an alternative to "make ahead potatoes" that include sour cream or cream cheese. They never seem to have the great consistency of freshly mashed potatoes. The potatoes don't become too "soupy" in the slow cooker, do they? Approximately how long can you hold them in the slow cooker?

                        2. re: c oliver

                          For the first time, I made mine ahead last year. The recipe was basic but had cream cheese added. Put in a casserole and dot with butter and sprinkle cheese on if desired. Stick in a hot oven while you finish the rest of the meal. People LOVED 'em, so making them again this year.

                        3. I do the cranberry-orange relish a few days ahead. And the sausage-sourdough stuffing the day before. I also prep all my veggies the night before, for the relish tray and so Im not chopping all morning.

                          I dry brine my turkey up to 3 days ahead in my second fridge, and I have to keep it stocked well with lots of beer & white wine, so it won't freeze the turkey on me! And if I'm up to making homemade stock, that gets done a couple of days ahead, while I'm prepping the bird. But I do not like to do the mashed potatoes ahead, since they really don't keep for more than 3 days as leftovers anyway, even though they are easy to reheat.

                          1. i'm making the cranberry sauce early this year and i'm roasting bones and making stock a few days early so i can put together the bread stuffing and possibly the rice stuffing ahead also.

                            thanks for the mashed potato deal. we will make that in the morning, and heat it up in the crock pot in the afternoon.

                            i'm thinking of roasting my root veggie side the day before since oven space will be limited. the problem here is that i don't want them to look like raisons... any pointers? do you think i can par-roast them? would it dry out??

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: jeniyo

                              How are you going to reheat them? I would par roast them so they're browned but not shriveled! Then store them in the fridge covered, that will add a little moisture to them, especially if you're microwaving them to reheat, which is what I would probably do, since the oven will be occupied.

                              1. re: Phurstluv

                                i was thinking i can probably sneak them in the oven for 5-10 min so they are hot. I'm tossing them with balsamic, roasted nuts (pine nuts/cashews) and marjoram. i am hoping they don't dry out from sitting around but don't get wet and limp on me either.

                                i'm going to salt them at final heating to prevent the possible shrinkage. The horror last year - we are all too busy to keep an eye out for them. they were over-roasted... ok, just me, i'm being dramatic..

                                1. re: jeniyo

                                  Sounds really delicious. Do you have convection on your oven? You can always reheat in convection and it'll crisp them up in a few minutes at 400 or so.

                              2. re: jeniyo

                                Oh, I would try not to do the roast veggies ahead. They are never quite right the next day, unless someone has a miracle recipe/technique they could share.

                                1. re: jeniyo

                                  I'm also making my roasted veggies (purple potatoes, cauliflower, turnips, beets -- added at the last minute to avoid staining -- butternut squash, fennel) ahead of time this year. It think they'll be fine with a quick reheat in the convection oven or even served at room temperature. A few of the midtown delis I go to for a quick lunch have room temperature roasted vegetables at the salad bar and I think they're pretty good even cold or reheated.

                                2. One thing I was thinking of making was this green bean dish:

                                  The recipe is listed as being 'make ahead' and it says they can be prepared up to 2 days in advance. I suppose I should just try it and see what happens some time in the next week, but just looking at this recipe I don't know that I think it'd be nearly as good if it was reheated. What do you all think?

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: jgg13

                                    Those beans are basically braised, so I would think they would reheat fine. What I would do is not fully cook them the first time, leave in the broth and then reheat gently. They will cook down a little more the second time.

                                    Or you can strain the broth out, then just microwave them. Didn't get whether they were to be served soupy/brothy or not. Sounds good tho.

                                    I'm making Sara Moulton's Green Bean casserole Moderne, which is just like the soup casserole, but you make your own cream of mushroom base. It's pretty simple, and I think I did it ahead one year, then just popped in the oven and topped w/ the fried onions on the day of. I may have to do it that way this year, as I have quite a houseful this time and just know it will be hectic getting everything done at the same time!!

                                    1. re: Phurstluv

                                      "Didn't get whether they were to be served soupy/brothy or not"

                                      True that ... I thought of that myself, but figured soupy/brothy, which is why I was leery of storing it overnight. I usually don't like green beans nearly as much when they're soupy & have been held in the fridge.

                                      1. re: jgg13

                                        Yea, I hear ya. I would strain them out of the broth to store, so they're not mushy.

