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My First Thanksgiving Dinner


Verjuice
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I am hoping that more seasoned home cooks and/or entertainers will chime in with some input here.

In a moment of legendary idiocy, I offered to host Thanksgiving to around ten guests at my home this year. On the one hand, I am insanely excited (I started menu planning a month ago and ordered my heritage 20 lb bird) but on the other I worry that I am in over my head, having never done this, or anything approximating it, before. I have a four burner 30" down draft gas stove with convection and no microwave. And I've never even roasted a chicken (its true). :unsure:

So, I have a pretty grand menu planned and have divided everything into categories of:

1) What can be made in advance and what can't.

2) Whether a dish will be served Hot, Warm or Room Temperature.

3) What needs to be cooked in the oven and what can go on the stovetop, so that I can delegate space accordingly.

Having done this as well as sketching out a chart and timetable I am stunned that people manage to get everything on the table simultaneously for a big feast like this without having it all go cold. I already know that I will be renting extra tables for cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, and also borrowing a friend's fridge for the extra space, but what of the cooking?

My main questions are: In your opinion, how hot does food have to be? Is it okay for mashed potatoes and roasted brussels sprouts and braised endive to be barely warm by the time they reach the table? I feel like I need to switch out dishes I love with dishes that can be served a lttle cooler in order to make this feasible. Has anyone had experience with this? Tricks or tips for organizing? Opinions about the ideal temperature for gravy?

How do you pull it off?

Edited by Verjuice (log)
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Funny, I am doing the same thing this year. My wife and I bought a house in April and decided to host Thanksgiving in our first year here, despite having a somewhat small house and small-ish kitchen. We're serving 9.

One of the keys I've decided on is the use of outside cooking appliances - I have a charcoal and gas grill and a smoker. So I'm doing a 13 pound heirloom turkey in the oven, and smoking a duck. I'm setting the gas grill to a low temp as a sort-of staging area for keeping dishes warm.

Aside from that, I'm not sure how to proceed. I'd be interested in any tips you have for this. I think my menu is going to be relatively straight-forward - mashed potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts with toasted peanuts, pumpkin soup served in pumpkins, mashed butternut squash, bacon-wrapped grilled endive, and of course stuffing and cranberry sauce.

Keep us - and me - informed. I could use the help! Restaurant cooking is nowhere near as stressful as cooking for your in-laws and loved ones!

"A culture's appetite always springs from its poor" - John Thorne

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Wow- we are in astonishingly similar positions actually. This will be the first big dinner I host in my new home, which I bought in April. And technically I am hosting 9 as well since one is my sweetie who'll be helping me host and cook in my not-very-big home. So you are definitely not alone there! Don't know about you but I have an open kitchen so I can't have any meltdowns in the middle of this whole project if it all falls apart! :smile:

Your idea about using outdoor appliances is great, and while I contemplated borrowing a grill since I don't own one myself yet I am somewhat intimidated by the idea of managing an additional cooking surface. Is that weird? I am definitely going to consider, though. What kind of charcoal grill do you own?

Also, have you given thought to what you will be serving to drink? Folks will bring wine, but I wanted to supply one or maybe two great cocktails. Do you have anything special in mind for your own dinner?

:smile:

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I did this three years running when I lived in South Korea. The last year, I had twenty people to cook for, in a small apartment. I had one (smallish) oven, and four gas burners. It helped that the guests were all expatriates far from home who had fairly low expectations for the quality of the meal - the point for us was to have a meal (any meal) in the company of each other. I'm sure your guests feel the same, so just remember that when the gravy's not thickening properly and the potatoes are boiling over!

That being said, I managed to roast two turkeys (one the night before, one the morning of), in addition to side dishes. My trick was to be brutal with the menu planning, and have a plan for when everything had to be cooked. It helps to look at your menu and decide whether things really must be baked if they could be boiled or microwaved, and vice versa. I did most of my veg prep the day before, and then put them into pans in the fridge. Sweet potatoes, mashed potato, and stuffing were done the day before and put in foil tins to warm in the oven once everyone had arrived. Carrots and green beans were done on the stove top. Most things were served fairly lukewarm. I found most people didn't care, as long as there was ample hot gravy to be poured over everything. Lots of gravy is really important, and will hide most of your goofs. People will forgive anything if there's good gravy. No soups, fancy garnishes or other bits, and the foil pans were wrapped up to go home as leftovers with grateful guests.

