Full Fledged Thanksgiving Dinner Prep Plan

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Do you want to host and make a beautiful and healthy traditional Thanksgiving spread, enjoy your guests, and spend less than 5 hours preparing your Thanksgiving dinner? Read on for a minute-by-minute prep breakdown!

 

But first, a little back story...

Thanksgiving is one of my very favorite holidays because it was always a grand event in our house growing up. Early Thursday morning we would have family breakfast at my great aunt's house. Followed by Thanksgiving "dinner" at 1:00. Food coma, naps, and visiting at 2:00, and the rest of the day playing board games and eating leftovers.

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Then, on Friday was "Black Friday Sports Day." Some of the women in the family would go Black Friday shopping and the dads and kids would head over to the middle school where my dad was Vice Principal, and we would play all sorts of games in the gym (Basketball, hockey, dodge ball, kickball, scooter races, etc).

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The rest of the weekend continued like this: catching up with family, eating leftovers, and playing games. Growing up it was all normal and expected but it isn't until now that I can fully appreciate the intentionality behind each family member's active roll in making Thanksgiving weekend enjoyable for everyone. We always had people around the table whom I didn't know, and my dad and many uncles always kept things fun. 

 
 

Now let's get to it!

 photograph by hannah mansur

photograph by hannah mansur

This past weekend I experienced my very first Thanksgiving hosting experience with my husband's family since we will be with my family on Thanksgiving weekend. And this is some sort of wife milestone right? 

I have found that one of the most difficult things to do when hosting a meal on a grand scale is the timing of that meal. The reason meals always seem to start 1 hour past the time we intended it to is usually due to a timing issue.

 Photograph by Ryan Dausch

Photograph by Ryan Dausch

So I prepared a thorough prep plan which combined multiple recipes for a dinner that would be starting at 6:00 pm. I thought maybe this would be helpful for some of you to use this week as you celebrate with your own families. I hope this helps make your holiday a bit less stressful and a lot more enjoyable!

 

Note: In order to keep things manageable, I asked family members to bring a few things (noted below). I've also included recipes to the things that I made.
My dear mother helped me ensure everything was running on time. This timeline is doable for one person but for a more enjoyable experience I would recommend having an extra pair of hands to help keep your work-space clean and tidy. I don't know about you, but I tend to be more like a tornado while cooking.

 
 Photograph by Ryan Dausch

Photograph by Ryan Dausch

Menu:

-Dry-Brined Herbed Turkey
-Mom's Dinner Rolls
-Basic Gravy
-Roasted Carrots and Beets with Pesto
-Corn on the Cob
-Mashed Potatoes (brought by sister-in-law)
-Russian Tomato and Cucumber Salad (brought by mother-in-law)
-Russian "Olivye" Salad (brought by mother-in-law)

 

The night before:

In order for this timeline to work and be able to spend valuable time with your family the day of Thanksgiving, it is necessary to prepare some of the dishes and ingredients the night before. The French call this "Mise en place" or "to put in place," where one prepares his or her ingredients for a sound, smooth, and stress-free cooking experience. 

To start, I dry-brined my turkey, made the roasted carrots and beets (without the pesto), and cut, measured, and prepared all of my ingredients, the night before. 
This made it so I was able to host some friends for breakfast the next day and go to church before even starting on dinner. I never imagined that would be possible! Here it goes...

 

A by-the-minute timeline for day-of prep

1:30

Turkey: Position an oven rack in the lowest position (remove the other racks); preheat to 350 degrees F. Rinse Turkey well & pat dry w/ paper towels. Stuff cavity w/ herb sprigs, carrot, celery, shallots. Tie legs together w/ twine. Put turkey breast side up on rack set in a large roasting pan & tuck wings under body. Let sit at room temp for 30 minutes.

1:45

Start Rolls: Combine the yeast, a pinch of the sugar and 1/2 cup warm water in a large bowl and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in the beaten egg, salt, the remaining sugar and 1 1/2 cups warm water. Add 5 cups flour and stir until a soft, sticky dough. Add 1 stick butter and stir until combined, then add the remaining 1 cup flour and stir until a soft, sticky dough forms. Transfer to a floured work surface and knead until smooth, about 5 minutes, adding a few tablespoons flour if the dough is sticking. Transfer to a buttered bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

2:10

Turkey: Pour champagne over turkey and brush all over w/ melted butter. Put turkey in oven. Roast 1 hour.

3:00

Rolls: Punch dough & let rest for 15 min.

3:15

Baste Turkey w/ pan drippings. Add 1/2 cup water to drippings if dark.