                                  2. In addition to the gravy, cranberry relish, apple pie, and ginger ice cream--all made anywhere from a week or two before to the day before--I also make both a butternut squash soup and a wild rice and pecan dressing that freezes outstandingly well. Baked sweet potatoes are an on-again, off-again dish for me, but on a couple of occasions I've made those the day before and they reheated as well as I had hoped.

                                    Matter of fact, other than the turkey, roasted potatoes (no mash at my house), and the always-on-the-table brussels sprouts with chestnuts, there's damed little I DON'T do at least one day ahead of time.

                                    8 Replies
                                    1. re: JoanN

                                      How do you reheat baked sweet potatoes?

                                      1. re: c oliver

                                        I'm not talking about baked whole potatoes with a crispy skin. The ones I make are peeled and sliced and baked in a combination of butter, honey, bourbon, and some stock. I just bring them to room temp, cover them with foil, and stick them in the oven until they're warmed up.

                                        1. re: JoanN

                                          Oh, girl, that got the salivary juices flowing. I'm not a bourbon lover but sounds like the perfect combo. How thick/thin do you slice the potatoes?
                                          (Please note that although I WANT to be chatty, I'm NOT!)

                                          1. re: c oliver

                                            Oh, about half and inch thick. Maybe a little less. You want them to be able to hold their shape and not fall apart when you're serving them.

                                          2. re: JoanN

                                            Sounds wonderful. Would love the recipe and also the one for your brussel sprouts and chestnuts.

                                        2. re: JoanN

                                          how do you do those brussel sprouts with chestnuts?

                                          1. re: jen kalb

                                            Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts

                                            First, I buy the very smallest Brussels sprouts I can find. (For NYCers, my most reliable source is Citarella; they always have them around the holidays.) I also always buy the already peeled French chestnuts in a jar. (Okay, so I'm lazy. But I have too many other things to do that day and no kitchen elves to help.)

                                            Trim six cups (about 1-1/4 pounds) of sprouts. Melt 1-1/2 sticks of butter in a non-reactive pan. Add the sprouts, 1/2 teaspoon salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a pinch of sugar and stir to coat the sprouts with butter. Cover pan and simmer sprouts over low heat for 10 minutes. Coarsely chop the chestnuts, add to the pan, cover, and cook over low heat for 5 minutes more or until sprouts are just tender but still crisp.

                                            Simple, but so good. And quite forgiving. They've turned out well even when I've ended up cooking them much longer than I'd intended. You could probably get away with less butter, but I like to make sure the sprouts and nuts absorb as much as possible so I just use a slotted spoon to scoop them out of the pan leaving any excess butter behind.

                                            1. re: JoanN

                                              I just posted a question as to whether the brussel sprouts must be sauteed immediately before serving or can I make them at home and transfer the dish to our hosts house in an oven proof dish....to be heated there.

                                              I am concerned there will not be enough burners and would prefer to get everything done at my own home. I am concerned the sprouts will wilt and be soggy???

                                        3. The only thing I prepare and prep the day before is my salad greens, the washing of vegetables, baking my pies and my cranberries. I also prep the dressing for my turkey, like you, the day before and my lavendar icecream, of course, I make a few days before.....of course my table is set the day before.
                                          Other than that I do it all on Thanksgiving day. I have a friend who does her mashed potatoes and a few other things the day before but they don't seem to taste as good as freshly made the same day.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: latindancer

                                            Setting the table the day before is a good idea. I always find myself so busy the day of, that everybody arrives and usually the table is covered with kitchen prep!!! (My kitchen is small.) But I will try to do this next time, as it would take so much off my mind.

                                            What do you serve with your lavender ice cream?

                                            1. re: Full tummy

                                              I love setting the table the day before. I can take my time before the rush begins the next day. As you say, it takes alot off my mind.
                                              My lavender icecream is served with caramel poached pears....

                                          2. when we have a large group, i'll sit down wed night and make a cooking schedule for thursday--everything is on it: 11;00 remove rolls from freezer, 11;30 slice carrots. when somebody drops into the kitchen and asks, "what can i do to help?" i can say without stopping to think or recalculate, "there's a master list on the fridge."

                                            1. Here's my timeline... (I keep it saved under my Google Docs so I don't have to put it together all over again every year:)) Other family members do the apple and pecan pies, sweet potatoes, and green beans.


