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I think I'm Hosting Thanksgiving! Help! :)

So I think I'm hosting...We actually aren't sure yet. Long story

My question is I will get all the sides from Whole Foods - has anyone had experience with this?

Making the turkey myself. Would a breast do? How many could a breast feed?

What about dessert? How many things should I have?

Never done this before!!! Eeek! lol

Thank you

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  1. I've only hosted small (4-6 ppl) Thanksgiving so you will probably get much better advice from others, but-I don't know how many people you are having, but t-day is not the time to run out of meat. A turkey breast is pretty small. On the other hand, are you willing to consider a turkey breast and a small ham? I know turkey is traditional but my experience has been that the ham goes much quicker, and it's so easy. At least it would stretch the meat with little extra work. As full disclosure, I've done ham only or ham and turkey breast for the past 4-5 years and it has worked out really well for us.

    Mt experience has been that you have a fair amount of wiggle room for dessert. Pumpkin pie is a given-even if no one likes it everyone wants it there. Fortunately I love it and am not above eating it for breakfast so I'm fine with the leftovers if they come to pass. In my (current, married) house we do an apple pie, but it's fine for this to be doctored up store pie. I grew up with only pumpkin. Can you ask if anything is important to any of your guests?

    And actually that last thing I think is huge-the first time I had Thanksgiving at the house of someone not related to me by blood, the hostess asked me if there was anything that was crucial to Thanksgiving to me, and indicated that she would be willing to either make it or help me in any way to make or incorporate it myself. I didn't really have anything life or death myself, but I thought it was so gracious of her. As I said, I've always only had a few extra guests for T-day, but I've always made it a point to make the same offer. I've only been taken up on it once, and that was my one and only experience with green bean/condensed soup/onion casserole, which is not something I actually grew up with.

    1. A breast will do fine if you're sure everyone likes white meat and no one like legs or wings, but it will be a very expensive way to go. May not be an issue if you are shopping at Whole Foods or will be buying Organic, Heritage, etc.

      As I point out in another thread, with the sale prices on whole birds during the Thanksgiving week, you can buy a whole bird and throw away the bottom half for less than half the price of just buying the breast alone. But these economics are for regular supermarket birds, not the expensive Organics or Heritage birds, as I said above.

      With a whole bird, plan on a pound per person. With just a breast, a half pound per person will do.

      1. First, take a deep breath. I love hosting TG and am sad I have to travel this year. I have ordered the fresh, free range, organic, whatever turkeys and always get negative comments asking what I have done different that year. Amazingly, my best turkeys are the frozen Butterballs from the grocery store (no I don't represent Butterball). I follow cooking instructions from their website, rubbing olive oil, garlic and rosemary under the skin on the breast, stuffing with garlic, apples and onions that I later discard. Moist, easy and yummy. Do the whole turkey. After you get over removing the "insides" it's not that bad. Just don't forget to defrost for the few days it takes.

        I also enjoy reading all of the November cooking magazines for a fun new side, but stick with my own recipes for the rest. My extended familty expects the same boring thing. I did a pumpkin risotto one year that was yummy, but I thought my dad would have a fit.

        Dessert is always pumpkin pie, apple pie and chocolate frosted brownies (at my request as I don't do pie). Keep dessert simple. My friennds/relatives often ask to take it "to go."

        1. Sayrob has it right, and actually I find the Butterball turkeys almost foolproof.
          I have to say, if you cook it that way, it WILL be perfect.
          What I do is roast mine in an aluminum roasting pan
          (found in the grocery store usually stacked next to the turkey aisle :-)
          I COVER MY TURKEY WITH THE HEAVIEST ALUMINUM FOIL YOU CAN FIND
          This is my "secret"
          about an hour before it's done, I remove the foil and it cook it for the remaining time
          it develops the most delicious brown skin...
          you will have to scoop out the juice at this point, because in my experience there will
          be about 4 or more cups of juice in the pan, and you will have to be careful because it's HOT.

