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Thanksgiving Logistics

I'm wondering what people prepare a day or two in advance and what absolutely must be made on Thanksgiving. I bake all of the bread for stuffing several days early and make pie crust dough and ice cream a few days in advance. I do almost everything else the day of. I would love to get a few more items started the day before. What's your general timeline? Thanks!

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  1. I do the pie on Wednesday, whip the cream, make the cranberry sauce, and saute the onions & celery for the stuffing (I stuff the bird. If I did a side dish of dressing, I'd do it on Wed., too). Also get out all the serving dishes & have 'em lined up, ready to go.

    We've scaled down T'giving menus over the years (just 2 of us now), so I'm not too harried on T'giving morning. After I get the bird in the oven, we traditionally go for a long neighborhood walk (I've gotten over the scare of leaving the oven on--the bird is in the earliest stages of cooking, so little hot oil yet).

    1. On Weds, I usually do the following:
      -make the pies (pumpkin and/or pecan)
      -make the cranberry sauce
      -make the sweet potato dish (I have been making a sweet potato-carrot tzimmes for the past few years that reheats beautifully in the microwave)
      -prep the stuffing--sauté the onions/mushrooms, cube the bread
      -make sure the turkey is defrosted
      -make the giblet stock for the gravy

      This leaves turkey prep and cooking, arranging crudités/salad/apps, and setting the table for Thursday.

      I also do as much shopping as I can in the weeks leading up so that I don't have a last minute rush. Doing an herb/spice inventory before shopping is another life saver.

      I am in awe that you bake the bread for stuffing...

      1. Most pies not just the crust can be made in advance.

        1. I brine the birds on Tuesday. I make 10 pounds of marinated vegetables on Tuesday (asparagus, greenbeans, carrots, mushrooms, baby onions and pickled red peppers). I make the turkey stock gravy from scratch two weeks before and freeze it. It gets finished with the drippings. I make the pumpkin cheese cake on Tuesday and the cranberry sauce. On Wednesday I prep the ingredients for the stuffing and store. I make the pies (sour cherry streusel and pecan). We lay out all the table settings, etc. on Wednesday. We take the turkeys out of the brine, rinse, and air dry in our second fridge on Wednesday. On Thursday, the birds go on the grill, the stuffing, sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes get made, and the gravy gets finished. On Friday morning, we make latkes for breakfast. On Saturday, I'm planning on committing myself to an institution.

          1. depends what you're making.

            you can make the pie crust now and freeze it.

            same with the stuffing bread. bake, cool, freeze.

            cranberry sauce can be made the weekend before.

            celery/onions whatever veggies go in your stuffing can be cut and sauteed 1-2 days ahead. bag separately so the onions don't overpower everything else.

            any kind of stock for gravy or veggies can be made ahead and frozen.

            what's on the menu?

            1. Sat and Sunday, shop for things that will fit a few days in fridge, esp Turkey.
              Monday; "dry brine" turkey
              Tuesday bake cornbread for stuffing, roast legs and wings for stock; make stock for gravy, soak peas for peas and rice
              Wed air dry turkey; assemble stuffing, prep collards, make that butter flour thingy to thicken gravy, make cranberry sauce; bake sweet potatoes and make sweet pot casserole, make oatmeal crumble for sweet potatoe casserole, cook peas for peas and rice
              Thursday roast turkey, bake stuffing, put crumble on sweet potato and bake,cook collards,make peas and rice, complain,finish gravy, lay down without having eaten. But if I am at inlaws (usually), change clothes and smile.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Shrinkrap

                For any special dinner that takes a lot of effort, I, too, am too tired to eat .. tastes great the next day, though.

              2. Yeah I like most pies after they've sit for a day. Pumpkin especially, and I like it served just below room temp (chilled).

                Mashed potatoes are still totally good made a day ahead. My mom always made them that way, then chilled right in a casserole dish and reheated in the oven for half an hour or so. I've also seen chefs recommend reheating them in a double boiler.

                You can chop all your veg the day before. They say you can do it up to 3 days before, but that seems gross. Chopped carrots, onions, celery, etc. would probably get watery after a couple days, but the night before they'd be good to go for the morning.

                1. Not really what you asked but I typed out a time line and a grocery list which I printed out and keep with all my Thanksgiving recipes. Helps cut down on my stress level. OCD? Who me?

                  1. I usually have my stuffing ready to go the day before, so that I can just stick it in the oven on Thanksgiving.

                    I have boiled the potatoes the day before, leaving them whole and dry, and mashed them on Thursday, reheating with butter.

                    I make like Mark Bittman and make the gravy a day ahead. http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.co...

                    1. I do almost everything ahead.

                      Turkey: spatchcock and start dry brining on Monday. Uncover on Wednesday morning and allow to dry out for a day.

                      Stuffing: Bake bread the weekend before, cube and let dry. On Wednesday, saute and roast vegetables and sausage, store in fridge (toss with bread and stock on Thursday morning).

                      Veg sides: most vegetables (Brussels sprouts, squash, etc.) can be prepped and cut up a day before and stored in ziplocs in the fridge.

                      Cranberry sauce: can be prepped months in advance, but usually I make it the weekend before and just let it sit in the fridge.

                      Pies: I bake these completely on Wednesday night, but often make the crusts in advance and freeze.

                      Stock (for gravy and stuffing): I use all the vegetable trimmings from my prep on Wednesday, some fresh turkey parts and the backbone to make stock, either during the day or I let it simmer overnight so it's nice and concentrated on Thursday morning.

                      Rolls (if making): make the dough on Wednesday and fridge for a nice long slow rise.

                      So, on Thursday, all I really have left to do is roast the turkey, assemble the stuffing and bake, make mashed potatoes (which is actually an incredibly annoying task that I'd like to move to Wednesday this year), make gravy and do whatever I'm going to do to the already prepped veg sides (I usually go with simple recipes for these).

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: biondanonima

                        Could you possibly post your dinner roll recipe?

                        My daughter's assignment is to make the mashed potatoes (Yukon Golds) and she does a good job but I've tried the recipe for Thanksgiving mashed potatoes (includes cream cheese and sour cream) you can make a couple or so days ahead. They are delicious but even richer than the regular ones but this could save you day of prep .. you just reheat in oven.

                        1. re: walker

                          Yes, I've heard that mashed potatoes can be reheated in a low oven or crockpot - I don't think I would have oven space for them but the crockpot idea sounds intriguing.

                          As for dinner rolls, I have used this recipe a couple of times with good results: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo... I wouldn't say they're life-changing, though - just good, if you like a nice soft roll.

                      2. My mom sets the table the night before, complete with serving utensils. She puts stickies on each dish so serving is easy. If I ever get a Thanksgiving (or Christmas) off, I'm stealing her idea :)