                                              1 Week Ahead
                                              Make cranberry relish
                                              Make pie crusts, freeze
                                              Make herb butter
                                              Make turkey stock
                                              Clean house

                                              Buy turkey
                                              Buy produce
                                              Prepare brine
                                              Set the table

                                              Brine Turkey
                                              Cube bread for stuffing, leave out overnight to "dry out"
                                              Prep vegetables
                                              Take out butter and eggs for baking (they need to be room temp)
                                              Measure dry ingredients for cornbread

                                              Make pumpkin pie
                                              Peel and mash potatoes, keep warm in crockpot
                                              Rinse and dry turkey apply butter mixture. Bring to room temp.
                                              Put turkey in oven.
                                              Make roux for gravy
                                              Cook Brussels sprouts
                                              Make cornbread
                                              Prepare stuffing

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: QSheba

                                                Great list. I lie awake running through what I'm going to do when in my head. One of the trickier parts I have is our kitchen is where crowds seem to naturally congregate. As I get down to the wire I'm rushing about somewhat like a restaurant . . . but then uncle Bob has plunked down a box of wine on the counter . . . and yes there is someone else's cell phone and aunt Clara is there with whoever blocking the way so I have to walk around three sides of the island in the centre rather than going through. . . "I'm sure you will be more comfortable in the living room . . . "

                                                That being said I'm thinking chafing dishes might take the stress off a tad.

                                                1. re: QSheba

                                                  I have to post here.. Qsheba.. I like your organization!!! love it!!! I myself.. always have a house full.. I do everything that I can so that that thanksgiving day is all about enjoying those you are with.. who wants to be stuck all day slaving in the kitchen.. while everyone else has the best time.. I know I know we who love to cook enjoy that "being in the kitchen" but regardless of how much you have done there will be plenty of time in the kitchen thanksgiving day.
                                                  I like to have everything done swo that I can pull it out of the frig 1 hour before turkey is done and let stand at room temp.. (one hour is not going to create any harm) once turkey is out AND IT MUST REST is when I throw everything else in the oven that needs it.. 40 min ususally is enough ...this way there is no musical microwave and the food tastes like it was made right then and there..
                                                  I have been a chef a long time and some of the best ideas I get from those .. who do not really enoy cooking as much as me.. I have a great pig out potato from my step daughter that will blow ya away!!! happy turkey day and remember to take time to enjoy..

                                                2. Last year I hosted dinner for 20, so I was very interested in making things ahead.

                                                  Mashed potatoes. I did a TON of research on this prior to making ahead, because I wanted them to be perfect. I have heard great things about using a crock pot. But I ended up making the night before and putting into a large dutch oven. After the turkey came out to rest, I poured some cream and dumped some butter on top of the potatoes and warmed in the oven. They were perfect.

                                                  I cooked all of my ingredients (aromatics, mushrooms, etc) for my stuffing the night before.

                                                  This year I will be serving baked brie with mushrooms as an appetizer, and I plan on making this ahead.

                                                  Obviously desserts and breads are good to prepare ahead as well.

                                                  Some things I just refuse to make ahead, such as salads and some vegetables.

                                                  Roast all of the nuts you might be using beforehand.

                                                  1. I try to do most of the meal ahead. It's a small group this year, only 3 adults and 3 kids. I'm planning:

                                                    Hot mulled cider (with rum or butterscotch schnapps for adults)
                                                    Cranberry margaritas
                                                    Brie en croute with cranberry sauce (marsala, rosemary, cherries from Epi)
                                                    A dip with vegetables

                                                    Roast turkey with herb butter and gravy
                                                    Mashed potatoes with leeks and thyme
                                                    Roasted orange and honey carrots
                                                    Pearl onions and peas in chardonnay cream sauce

                                                    Brandied Pumpkin Pie

                                                    The weekend before I make turkey stock for stuffing and gravy (sometimes I make both stock and gravy a month ahead and freeze), cranberry sauce, the herb butter for the turkey, the orange/honey butter for the carrots, and the minced butter-poached leeks for the mashed potatoes. Mmmm...buttah.

                                                    A day before I prep the turkey and rub the herb butter under the skin, make stuffing, make the mashed potatoes, cut up the carrots, and make the pearl onions in chardonnay cream sauce. I'm going to make a dip this year for one of the apps so I'll do this the night before too.