          The butterball instructions come with a gravy mix that works just fine, as well.

          I think in my experience, if I didn't make all the usual "trimmings" my family would rebel at this point.
          Actually, I have trained them all to cook the sides over the years, so now they look forward to doing their favorites.... I make the pies.
          and the gravy.

          I have 4 grown sons and a DH, been doing Thanksgiving for at LEAST 35 years and always get it right.
          Do not be afraid.
          It's the easiest meal ever.
          Just bring it down to it's simplest parts....

          1 Reply
          1. re: oooYUM

            Agree with everything oooYum has posted. This is the easiest meal ever, particularly if others bring sides and bread, which is often done when many people are involved. I like Butterballs, but Honeysuckles have worked well for me too.

            You do need to make sure the turkey in its pan or roaster will fit into your oven. I use old enamel roasters which are terribly old fashioned, but like OooYum, I remove the lid in the last hour or so to make sure I get that golden color.

            If the others you are hosting bring sides, and you provide the turkey, stuffing (if used) and dessert, the meal should go together pretty easily. The non-cooks in your friends' circle can be assigned bread or wine.

            While the meal itself is simple to put together, it does require planning. So invest some time in thinking the logistics through.

            If I can cook a turkey dinner, you can too.

          2. sorry, I meant the Butterball insert has a gravy RECIPE....

            don't mean to confuse you.

            Most people look for turkey, dressing, mashed potato, gravy, cranberries, rolls.
            Pumpkin, Apple, Pecan pies in my house.

            and because of all the grown men I feed, I have to buy a spiral ham to serve the following day.
            Good Times !!!!
            Can't wait !!!

            Oh and the aluminum pan that you buy to cook the turkey in (if that's the route you choose)
            should be the one reinforced with wire on the outside, or if not, then it needs to sit on a large baking sheet before you stick it in the oven. if the turkey is too tall to fit, take out one of the oven racks and just lower the remaining one.... sorry please don't think I am talking "down" to you, it's just that you asked....

            4 Replies
            1. re: oooYUM

              Thank you all! Very helpful suggestions!!!

              I'm very particular about meat, so the turkey must be humanely raised, etc - which means I'll either get it from the local place here that raises them, or I'll get one from WF. If I get one from WF i seem to have the option of already cooked, and then I have to heat it, or raw...not sure which.

              Perhaps I should do a whole bird if it will be cheaper though...

              Yes, if we were having others besides family, I would be happy to make something they might really like for Thanksgiving (or at least to buy it ;)

              Pumpkin and apple pie sound good - I think maybe something extra - but 3 desserts seems like more than enough for 6-7 people. It's too much actually, but I know a few of the people will want to take leftovers home.

              oooYUM I would NEVER think you're talking down to me!! I really appreciate it, because I'm still really new to much of this, and I always feel stupid asking the "simple" questions, so thank you for answering them! :)

              1. re: lovessushi

                Cook's Illustrated has a recipe for a brined, butterflied, high-temp turkey that is very good. It also does not tie up the oven for as long as a traditionally-roasted bird. Just be sure to follow the directions closely, including putting the unsalted dressing on the rack below the turkey.

                1. re: sandylc

                  That sounds very good - and I like that it doesn't tie up the oven as long. I'll look it up - Thanks!

                2. re: lovessushi

                  We've used Amish turkeys for years, and also grocery ones - (I do understand your thoughts about humanely raised, do you know if that' actually those turkeys @ Wf?) Best way we cook is covered with a cheese cloth soaked in a combo of wine and butter (1stick of butter to 1 bottle wine.) Helps keep the bird moist, and adds to the combined elements at the bottom of the pan for a great gravy base. While this isn't that hard a meal on technique, it's tricky on timing. And you'll use every pot and pan you have so keep the dishwashing going.

                  My advice is get some help on the sides but cook the bird yourself. Not so hard to cook some green beans...a guest can make oven stuffing, someone else witha pie. And make the mashed potatoes at home. Good luck...check in before and after.