One thing I did learn was that radish kimchi makes an excellent Thanksgiving side dish.

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It might help if you posted your menu, including what you plan on serving for hor's d'ouvres. Potatoes can be mashed as the turkey comes out of the oven, and held with the lid on. Is your stuffing being done inside or outside the bird? You don't have a micowave, but do you have or can you borrow a toaster oven? They're extremely versatile in situtations like this.

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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It would help to know what you are serving. Preparing ahead of time depends on what you have on your menu.

Items that can be prepared ahead of time: Cold hors d'oeuvres or hot(just warmed in the oven), Soups, salads, peeling potatatoes for mashed potato, blanching vegetables. Stuffing can be wrapped in plastic wrap, rolled into logs and poached ahead of time, or wrapped in foil and cooked with the turkey. Stocks and gravy(athough, I prepare this with the turkey drippings and giblets), deserts, garnishes, chopping onions and garlic for sauteeing. Brine your turkey.

Serving your food buffet style would cut your work and stress level. Rent a few chafing dishes along with the tables and chairs you plan to rent. Chafing dishes will keep your food warm using those gel fuels.

You have a 20 lbs turkey, it takes a while to cook that birdzilla, that will give you plenty of time to heat, cook and saute the foods you prepared ahead of time. Stuffing the trukey will increase cooking time so I prefer rolled stuffing and just slicing them to portion sizes.

Edited by Fugu (log)
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First off, good luck with the dinner. I'm sure it will be a successful and rewarding experience. There's a lot of pressure and stress do deal with but as long as your prep work is sound and your timing is on it's just a matter of the little details.

There's a bunch of good advice here from experienced hosts so the only thing I'll add is that when I've cooked Thanksgiving for multiple guests I rely on a keen sense of timing to get everything on the plate at it's peak....nothing drying out, nothing getting cold. I rely on the 25-30 minute window when I have the turkey resting on my cutting board to plate the potatoes, turnips, stuffing, veggies etc.

A successful Thanksgivng is all about family and friends enjoying each other's company for the day. That's the important thing. A successful Thanksgiving meal is all about timing.

Good luck!

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Hot gravy will warm everything - turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes.

I once did a Thanksgiving meal for a bunch of ex-pats and friends in Germany. Turkeys were purchased via a pal that had PX opportunity (she a military "brat") and I made 4 turkeys, with stuffing (mixed up in 5-gallon plastic tubs) and trussed with a needle and dental floss.

If I could pull that off, you can surely put on a seriously "good eats" dinner for 20!

Good luck! :biggrin:

Jamie Lee

Beauty fades, Dumb lasts forever. - Judge Judy

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A cooler can help keep some of the veggie sides warm for at least 30 min. But I do use both the grill and the microwave on Easter (my big assignment). I can actually plate most of the vegetables the night before and nuke them before dinner. I actually prefer this to warming in the oven because then the dishes arent too hot to pass around the table.

But if you can make the vegetables ahead in the morning and use oven proof serving pieces they can all be popped in the oven for 30 min while the turkey is resting under a foil tent (must rest the turkey or all the juice pours out when you carve it)

Do you know how to make gravy, if not practice now or buy you favorite and have it in a small pot ready to heat.

If you are making real mashed potatoes boil them to be cooked around when the bird will come out of the oven.

Lift turkey to platter and cover - Stuff all the sides into the empty oven to reheat - Finish mashed potatoes with milk and butter and salt - Make gravy with the pan drippings and broth or Mix - See if someone wants to carve - Put food on table - Have a bottle or glass of wine

tracey

The great thing about barbeque is that when you get hungry 3 hours later....you can lick your fingers

Maxine

Avoid cutting yourself while slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop away.

"It is the government's fault, they've eaten everything."

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I routinely do Thanksgiving for a crowd of 15, have been for about 7 years. I'll try to think of my game plan, and list some stuff that helps me.

My tactic is prepare or fully make almost everything ahead of time, like Tuesday, even, and store it in the foil trays that you use in sterno pans. I make two half trays of everything, one for putting out, and one waiting in the wings for backup (and assured leftovers, which is the most important part of the meal, as far as I'm concerned.).