                                                    My plan this year for Day Of is to bake the pumpkin pie in the morning, stuff and roast the turkey, and then make the app - puff pastry-wrapped brie topped with some of the cranberry sauce - about 30 minutes before guests arrive. That way I'm basically finished with cooking until the turkey comes out of the oven, and can enjoy cocktails and appetizers with guests. For Thanksgiving Dinner, while the turkey rests, I have time to finish up the rest of the meal. I'll heat up the onions in cream sauce and add some peas, heat up mashed potatoes (in oven dotted with butter in a covered casserole dish), roast carrots, warm up gravy, and bake the biscuits or crescent rolls.

                                                    7 Replies
                                                    1. re: Rubee

                                                      sounds great, but as a newbie to cooking turkey and gravy (mom made jarrred and the real stuff intimidates me...) , could you give some hints on how you make ahead and freeze your gravy. One store I went to yesterday had no turkey parts so I am checking out another one today cause this sounds like a great idea to make the stock ahead of time...

                                                      Also, we love pearl onions and wondering if you would share you recipie for the chardonnay sauce, it sounds good. Also, I have a spare sheet of puff pastry in the freezer and wondering how you do your brie! Thanks, sorry for so many questions, 1st Thanksgiving jitters:)

                                                      1. re: geminigirl

                                                        No problem! We all have our first Thanksgiving. It's taken me years to figure which dishes to cut out that were too complicated, or that always are left unfinished in our family (salad and sweet potatoes!).

                                                        Turkey gravy: I started doing this with Tyler Brown's do-ahead gravy. I tweak mine now, but his is foolproof. I had a hard time finding turkey wings when I moved to Phoenix, but found them at a local large Mexican market. Gravy also freezes well. I make the gravy a litte thick so I can add some of the pan drippings to it the day of.

                                                        My husband loves pearl onions too, though he likes peas with it also. That's his request for Thanksgiving. I use a recipe similar to this one (though skip thyme and use a little nutmeg

                                                        Details on Brie. I bake at 400 for about 30 minutes. Cool 20 minutes. Serve with crackers. I use some of the cranberry sauce I made for dinner:

                                                        Recipe for cranberry sauce that I use. I LOVE this - Funwithfood recommended one year and I've been making it ever since. I don't use minced rosemary - I use a sprig and then remove it when done. It's especially good with the brie. My husband will only eat the canned sauce and not this one, but the brie appetizer is his request for must-have every year now.
                                                        Cranberry Sauce with Cherries, Marsala and Rosemary

                                                        More topics and details on do-ahead gravy. Hope these help. Happy Thanksgiving. I'm sure your first is going to be wonderfu!

                                                        1. re: Rubee

                                                          Wow, this is excellent, you are a god send! I'm pretty sure I will do the gravy, brie and onions! I have a family cranberry sauce that I will try this year but the other one looks good, and I will pick and freze extra cherries next year to try...about the onions, I was going to use froozen...have you ever done this or do you use fresh? thanks again! I am feeling more excited and less overwhelmed....until I think about that big ice block / turkey in my freezer:)

                                                          1. re: geminigirl

                                                            You're welcome!

                                                            I have used frozen onions, but the fresh are better. The frozen have a 'mushier' texture than the fresh. That being said, I still do use frozen some years to save time.

                                                            Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

                                                            1. re: Rubee

                                                              thanks again, have a Happy Thanksgiving as well!

                                                        2. re: geminigirl

                                                          I have a fool-proof turkey and gravy recipe for you. My mom always used turkey bags and they make the moistest turkey by far, but I didn't like that the bag didn't allow the turkey to get a pretty brown color, and you don't end up with drippings for gravy because they all end up in the bag that you throw away. So here's what I do...I make a simple butter and molasses blend and put it both under and over the skin of the turkey - be sure to work the molasses butter as far as you possibly can over all of the turkey, top and bottom. Drizzle more molasses over the top of the turkey and then take herbs de provence and sprinkle over the whole thing...feel free to add lots of spices. Put the bird in the bag as directed and then add about two cans of chicken broth to the bag along with 2 or 3 quartered onions. When the turkey is done, save all the juice for making the gravy, which is just taking the juice and separating the fat from the broth, make a simple roux (google this) and voila! Done!

                                                          1. re: megg

                                                            Thank you for the tips! I am using a bag this year which my mom always did, and some have suggested it breast side down till about the last 30 minutes, but wondering if it will sit and boil in the juices. My mom always cut the bag top open near end of cooking time to get a brown turkey.

                                                            Earlier in the week I made stock as suggested from wings and necks (great idea), it is in the freezer now and I will probably make the actual gravy prior to thanksgiving just to make sure it all comes together ok and tastes good...