Rolls: Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to 3/8 inch thick. Cut out rounds using a floured 2 3/4-inch cutter (you should get 24-30 rounds). Re-roll the scraps and cut out more rounds, if possible. Melt the remaining 10 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan. Remove 2 tablespoons melted butter to a small bowl and set aside for brushing. Dip both sides of each dough round in the saucepan of butter, letting the excess drip off. Fold the rounds in half and arrange open-side up in a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled in size, about 1 hour.

3:45

Baste Turkey

4:15

Baste Turkey

4:45

Baste Turkey. Check Temperature. If temp has reached 165 degrees, Transfer turkey to a cutting board and let rest 30 minutes before carving. Reserve the drippings for the gravy. If not yet ready return to oven and bake another 15-30 min.

4:50

Gravy: Prepare the stock: Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the turkey neck and giblets; cook, turning, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, carrot, celery, herb sprigs and bay leaves; stir to coat. Add the champagne or wine and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until reduced by half, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the broth, reduce the heat to low and simmer about 1 hour.

5:10

Rolls: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the plastic wrap and bake the rolls until golden, rotating the pan halfway through, 20-25 minutes. Brush the tops with the reserved 2 tablespoons melted butter and let cool slightly in the pan, about 10 minutes.

5:25

Corn-on-the-Cob: Fill large pot with water and set to boil. Add 1 cup of milk or cream and 1 stick of salted butter. Add Corn to pot and boil for 20 min. Try one kernel after 20 min. If al dente, turn off heat and cover until ready to serve.

5:40

Beets/Carrots: Mix 2 1/2 tablespoons ready-made Kirkland brand basil pesto to roasted carrots and beets made the night before and put in oven with the rolls to heat up until finished.

5:50

Turkey: Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a large measuring cup; reserve the saucepan. You should have 7 cups stock-- if you're short, add more broth. Pour the turkey pan drippings into a fat separator and let stand until the fat rises to the top. Discard the fat (or drizzle on your stuffing). Whisk the defatted drippings into the stock. Melt the remaining 8 tablespoons butter in the reserved saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until smooth and bubbling, about 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the stock; bring to a simmer and cook, whisking occasionally, until thickened, about 8-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

6:00

Place all sides and entrees in serving dishes and decorate turkey platter. Good job! Your Full Fledged Thanksgiving dinner fiasco is ready! Now go enjoy your guests!


Recipes:

 

 
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Dry-Brined Herbed Turkey


Total: 4 hr 30 min
Active: 1 hr
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
Level: Easy

Recipe courtesy of Food Network Kitchen
From: Food Network Magazine 

Ingredients

1 12 to 14-pound turkey, thawed if frozen
Kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, plus 1 sprig
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage, plus 1 sprig
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, plus 3 sprigs
1 teaspoon celery seeds
Freshly ground pepper
1 carrot, cut into chunks
1 stalk celery, cut into chunks
2 shallots, halved
1 cup dry white wine or champagne
1 stick unsalted butter, melted

Directions

The day before roasting the turkey, remove the neck and giblets and reserve for gravy (see below). Pat the turkey dry with paper towels and put on a rimmed baking sheet.

Combine 1/4 cup salt, the sugar, 1 tablespoon each rosemary, sage and thyme, the celery seeds and 2 teaspoons pepper in a spice grinder. Pulse until the herbs are finely chopped and the salt is pale green. Rub the turkey inside and out with the salt mixture, rubbing some under the skin of the breasts. Refrigerate, uncovered, at least 8 hours or overnight.

Position an oven rack in the lowest position (remove the other racks); preheat to 350 degrees F. Rinse the turkey well and pat dry with paper towels. Stuff the cavity of the turkey with the herb sprigs, carrot, celery and shallots. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine. Put the turkey breast-side up on a rack set in a large roasting pan and tuck the wings under the body. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Pour the wine over the turkey, then brush all over with the melted butter. Roast the turkey 1 hour, then baste with the pan drippings, adding up to 1/2 cup water to the pan if the drippings are getting too dark. Continue to roast the turkey, basting every 30 minutes and adding more water to the pan if needed, until the skin is golden brown and a thermometer inserted into the thigh registers 160 degrees F, 1 1/2 to 2 more hours. Transfer the turkey to a cutting board and let rest 30 minutes before carving; reserve the drippings for the gravy.

*My alterations: I used champagne instead of white wine and was very pleased with the result. Turkey was tender and juicy.

