Thanksgiving is likely the biggest holiday meal you will prepare all year. I believe the real work is in the planning rather than the event itself. This is a meal reflecting your personal style and creativity, so take the time to make it special. Attention to the smallest of details are what it takes to really elevate this celebration into one you will remember for years to come. Here are some suggestions.
Hopefully by now if you were planning on getting a fresh, high-quality turkey, you have placed your order and are already choosing simple, special dishes your family and friends will love. Maybe you are even trying some new recipes for fun. However, do not take on too much; ask those you have invited to bring something. People love to help and feel needed. Wine, pie and appetizers are great ways to help take the pressure off of you and allow everyone to participate in the feast. Make sure if you are trying a new recipe you do make it earlier in the month to test its worthiness as well as the timing for cooking, that way there will no surprises or failures to frazzle you on the big day.
I always feel it’s important to ask my guests what dishes make Thanksgiving special for them. If there is something they can’t live without or enjoy the way a certain dish is prepared, I invite them to bring it to the party. They always love to show off their favorite, treasured recipes .
About now you should take stock of your tableware, this includes linens (tablecloths, napkins and placemats), flatware, platters, bowls and glasses. If you do not have adequate pieces, borrow, buy or rent what you are missing. If you are serving your meal buffet style, make sure you set up your dishes beforehand to make sure everything fits properly. If you have any heirloom or antique servingware, this is the time to incorporate them into the meal. Don’t forget to create a seating plan and make sure you have enough chairs to seat everyone comfortably. Don’t make the kid’s table an afterthought, they are a huge part of what we are thankful for. Cover their table in butcher paper and have crayons available they can use to draw. Have them make their own placemats beforehand, assign an adult or willing teenager to help with this activity while dinner is being prepared. Make sure you have children’s movies or games available to entertain them after they eat (they will finish first), so the adults can continue their meal. As a parent, there is nothing better than a hostess who has obviously prepared for your children, it makes everything so much more wonderful.
This is also the time to think about any centerpieces or other table decorations you might want to use. Autumnal touches are nice additions to the holiday table. The simplest of arrangements will convey a welcoming and light-hearted mood to all of your guests; think olive branches, rosemary or evergreen boughs placed strategically around cream-colored pillar candles. Make a similar arrangement for the buffet, mantles, sideboard and occasional tables for continuity. Sometimes just an arrangement of persimmons in a beautiful bowl is a nice touch.
Place cards with your guests names and a few words of why you are thankful for them is a nice touch, one that everyone loves and looks forward to year after year.
As your guests arrive, greet them at the door with glasses of sparkling wine or apple cider, a sure sign of a celebration taking place. It is nice to have light snacks available, things like nuts, olives, an antipasto platter and dips to munch on. Nothing too heavy is necessary.
As far as kitchen preparations go, many things can be done ahead to avoid the last minute rush. Cranberry sauces, chutneys and relishes can be prepared up to two weeks ahead and stored tightly covered in the refrigerator. Gravy can also be made ahead to avoid last minute panic after the turkey is out of the oven. Make sure to let your turkey rest for about 25 minutes once you remove it from the oven; cover it with aluminum foil to keep it warm. While the turkey is resting, place side dishes you have brought to room temperature into the oven to heat up. If your turkey appears dry after you have carved it, drizzle it with warmed turkey stock just before serving, no one will ever know you overcooked the bird.
Pass bread or rolls in a rustic, cloth-lined basket. Make sure you have butter available at both ends of the table.
If you are serving many pies or different types of dessert, have a separate dessert buffet table with plates and flatware ready to go. Have guests serve themselves when they are ready or place a family member or friend in charge of cutting pies or scooping ice cream while you make the coffee and open dessert wine.
Obviously there are so many ideas to try and ease the stress of the Thanksgiving meal. I do believe regardless of how casual or elegant your celebration, there are extra-special touches you can put in place to make this holiday an outstanding celebration for you and your guests.
Does anyone else have any other great ideas?
One Year Ago Today: Two-Ingredient Pumpkin Cake with Apple Cider Glaze