                                                      2. I do the pies the day before, along with the cranberry relish (which tastes better after sitting), and bake and mash the squash so it just has to be reheated. The night before I prep the stuffing, and leave it in the cold-cellar overnight (we do a basic bread and onion stuffing). If I'm doing creamed corn from scratch, that gets done the day before as well.

                                                        I do the mashed potatoes the day of, but earlier in the day to clear up stove space, and then put them in the rice cooker on warm setting, which keeps them toasty without drying them out.

                                                        I tend not to pre-cut vegetables before hand due to limited fridge space, but I will wash and trim them in advance.

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                                          The one thing that really helps me is to get the table set earlier in the week. The day before I'll make the rum cake, pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce and chutney, smoked salmon spread, and artichoke dip. Also, prep the vegetables. My biggest concern this year on Thanksgiving is that the dogs don't "steal" the food. I can just see them teaming up and grabbing the turkey!

                                                          1. re: DaisyM

                                                            Daisy, I had that happen one year, doggie got a big bite out of a ham that was already on the table, which means he was up on the table! it was funny and sad at the same time.

                                                            1. re: bushwickgirl

                                                              It is so funny! When I was a kid our sheepdog pulled the roasted turkey down onto the floor when our backs were turned. We all just stood there in disbelief and then we had a Thanksgiving dinner without turkey. Our sheepdog really enjoyed Thanksgiving that year.

                                                              1. re: DaisyM

                                                                Wow, maybe you should post that to the Worst Thanksgiving thread!
                                                                This year is "everything the day before" for me, too, since we're cutting back a bit AND it's a someone else's house, so no cleanup.

                                                        2. I always make a sweet potato casserole, with unsweetened roasted whipped sweet potatoes and an egg in the base, and a pecan streusal topping. Sweet, not too sweet. I usually make two- one for my mom, and one for the in-laws. I roast the potatoes as early as Sunday, let cool overnight, and then assemble the whole thing whenever I have time, usually Tuesday? I have never noticed any difference in quality with the made-ahead version.

                                                          1. I have made the pastry for my pies and have disks stored in the freezer to roll out and bake the night before.

                                                            I've already prepared the base for my pumpkin soup and have that in the freezer. On T-day I'll add stock and heat it then add dairy and rewarm in a crockpot from which people can serve themselves all day.

                                                            I've already done my cranberry conserve. It keeps for a couple weeks easily.

                                                            I've made chili pecans for an appetizer and maple glazed walnuts as a garnish for desserts. They keep just fine in jars in the pantry tho I will probably warm the chili pecans at serving time.

                                                            I've toasted the bread cubes for my stuffing -- it keeps forever in an airtight container if you've toasted out all the moisture. And I've mixed the dry rub for the Turkey.

                                                            Tomorrow I'm freezing 2 flavors of ice cream. One just uses a rich commercial eggnog (plus a splash of B&B) as a base. I'll make the other Muscovado sugar base tonight. They can sit in the freezer in airtight tubs until T-day.

                                                            On Tues night next week I'll sweat the aromatics for the stuffing and put them in a container in the fridge. I'll mix up the stuffing the night before but not stuff the turkey with it until T-day morning. I'll also peel and clean the boiling onions and Brussels sprouts and seal them in vacuum bags on Tues and store them in the fridge. They keep extremely well in vacuum bags for a couple days.

                                                            Because I'm dry brining my turkey this year, I'll be opening the bag the turkey's in several days in advance. That means I'll be able to take the neck bones and make a slow simmering stock beginning on Mon. I just put the bones and aromatics in the crockpot and let it make itself over the course of 24-36 hours.

                                                            I"m doing a three layer pumpkin torte that I can start 2 days out from T-day. I'll do apple pie on Wed night. When we sit down to dinner I'l put the finished pie into the warm oven and let the ambient heat warm it in time for dessert. Wed night I'll also roast and purée my squash. That will go in the oven as a casserole when I take the turkey out to rest before carving. I also make the dough for dinner rolls the night before. I can shape them and leave them to rise in the fridge overnight. Early T-day I take them out to come up to temp and then they bake the last 20 mins. before dinner.

                                                            One year I made gravy in advance by roasting a couple turkey wings with aromatics and using those drippings and juices. It was good but not the same as the pan gravy from slow roasting a whole bird. I'd only do that again if I thought I needed additional gravy after T-day.

                                                            I'll make the cream sauce for the onions early on T-day. Then when the turkey is finishing and resting I only have the veggies to cook and the gravy to make.