Glazed roasted sweet potatoes, stuffing (made with broth from assorted unrelated turkey parts, so it's got a nice bird flavor*), the everpresent green bean casserole, stuffed mushrooms, anything sturdy that takes well to reheating, all cooked, or mostly cooked (as in the case of the sweet potatoes) and stored in pans. Cold things like salad and cranberry sauces are made ahead of time, too. Then, when the turkey is going, for the last hour or two, I slide the foil pans in across the bottom of the oven, for a slow reheat. The lids stat anchored down tight till the last 10 minutes or so in the oven, so stuff stays moist. It works, because the oven is at 325, so nothing dries out.

That's the "big sides", and it's effortless. They come right out of the oven, and go over steam trays, till serving time. Biscuits get done when the turkey is resting, I have the dough all but made, like dry and wet ingredients seperate, to be combined at last minute, just to streamline what I'm doing at the end. I make assorted steamed veggies, too, prepped in the morning and have 'em cold and ready in the pan, till it's time to cook them right at zero hour. Gravy has to be last minute, and it's demanding, lots of babysitting and whisking. Mashed potatoes...I usually do them last minute too, and have a trusted helper mash them, while you're whisking the gravy. For me, they both have to be piping hot. In a pinch, mashed stuff keeps hot over a double boiler very well. Keep an eye on it, and give it a stir now and then.

At the end, right before serving, it's a lot of multitasking, but none of it is difficult. With some coordination, a solid plan, a good helper or two, and a bit of organization, getting everything done at the same time so it's all hot isn't too hard. It's so much fun, though, it's one of my all time favorite days to cook.

(*As a side note, that might be my secret to everything...the week before, I make a giant batch of stock from turkey legs, and use it for everything. Seriously, I have a pot of this stuff handy throughout all stages of Thanksgiving prep.)

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Hi. Made my first thanksgiving in a dorm room kitchen for 10 people and I've cooked every year since. You're in for a treat it's a ton of fun to cook, most thanksgiving foods hold pretty well and are pretty forgiving. My experience has been it kind of always turns out well.

My advice would be:

1) Post your menu. It's very hard to give you any advice without a specific menu.

2) The 1/2 hour after the bird comes out of the oven, rests and is carved before you plate is very busy, this is the time to write down everything that needs to go in the oven, at what temp ect.

3) Be open to offers of help. Another set of hands around crunch time is always helpful, and it's useful to have thought out what you could trust someone else to do.

4) This is odd advice, and some on the board with disagree with it but I would be open to offers from others to bring things. Sometimes what guests are telling you is that to them it's not thanksgiving without creamed onions, or greenbean casserole or some other thing. I have seen mature people who are otherwise gracious, polite guests become very odd around such things. Just be sure you know how long and at what temp they need to get something ready to be heated.

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Wow-- some incredibly useful information here so thank you all. I didn't grow up with Thanksgiving and have only experienced it a few times, so most of what I've learned was found here on eG. Which is just so cool.

Here is my working menu. Many of the recipes for starters are ones that I got from reading older threads here! There will be 2 ovolactovegetarians at dinner, so I will be making almost all the vegetable sides without the addition of turkey stock or bacon fat. I don't think I'll bother with a vegetarian "gravy" however. :wacko:

Cocktails

Cranberry Kir Royale (?)

Hors d'oeuvres

-Tanabutler's Spicy Roasted Herb Nuts

-Goose-fat roasted baby potatoes with creme fraiche and caviar

-Swisskaese's "ducklava"

-Sigara Borek

-AlexP's White Gazpacho Shooters

-Crostini, Pate, Cornichons, Mustard

-Deviled Eggs

First Course

Warm kabocha squash salad wth greens, candied bacon, pecorino, pecans and blackened sherry vinegar onions

Brie en croute with fried sage, apple compote, port reduction

Small cups of SLKinsey's cauliflower soup with pureed spinach and curry oil

Dinner

Cornbread

Mashed potatoes

Goose-fat roasted potatoes with semolina (Nigella Lawson)

Pan-roasted balsamic onions (Nigella Lawson)

Spiced orzo OR wild rice and toasted almonds (haven't decided)

Braised endive with garlic and lemon

Butternut maple custard OR roasted sweet potatoes with brown sugar and spices

Braised red cabbage with goat's cheese

Roasted brussels sprouts with pecans

Creamed spinach

Some kind of cornbread, sage and sausage dressing or stuffing or whatever it's called when it's cooked outside the bird

Cranberry sauce

Gravy

For the bird, I've been thinking about this gorgeous creation, made by Ling and Hhlodesign.

