First, make a reservation someplace elegant. OK, just kidding. Thanksgiving is about spending time with your loved ones and focusing on your blessings, which of course include delicious food. However, making that wonderful food and serving it can be easier if you follow some of these tips.
Make Lists for Everything. Write out your shopping lists, your menus, and your timeline ahead of time and then tape the menu and shopping lists in plain sight so you can see them. Do as much ahead of time as you can, and then follow the schedule you’ve already created to minimize the last-minute scramble.
Don’t Stress Over Appetizers. Simply pick up some cheeses, olives, and sliced cold cuts to lay on a cutting board for your own charcuterie. If you want to augment that, simply buy a pre-made dip and surround it on a plate with baby carrots and celery slices. Nobody’s expecting complicated appetizers, especially if you offer them a nice glass of wine.
Buy Pies At The Local Bakery. Alternatively, when guests ask what they can bring, tell them dessert. It’s not a cop-out to serve a delicious dessert that someone else made. Nobody said that a wonderful meal meant you had to make everything from scratch.
Set The Table The Night Before. Everything that can be done ahead of time is a big plus.
Keep Your Centerpiece Simple. You don’t need elaborate floral masterpieces to make your table look elegant. A bowl filled with pomegranates or a few candles grouped with some greenery can be enough to give the table a festive feeling.
Don’t Have Fancy Napkins? Dress Up Paper Towels. Tuck the silverware inside and tie it together with a piece of raffia or string. Add a festive gift tag (or simply hole punch a piece of computer paper if you don’t have one) and your fancy paper towel can serve as a place card as well.
Consider Slow Cooking The Turkey Overnight. Yes, that’s right. The turkey cooks while you’re sleeping, making Thanksgiving day itself a breeze.
Buy the Bird Already Cooked or Spatchcock it. If cooking a turkey seems daunting to you, know that you don’t have to do it. You can buy delicious already prepared turkeys at Whole Foods, Lazy Acres and other local stores. Johnny Reb’s sells smoked turkeys. You can also purchase side dishes as well if you want to really simplify your preparation. If you’re cooking it and want to cut the cooking time down to 90 minutes, consider spatchcocking it, a technique in which the backbone is removed and the turkey is roasted flat.
Fancy Up Some Boxed Stuffing. It’s just dry bread, after all, right? Rather than go through the hassle of cutting, drying and crumbling, simply follow the instructions on the box. If you add some extra sage and onions, it will taste just like your grandma used to make.
Buy The Gravy From The Store. Gravy can be one of the last-minute hurdles to getting everything on the table while it’s fresh and hot. So buy it ahead and heat it when you’re ready. You can add your own seasonings plus turkey drippings from the bird to dress it up if you want.
Buy Rolls Or Biscuits. Unless you’re an amazing baker, you may want to check out the bakery to see what they’ve got. (Butterflake rolls from Lazy Acres are the bomb!) There are also some great options in the refrigerated and freezer section of the store.
Consider Cocktails. Wine and beer are great, and you’ll want to have nice non-alcoholic options as well. If your company enjoys cocktails, you may want to try one of these make-ahead big-batch cocktail recipes.
Empty Your Dishwasher Ahead of Time. You don’t want to have to stop to empty the dishwasher before you can clear and clean dishes. If you simply thrown the dishes in as the day goes on, cleanup will be much simpler.
Consider Serving Dinner Buffet Style. If you’ve got lots of hot dishes and a dearth of hot pads or trivets, a buffet can be the solution. Whether it’s on a sideboard or a breakfast counter, this easy entertaining solution allows guests to serve themselves, and go back if they want seconds. Plus you don’t have to worry about where to squeeze everything in on the dining table.
Whether you cook everything from scratch or decide to use a shortcut (or several), we wish you and your loved ones a very happy Thanksgiving!