                                                            You're smart to think in terms of what can be done ahead -- even partially done ahead. A great from scratch Thanksgiving is very,very do-able and it's completely a matter of planning. If this is your first or you're still working on a good plan, take the time -- even in the heat of battle -- to make tons of notes. Your planning for a great stress-free Thanksgiving next year begins with this one.

                                                            The other thing that helps me a lot is to run the dishwasher several times while I'm cooking so that by the time we have dinner I only have dinner dishes to do. And put out all your serving dishes and utensils the day before too so there are no unfortunate surprises on T-day.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: rainey

                                                              "Your planning for a great stress-free Thanksgiving next year begins with this one."

                                                              Best advice I've read in a long time. Take that out to 20 or 30 years and the holiday is almost entirely stress free. One of the reasons Thanksgiving is my very favorite holiday.

                                                              1. re: JoanN

                                                                Amen, sister! ...tho I can still remember that first Thanksgiving when I put in several emergency calls to a neighbor before I got dinner on the table. Now I could do it in my sleep and add things just to keep it interesting. Of course, I have logs of Thanksgivings and Christmases and Easters going back many, many years to draw on.

                                                            2. I do a sweet potato casserole with a streusel topping. The sweet potato base begins with mashed s.p. and adds butter, brown sugar, and egg. Can I go on and make that and freeze it this week, then that it, top it, and bake on T'giving? I've never tried freezing mashed sweet potatoes. Does anyone know what will happen?

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: redthong

                                                                Do you roast the sweet potatoes in their skins? Are you doing a whole dinner or making this as a contribution to a dinner?

                                                                I wouldn't freeze it. I'd just roast the potatoes the night before when I was baking pies. I'd do the scooping out of the flesh/puréeing. If you've got two ovens I'd add the eggs and bake with the topping while the turkey roasts. If not, I'd do that also the night before and just rewarm while the turkey rests and you do gravy.

                                                                My concern woud be the liquids/sugars separating when frozen and then weeping when baked. But I really don't know that that would happen either.

                                                                1. re: rainey

                                                                  I'm doing the whole thing, and I need to do as much as possible prior to Tuesday, when everyone arrives and I have to start feeding pre-Thanksgiving meals. I've got two ovens and plenty of refrigerator space, but my refrigerator space is tight, so I was thinking it would be great to go on and get the sweet potato base out of the way and keep it in the freezer. But now I'm thinking what I'll do is roast the potatoes on Wednesday while I'm doing pie like you suggested. That at least gives me a bit of a head start, and I can store the roasted potatoes in a corner of the fridge - that will still take lots less space than a casserole dish.

                                                                  1. re: redthong

                                                                    redthong- funny, I posted the very same dish about three slots up on the thread! I do make mine well ahead, usually the weekend before Thanksgiving, and it's always just as good. And one year, I made a small extra casserole of it for an emergency- we ended up not needing, so I froze it and left it with my mom. She said it was fine thawed and cooked- so worth trying! At any rate, I would definitely recommend making well in advance if you have the space to store it (here in Maine, we just store it on the screen porch- no prob).

                                                              2. If you're new at this don't forget a couple simple meals for Tues & Wed if you're not already planning to eat out or get pizza or something and brekkies on T-day. You don't want that to come up at the last minute and find yourself spending valuable time in a horrendous grocery store line.

                                                                I have the dry ingredients for 2 kinds of muffins in the freezer. I'll mix the wet ingredients in jars in the fridge the night before. Then I can quickly combine and have a basket of fresh muffins -- plus their glorious aroma -- for the morning.

                                                                1. I make all my pie crusts weeks ahead and freeze as discs. The pie is easy and fresh if the crust is already made.

                                                                  1. This recipe sounds weird, but it is really good. The cranberry sauce is fluffy, delicious and really pretty. I will start mine tomorrow for T-day

                                                                    24 ounces Cranberries
                                                                    24 ounces Mini marshmallows
                                                                    24 ounces Crushed Pineapple, drained
                                                                    Orange zest of 2 oranges
                                                                    6 ounces frozen Orange Juice Concentrate, thawed
                                                                    1 cup toasted, chopped pecans

                                                                    Chop the fresh cranberries (not super fine) in the Cuisinart. Mix with all other ingredients except nuts. Leave at room temperature until the marshmallows begin to "melt"...at least overnight or probably most of a day. Stir it occasionally. Once the marshmallows have started to disintegrate into the sauce, refrigerate it. When it is finished you should not be able to tell it has marshmallows in it! Just before serving stir in the pecans.