Cheese Course

Dessert

Royal Tokaji 2001

Pumpkin Pe with Gingersnap Crust

Tarte Tatin

SLKinsey's Derby Style Pecan Tart

Cinnamon Ice Cream

Salted Caramel Ice Cream

Sleep Aide/Death Sentence/Second Wind

Coffee, Tea, Hot Chocolate, Armagnac

Earl Gray Truffles and World Peace Cookies

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For most people, gravy is really important at Thanksgiving. Some thoughts:

If you aren't already a gravy master, start buying some turkey wings and/or legs, roast them, and practice making gravy beforehand. Believe me: you do not want to be trying to rescue gravy-gone-wrong in the midst of trying to get everything else to turn out.

Also, there is almost never enough gravy. A couple of days ahead, you can roast up the aforementioned wings and legs, and save the drippings so that you can make plenty of gravy. Check The Joy of Cooking or a similar cookbook, and see what it has to say about making gravy ahead. I am pretty sure it can be done successfully.

Additionally, the cookbooks put out by the folks at Cook's Illustrated Magazine have a method for making gravy only from vegetables. I've never done it, but they swear it tastes as good as gravy made from meat.

Now about the mashed potatoes: Although most people swear that freshly-mashed potatoes are the only way to go, I have found that they can be successfully made early and reheated. If you're going to do this, make them slightly on the dry side, and then when it's within about 1/2 hour of when you want to eat, warm them either as above, in foil, or over a double-boiler type arrangement; then stir in a little hot milk until they are of the desired consistency.

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Wow-- some incredibly useful information here so thank you all. I didn't grow up with Thanksgiving and have only experienced it a few times, so most of what I've learned was found here on eG. Which is just so cool.

Here is my working menu. Many of the recipes for starters are ones that I got from reading older threads here! There will be 2 ovolactovegetarians at dinner, so I will be making almost all the vegetable sides without the addition of turkey stock or bacon fat. I don't think I'll bother with a vegetarian "gravy" however.  :wacko:

Cocktails

Cranberry Kir Royale (?)

Hors d'oeuvres

-Tanabutler's Spicy Roasted Herb Nuts

-Goose-fat roasted baby potatoes with creme fraiche and caviar

-Swisskaese's "ducklava"

-Sigara Borek

-AlexP's White Gazpacho Shooters

-Crostini, Pate, Cornichons, Mustard

-Deviled Eggs

First Course

Warm kabocha squash salad wth greens, candied bacon, pecorino, pecans and blackened sherry vinegar onions

Brie en croute with fried sage, apple compote, port reduction

Small cups of SLKinsey's cauliflower soup with pureed spinach and curry oil

Dinner

Cornbread

Mashed potatoes

Goose-fat roasted potatoes with semolina (Nigella Lawson)

Pan-roasted balsamic onions (Nigella Lawson)

Spiced orzo OR wild rice and toasted almonds (haven't decided)

Braised endive with garlic and lemon

Butternut maple custard OR roasted sweet potatoes with brown sugar and spices

Braised red cabbage with goat's cheese

Roasted brussels sprouts with pecans

Creamed spinach

Some kind of cornbread, sage and sausage dressing or stuffing or whatever it's called when it's cooked outside the bird

Cranberry sauce

Gravy

For the bird, I've been thinking about this gorgeous creation, made by Ling and Hhlodesign.

Cheese Course

Dessert

Royal Tokaji 2001

Pumpkin Pe with Gingersnap Crust

Tarte Tatin

SLKinsey's Derby Style Pecan Tart

Cinnamon Ice Cream

Salted Caramel Ice Cream

Sleep Aide/Death Sentence/Second Wind

Coffee, Tea, Hot Chocolate, Armagnac

Earl Gray Truffles and World Peace Cookies

SIMPLIFY! SIMPLIFY! SIMPLIFY

Way too many things. Pare it down!

Cut out at least half the dishes. Go from there on your time table.

