Spend more time planning and you’ll spend less time panicking, says New Jersey native Judith Bluysen, co-owner of Thanksgiving, an American grocery store, restaurant, and catering business in Paris. Each fall Bluysen and her team of five prepare more than 150 take-out turkeys and turkey dinners. She sticks to a schedule. Here’s how you can, too.
3 Weeks Before
Decide which recipes you want to make, keeping in mind that there’s only so much one person―and one kitchen―can do. If you really do need 10 side dishes, look for recipes that use the same oven temperature, so they can cook at the same time, says Bluysen.
After you narrow down your menu, reread the recipes that remain. Most can be broken into steps that you can do ahead of time. Then make a list of what you want to get done on each of the days leading up to Thanksgiving, says Bluysen. “I really think if you go through it enough times, you will be more relaxed,” she says.
2 Weeks Before
Figure out what size turkey you need (see what you need to know before roasting a turkey). Bluysen likes a fresh turkey, which can be picked up close to the holiday (call your supermarket to reserve one), relieving your refrigerator of the days required to defrost a bulky frozen bird.
The Weekend Before
Make a detailed shopping list and check it―twice. But don’t expect to get all your shopping done in one trip. Instead, divide your list into two parts: items you’ll need in advance and items you’ll need the final day or two before the meal. Planning a second trip not only keeps your refrigerator from groaning but also relieves you of having to remember every last stick of butter the first time around. When you go to the store, grab a few bottles of something to serve with the meal (see Thanksgiving Beverage Suggestions).
Make everything that will be served chilled, like cranberry sauce. Cover the dishes, place them in the refrigerator, and forget about them until serving time.
- Take inventory before making a second trip to the store (cream? foil?). And don’t forget to pick up the turkey.
- Chop the onions and the celery, wash the herbs, and trim the rest of the vegetables. Pat them dry, cover, and refrigerate.
- Assemble the stuffing, transfer to a baking dish, and refrigerate.
- Prepare the dessert (or assemble as much of it as you can) and refrigerate or bake it.
- Get a head start on side dishes that can be made completely or partly in advance.
If, like most people, you think of one last thing you need from the store on Thanksgiving morning, call a trusted guest and ask if he or she could do you a favor. All you’ll have left, says Bluysen, is the final assembly.
While the Turkey Roasts…
- Cook the side dishes.
While the Turkey Rests…
- Make the gravy (see Make Foolproof Gravy).
- Assemble any last-minute sides and rewarm the ones you made the day before.
- Rewarm the dessert in the oven.