                                                                    1. I'm making a pumpkin cheesecake today and will do the cranberry sauce, too. Then I'll assemble the corn casserole and the dressing on Wednesday so they can just be popped in the oven on Thursday morning. The ham with a pineapple sauce will be cooked in the slowcooker on Wednesday night and I can transport it in it and plate when we get there. Eggs will be boiled on Wednesday to assemble deviled eggs on Thursday morning.

                                                                      That's all I'm making this year since we're going to his brother's for dinner.

                                                                      13 Replies
                                                                      1. re: alliedawn_98

                                                                        I'm also going to someone else's house for dinner, and am in charge of making the dressing. I hadn't gotten so far as to think about when I was going to make it, so it's nice to know that I can do it the day before - as long as I keep it well refrigerated, right?

                                                                        1. re: MMRuth

                                                                          Honestly, I've never made it early but I don't see any reason why it wouldn't work. It's very similar to the corn casserole and I made it last Friday afternoon and baked on Saturday with no problems.

                                                                            1. re: MMRuth

                                                                              The corn casserole does not but the dressing does. I make up breakfast casseroles and refrigerate overnight to bake in the morning so do not see where this would be a problem either. My dressing is very plain and simple......sauteed onions (will cool them before mixing), cornbread, biscuits, broth, an egg, salt, and pepper. I don't care for cooked celery and just smelling sage makes me nauseous.

                                                                              1. re: alliedawn_98

                                                                                Elizabeth David famously wrote that sage tasted like dried blood to her. I agree!

                                                                                1. re: buttertart

                                                                                  How nice to know that I'm not the only one who doesn't care for it. I wish I could and have tried it on numerous occasions but even in small doses, yuck. On the other hand, I love cilantro which many, including my daughter, can't stand.

                                                                                  1. re: alliedawn_98

                                                                                    Love cilantro too (extremely), maybe it's one or the other!

                                                                                  2. re: buttertart

                                                                                    Wonder how she knew what dried blood tastes like!

                                                                            2. re: MMRuth

                                                                              MMRuth, what I have done is saute and mix up all the aromatics, herbs, dried fruit, etc. the day before and put it in the fridge, prepare the bread (usually don't toast, but cube up and spread out to dry overnight on a sheet pan), and then mix it all together with the stock, eggs if using, on the day of, before it goes in the oven. I don't mix the liquids in ahead of time, because doing so and refrigerating overnight would make the bread mushy.

                                                                              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                I always do it the night before, maybe we like it mushy. But I used to do it in the morning, and it doesn't taste any different to me really.

                                                                            3. re: alliedawn_98

                                                                              Do you have recipe for pumpkin cheesecake. I have cream cheese, ricotta cheese and cottage cheese.

                                                                              1. re: classylady

                                                                                Here is a link to the Paula Deen recipe I made. It's pretty easy but I did bake mine in a waterbath and can't tell you exactly how long it took because I kept checking after an hour and adding small increments of time to it. I used my home-roasted pumpkin puree instead of canned. The first time I made it, I followed the exact recipe but this time, I used pumpkin pie spice instead of the cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in the recipe. We love the pumpkin pie spice so I used 2 tsp. In the batter that didn't taste that strong but I'm not sure after cooking. We'll know on Thursday, I guess!


                                                                                1. re: alliedawn_98

                                                                                  Thank you. I am only missing the graham cracker for the crust. I hope to make it soon.

                                                                            4. Great thread-- thanks everyone for the tips. I will definitely make use of the crock pot for mashed potatoes this year. I notice very few of you prepare bread stuffing/dressing ahead of time. Any particular downside to doing this ahead?

                                                                              5 Replies
                                                                              1. re: GSM

                                                                                Not to me, I always do it the night before.

                                                                                1. re: GSM

                                                                                  I always make my stuffing the night before also. I use half to stuff the turkey on Thanksgiving, and half to bake in a casserole for those who like the the crispy edges.