Although Ling's turkey is indeed gorgeous you might want to try something simpler. (Also note the she had a second 'conventional' turkey to hand.) Maybe a deconstructed turkey a la Julia Child; excellent and very forgiving timing wise. Note: We always end up with a 4 legged turkey as otherwise there's a shortage of dark meat.

Good luck!

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Sigh... I knew someone would say that pretty quickly once I posted the menu. Can you believe that I have already pared it down a half dozen times? I am HORRIBLE with decisions like this. I might have to just put everything into a hat and pull out half of them.

:sad:

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Slow cookers abound at thrift shops.  They come in really handy for keeping things hot and the oven available.  They're also great for parties - soups, hot drinks, etc. 

Man, that menu looks good!

We've done our stuffing in a slow cooker for many years, dating back to the times when we had only a miserable tiny oven.

And I agree with previous posts: SIMPLIFY YOUR MENU! Get down to just a couple of munchies that you can prep way ahead of time, or better yet, ask people to bring their favorite. Remember, there's a lot of food to come, and at least for me, the primary goal of munchies is to keep people out of your way!

Either soup or salad should be plenty, if you feel you need either. (Do you have enough dishes?)

I'd go with one form of potato. I'd also think that if you're having a cornbread stuffing, you don't need to have cornbread on the table in addition.

Desserts are another good candidate for making ahead of time, or having other people bring.

The best part of T-giving for me is having friends and family around. I try to engineer the menu such that I'm not too flustered to enjoy their company.

MelissaH

MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

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For most people, gravy is really important at Thanksgiving.  Some thoughts:

If you aren't already a gravy master, start buying some turkey wings and/or legs, roast them, and practice making gravy beforehand.  Believe me:  you do not want to be trying to rescue gravy-gone-wrong in the midst of trying to get everything else to turn out.

Also, there is almost never enough gravy.  A couple of days ahead, you can roast up the aforementioned wings and legs, and save the drippings so that you can make plenty of gravy.  Check The Joy of Cooking or a similar cookbook, and see what it has to say about making gravy ahead.  I am pretty sure it can be done successfully.

Additionally, the cookbooks put out by the folks at Cook's Illustrated Magazine have a method for making gravy only from vegetables.  I've never done it, but they swear it tastes as good as gravy made from meat.

Now about the mashed potatoes:  Although most people swear that freshly-mashed potatoes are the only way to go, I have found that they can be successfully made early and reheated.  If you're going to do this, make them slightly on the dry side, and then when it's within about 1/2 hour of when you want to eat, warm them either as above, in foil, or over a double-boiler type arrangement; then stir in a little hot milk until they are of the desired consistency.

Great advice re: the gravy and the mashed potatoe. After many years of peeling or having someone help me peel the potatoes at the semi-last minute, I make them a few hours ahead by putting them through a ricer. It's easiest to reheat in a double boiled and I'll do that with smaller amounts but my double boiler is not large enough for T-day, so I do as jgm says--i.e. make them a little dry. Then, before service, add some more half and half and butter and blend and reheat on low. Once they are nice and hot you can cover the pot, remove from the heat and store on a trivet; the potatoes will stay warm for a while.

I agree w/all of jgm's comments about the gravy too--nice and hot it warms up the turkey, stuffing and potatoes, there is never enough, it can be the most stressful part of the meal if you're not used to making gravy often. I think it's good to make some good turkey stock ahead of time, then the AM of I make more stock using the giblets, neck and wingtips. Even if you make some of the gravy ahead of time, use the drippings from the actual bird as well. Even if things are a little frantic, take care with the gravy--don't overthicken and tasted the seasonings carefully.

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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Simplify.

I can, just barely, imagine doing this meal in my kitchen, but then I've got two ovens, six burners, an extra fridge downstairs as well as an extra freezer, as well as a large gas grill outside, plus years of experience hosting large dinner parties. And 10 guests aren't going to be able to eat anything like this amount of food unless you make single recipes, and then you're going to have to consider storage of leftovers.

And MelissaH's query about sufficient dishes is an excellent one---even after paring down this meal you're going to need lots of dishes. Don't plan on washing between courses unless you've hired in help.

My first big Thanksgiving was for 25, and I rented tables, chair, dishes, and glasses.

Can you pee in the ocean?

