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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:
                    http://abostonfooddiary.blogspot.com/...

                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.