                                                                                  I make this stuffing (but add fresh herbs, chestnuts, Bell's Seasoning and use turkey stock, and Jimmy Dean's sage sausage):

                                                                                  Things I've already done ahead as of the Tuesday afternoon before Thanksgiving:
                                                                                  Made the cranberry sauce
                                                                                  Made the turkey stock and gravy
                                                                                  Sauteed the celery and onion and cooked the sausage for the stuffing
                                                                                  Poached minced leeks in butter for mashed potatoes
                                                                                  Made the herbed butter for the turkey

                                                                                  Will be making LauraGrace's cranberry sherbet tonight:

                                                                                  1. re: Rubee

                                                                                    I am glad someone has mentioned making the stuffing the night before. This will be my first year to make Thanksgiving dinner and I was worried about everything tasting as good if it was make ahead. So you can add the broth and everything and not have a stuffing that is too mushy, or one that gets dried out??? Can it go into the oven straight from the fridge?

                                                                                    1. re: hlhm123

                                                                                      I always do my stuffing/dressing the day or two before. I think most casserole type dishes benefit from hanging out for a day or so just to let the flavors get to know each other better. As to going right from the fridge to the oven I try not to do that because the outside cooks so much quicker and overall takes longer to heat.

                                                                                      1. re: hlhm123

                                                                                        I've never found it to be too mushy, and started making it the night before after I compared it one Thanskgiving and found no difference with the stuffing made the day of. I let it come to room temperature before I stuff the turkey and/or bake in a casserole dish.

                                                                                  2. Just chopped my onions and celery for stuffing recipe I will prepare tomm.
                                                                                    Made cran sauce

                                                                                    tomm night will make pumpkin cheesecake, stuffing, (using Ina Garten's sausgae stuffing) and bake my sweet potatoes for thursday to make my casserole (Ruth Chris's recipe ) TO DIE!!!

                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: drewb123

                                                                                      Hi DrewB!

                                                                                      Would love to know how you make the sweet potatoes (haven't had them at Ruth's Chris). I love sweet potatoes and yams but no one else in E's family does. This is the first year I decided I'm just going to make them for myself ; ) My plans were for Bobby Flay's sweet potato gratin with chipotle cream, but I'm open to anything. Thanks!

                                                                                      PS - I saw in another thread, you were asking about pumpkin cheesecake recipes. This is my favorite:


                                                                                      1. re: Rubee

                                                                                        Hi Rubee-

                                                                                        I'm in the same boat my hubby could care less. These are AMazing!!! report back.

                                                                                        1. re: Rubee

                                                                                          Hi Rubee- I will go for the pumpkin cheesecake but I don't have bourbon : )

                                                                                          I also will use gingersnaps that is how I like it!!. Do you have any changes you rec on the recipe or you follow it exactly?

                                                                                      2. The candied cranberries & orange zest were made yesterday. Today, I'm drying out sopme bread cubes for the stuffing, and blanched the green beans. Tomorrow, I'm making the green bean casserole & the sausage stuffing. Oh, and the turkey, all 15 1/2 lbs of her, is dry brining in the fridge.

                                                                                        1. I make the cornbread at some point in November and either freeze it (if I make it a couple weeks ahead) or just crumble it up and put it in zip-top bags (if I make it a couple days in advance). I use that for the dressing, which makes the whole thing go faster. I also chop onions, celery, and fresh herbs a couple days before. I put them in plastic containers in the fridge. I make pie dough and freeze it in a disc. I really should take the time to roll it out and freeze it in the pie plate, but I don't have the freezer space. I bake my sweet potatoes for my casserole several days ahead, which usually turns out to be Saturday afternoon after the farmer's market. I bake them, cool them, and then peel them and store them in plastic bags in the fridge. If I'm making dips, I do that a couple days before, too. Sometimes I just make the mayo for the dips in advance and then whip them up the day of.

                                                                                          1. Everything but the turkey!
                                                                                            Monday: mix, pre-cut, and freeze biscuit dough. Assemble stuffing and freeze.
                                                                                            Tuesday: casserole, mashed potatoes, similar type dishes. May or may not freeze, depending on what they are (mashed potatoes don't freeze very well).
                                                                                            Weds: Switch frozen dishes to fridge for thawing. Prep/ bake desserts. Bake biscuits. Brine turkey overnight.
                                                                                            Thurs: Roast turkey. Make pan gravy while turkey rests. JUST BEFORE SERVICE: simmer cranberry sauce; saute green beans.

                                                                                            Very stress-free this way! Reheat portions on the stovetop before serving, and nobody will know that it wasn't all made fresh that day :)

                                                                                            1. This year I'm also going to make the pureed potatoes the day before - from Suzanne Goin's recipe - they are just as fabulous the next day, and she specifically states that one can make them the day before.