Photograph by Ryan Dausch
From <http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchen/dry-brined-herbed-turkey-3894841>

 
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Basic Gravy


Total: 1 hr 30 min
Active: 25 min
Yield:  8 cups
Level: Easy

Recipe courtesy of Food Network Kitchen
From: Food Network Magazine

Ingredients

10 tablespoons unsalted butter
Turkey neck and giblets (liver discarded)
2 shallots, halved
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
8 cups low-sodium chicken or turkey broth, plus more if needed
Turkey pan drippings
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions

Prepare the stock: Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the turkey neck and giblets; cook, turning, until browned, about 3 minutes. Add the shallots, carrot, celery, thyme sprigs and bay leaves, and broth. Reduce the heat to low and cook until slightly reduced, about 1 hour. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl; reserve the pot. You should have 7 cups stock -- if you're short, add more broth.

Pour the turkey pan drippings into a fat separator and let stand until the fat rises to the top. Discard the fat (or drizzle on your stuffing). Whisk the defatted drippings into the stock.

Pour the turkey pan drippings into a fat separator and let stand until the fat rises to the top. Discard the fat (or drizzle on your stuffing). Whisk the defatted drippings into the gravy; season with salt and pepper. Simmer until desired thickness, 5 to 15 minutes.

 Melt the remaining 8 tablespoons butter in the reserved saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until smooth and bubbling, about 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the 7 cups stock; bring to a simmer and cook, whisking occasionally, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Set aside until the turkey is done.

*My alterations: Instead of simmering the turkey neck, giblets, and veggies for 1 hour, I left them to boil until the broth was slightly reduced and giblets were thoroughly cooked. The flavor was still exceptional and process was much faster! I'm sure the flavor would be more pronounced by following the recipe but I was very happy with the result.

Photograph by Ryan Dausch
From <http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchen/basic-gravy-2-3894842>

 
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Mom's Dinner Rolls

Total: 4 hr
Active: 1 hr
Yield:  About 30  
Level: Easy

Recipe courtesy of Food Network Kitchen
From: Food Network Magazine

Ingredients

2 1/4-ounce packages active dry yeast (about 4 1/2 tsp)
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups warm water
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons kosher salt
6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading and dusting
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons salted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the bowl

Directions

Combine the yeast, a pinch of the sugar and 1/2 cup warm water in a large bowl and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in the beaten egg, salt, the remaining sugar and 1 1/2 cups warm water. Add 5 cups flour and stir until a soft, sticky dough. Add 1 stick butter and stir until combined, then add the remaining 1 cup flour and stir until a soft, sticky dough forms. Transfer to a floured work surface and knead until smooth, about 5 minutes, adding a few tablespoons flour if the dough is sticking. Transfer to a buttered bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Punch down the dough and knead a couple of times; cover and let rest 15 minutes. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to 3/8 inch thick. Cut out rounds using a floured 2 3/4-inch cutter (you should get 24-30 rounds). Reroll the scraps and cut out more rounds, if possible.

Melt the remaining 10 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan. Remove 2 tablespoons melted butter to a small bowl and set aside for brushing. Dip both sides of each dough round in the saucepan of butter, letting the excess drip off. Fold the rounds in half and arrange open-side up in a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the plastic wrap and bake the rolls until golden, rotating the pan halfway through, 20-25 minutes. Brush the tops with the reserved 2 tablespoons melted butter and let cool slightly in the pan, about 10 minutes.

 
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Roasted Carrots and Beets with Pecan Pesto

Total: 1 hr 10 min
Active: 25 min
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Level: Easy

Recipe courtesy of Food Network Kitchen
From: Food Network Magazine

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces and halved lengthwise if large
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
6 medium beets (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1/4 cup pecans
1 cup fresh parsley
1 cup fresh mint
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Toss the carrots with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper on a rimmed baking sheet. Tear off 3 pieces of foil; put 2 beets on each sheet. Drizzle the beets with 1 tablespoon olive oil and wrap in the foil. Transfer the carrots and beets to the oven; bake the carrots until browned and tender, 30 to 35 minutes, and bake the beets until easily pierced with a knife, 50 minutes to 1 hour.

Meanwhile, toast the pecans in a small dry skillet over low heat, stirring, about 5 minutes; let cool. Transfer to a food processor; add the parsley, mint, garlic, lemon zest, 2 tablespoons water, 1 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper. Pulse a few times to make a paste. With the machine running, gradually add the remaining 1/3 cup olive oil and puree until smooth. Add the Parmesan and pulse to combine.

Let the beets cool slightly, then peel and cut into wedges. Transfer to a large bowl or serving dish and add the carrots and pesto; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper.

*My alterations: Instead of making my own pesto, I actually just used premade Kirkland Basil Pesto, a lot quicker and easier! (Two of my favorite things).

Photograph by Ryan Dausch
From <http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchen/roasted-carrots-and-beets-with-pecan-pesto-3894869> 

Boa Sorte!