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Sigh... I knew someone would say that pretty quickly once I posted the menu. Can you believe that I have already pared it down a half dozen times? I am HORRIBLE with decisions like this. I might have to just put everything into a hat and pull out half of them.

:sad:

I'm the queen of making the giant list and then paring it down and down and down...I know you didn't ask me, but here is my completely unsolicited opinion and you can take it or leave it, of course :smile: But I am professionally trained, I am an 'overfeeder' and I am, of course, an eGulleter :smile: I am being completely honest with you when I say that as a trained professional, that would be a very very ambitious menu. You don't need that kind of stress.

Okay...bearing in mind that the human stomach can only hold so much food...you need to pare down down down. Yes, you want to impress your friends, but in my experience, when presented with the choice between a devilled egg and ducklava, they will go for the egg every time.

Let's talk turkey. Ling and Henry do a beauty, but you've never roasted a chicken, never mind deboned and brined one...don't do that to yourself. Just get your nice heritage bird and drape it with bacon.

So for the first course...

go with

-Tanabutler's Spicy Roasted Herb Nuts

-Crostini, Pate, Cornichons, Mustard

-Deviled Eggs

Save the other things for another time. There's a lot of food still to come.

Second course....

Warm kabocha squash salad wth greens, candied bacon, pecorino, pecans and blackened sherry vinegar onions

The other things sound lovely, but again, the main event is up ahead.

Main Meal...

Cornbread

Mashed potatoes

Pan-roasted balsamic onions (Nigella Lawson)

Roasted sweet potatoes or squash with brown sugar and spices

Roasted brussels sprouts with pecans

Some kind of plain veg, like corn or peas, for the non-sprouters like me :smile: You have a lot of flavours going on and something plainer is always good.

Sage and sausage dressing or stuffing or whatever it's called when it's cooked outside the bird

Cranberry sauce

Gravy

Hit the traditional holiday highlights...you can't be all things to all people...and while you want a nice selection, if you try to do that many things, you will end up in a weeping heap and you won't have any fun and you will be giving up on things mid stream and kicking yourself for it.

Don't even bother with the cheese. Everyone will be so full they won't eat it anyway.

Everything else looks made ahead and totally doable.

Well, that's what I would do. Of course you have to do what you feel you want to do.

Edited by Badiane (log)

Don't try to win over the haters. You're not the jackass whisperer."

Scott Stratten

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Cooking your own Thanksgiving can be really rough your first time, so good luck! Make sure, by the way, that you wear some really comfortable shoes (not just socks or thin slippers!), because your feet will be killing you by the end of the day if you don't.

You really don't need as many dishes as you would think. I would probably cut the appetizers down to two. If you really think you need more, you could have a simple cheese platter. You could even add some olives, nuts, or fruit to it. But remember, you don't want people to actually fill up on appetizers. It's not an appetizer party.

You can make a bunch of extra gravy ahead of time if you get some turkey wings or chicken wings. Then if your bird doesn't end up producing enough for gravy, or the drippings burn or something, it doesn't matter.

For keeping the mashed potatoes warm, you can hold them on the stovetop on low heat. To prevent a crust from forming, pour a thin layer of cream or drop a knob of butter on top. Then when you want to serve, mix it in.

When I do roasted brussels sprouts, they go in with the turkey (my turkey gets roasted quickly at high heat because I pound it flat) toward the end of the turkey cooking time. I try to take into account how long the turkey will need to rest and time it accordingly.

Good luck, and pare the menu down a bit more if you can.

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The soup may be something you are able to keep in even if you pare down the menu a bit. You can make it ahead and it's a small portion...

The warm squash salad sounds very interesting; I may consider doing something liek that myself this year. I always have a soup as a starter but I may cut down the portion size of that and add the salad! Was this a recipe you also found inspiration from on egullet?

Edited by ludja (log)

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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I would definatly consider brining the turkey. esp. if you have limited experience with roasting birds, it is much more forgiving. I would also probably go for the traditional turkey, as you seem to have so many wonderful sounding sides it would be a nice counterpoint. as for cooking the bird, I tend to favor an unstuffed bird, started in a smoking hot oven(500) or so for 30 min, and then lowered to 350 till done with some foil covering the breast for the last part to help keep the white meat from drying out. I got this from the show good eats and it hasn't let me down yet... and it doesn't take that long to cook.

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