Turkey Day for Large Group (Family\Friends)
Having 25 people for Turkey Day this year (most we ever had was 16). Have to go potluck style otherwise I‘ll blow my brains out trying to cook everything with 3 “Moms” in my kitchen. Might have Dad in-law roast a full bird (he really wants to and does a great job) at his house and bring over, not ideal, but I’m ok with it. Wife only does baking, so she’ll prep and make sausage stuffing and some pies the day before.
I plan to brine large turkey breasts (4) and grill them so I can stay outside, sip beers and watch football. I usually brush with some type of marinade that might include - apple juice, butter, sage, honey, orange juice, etc... I have also finished them on a cedar plank with good results.
Any other good ideas for a brine, rub or marinade?
About 10 years ago we hosted T-giving for 25, which was a big deal since we normally host fewer than 10 people. Fortunately, we have a large kitchen with double ovens and a six burner cooktop, so cooking for that many people was not a big issue. Here is what we did:
1. One 24 pound bird, roasted, plus one turkey breast, also roasted. In fact, we never even cut into the breast but the whole turkey was demolished, so I was glad we had the breast for leftovers. (In our home, we love turkey left overs). As usual, we let the turkey rest for at least 45 minutes before it was served, which allowed plenty of time to make gravy and use the oven for other things once the bird was removed.
2. I made an apple pie in advance and asked my SIL to bring some desserts too. As I recall, she made a pecan pie, some sort ot pumpkin cake, and maybe also a pumpkin pie.
3. For sides, we pretty much stuck to the sides we usually serve (and cooked them all ourselves) but made about 3x as much as usual -- mashed potatoes, dressing (some made with sausage and some without), homemade cranberry sauce, rutabagas, asparagus, giblet gravy, and Parker house style rolls. My MIL may have brought some sort of sweet potato casserole too (immediate family detests sweet potatoes but we serve them when a larger group is expected).
4. We served dinner at about 5 pm but put out a nice array of apps -- cheeses, shrimp with cocktail sauce, crudites & olives, etc. -- at about 1pm (of the 25 guests, about 10 were houseguests). It's a much saner day in the kitchen if you are not trying to serve dinner mid-afternoon. And, the apps were put out in the living room and den -- not the kitchen -- so as to encourage our guests not to get in our way in the kitchen (Old house, no open floor plan).
We have double ovens and a 5 burner stove so we can do it ourselves but everyone wants to chip in so bad. The prob is that I will make great food with all high quality ingredients, free range turkeys, etc… and then older family members start showing up with canned green casserole, canned sweet potatos (gross), etc… that they like but I hate. I don’t want to hurt any feelings so… between rock and a hard place.
We plan to have a later dinner (5-6pm) as well. For apps… I am buying local sausages to grill, shrimp cocktail, charcuterie, olives, etc… so maybe I will ask everyone to bring a bottle of wine and an app to share and I’ll do dinner.
We have a wide open floor plan so I feel like I am hosting a show on the Cooking Channel.
Wine was the one thing that we underestimated. By about 3 pm our guests had finished off the wine that we'd plan to serve with dinner. Fortunately we have a fairly well-stocked cellar, and many guests brought bottles too, so we never ran out. Also fortunate that the guests who drank the most were staying overnight with us.
It sounds like you have the right attitude. Just go with the flow. The day is about giving thanks for blessings, so enjoy your guests and the bounty, even the 1960s style dishes that you would not normally serve. For some people it's not Thanksgiving without green bean casserole made with cream of mushroom soup; just put it out & I bet very little will be leftover.
In more recent years our T-giving circle has shrunk as some older members of the family have passed on and others from out of town are not traveling. I would love to host another for 25 people, even with the semi-chaos of it all. I even miss the political arguments, which were de riguer, especially in years with presidential elections.
While our Thanksgivings are more modest (14-15), this year we are hosting 20. That includes 6 month old twin nieces (though they won't eat, obviously, they probably garner lots of attention), my cousin's 18 month old, and 2 3 year olds. I always make plenty of food because my favorite is leftovers. Several years ago I had an entire leftover pan of dressing and froze it. Much to my surprise, the frozen, defrosted, and reheated dressing the next month had just the right moistness. I plan to do that again this year, in fact, probably this week. We simply cannot get enough turkey so I always supplement--either with an extra breast or whole turkey. Usually I go ahead and cook a second brined (because I'm convinced brining is the best) whole turkey the day before and it's no more expensive. Will make pumpkin pies and my one obligatory dish for myself, oyster dressing, the morning of. I would love to cook everything because, like you, I have preferences for what is on the Thanksgiving table. But ultimately my cousin and aunt and everyone else like to feel included in bringing a dish so I will let them and supplement where needed. In particular, I like my own sweet potatoes, and I love brussels sprouts. Apples or pecan pies are fine for me to outsource but not my mimi's pumpkin pie recipe.
I don't know about your family, but the most frustrating thing that I run into is TOO MANY IN THE KITCHEN! I love them, but right before the serving, everything is hectic in the kitchen and it can be very stressful trying to slink around everyone to stir gravy. I find the key is to have an appetizer in the living room or on the kitchen table is good if only to distract them away from the kitchen island prep area. Have fun! I'm sure it will be beautiful