Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Planning for Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving only one week away, it's time to seriously start panicking. Especially if dinner is at your house and you still need to clean and make the menu. If you sense a bit of panic on my part, well you're absolutely right. Ahhhh!

So, I guess the first thing that needs to be done is to decide on the menu. This will depend on how many people are coming and whether there are any dietary restrictions. Oh, and it might not be the best time to try out all new recipes... or at least a lot of them. Some are fine, but a lot of them are risky for two reason. 1. You don't know what to expect and how it's supposed to come out. Is it supposed to be that color, shape, texture? And 2. new recipes tend to take longer than we anticipate, thus throwing off your entire schedule. On the other hand, recipe websites typically have ratings and reviews that are quite reliable when the numbers of ratings/reviews are high, and you can plan to spend more time on those recipes. So... I guess, it's ultimately up to you. Just giving you some things to consider. :-)

So, back to the menu. Generally the menu will include some appetizers, the turkey, sides, and dessert. Thanksgiving usually ends up as almost an all day event in that people come early, munch and play all day then enjoy the feast. So, for all day we'll usually have nuts or chips around. Something that doesn't need refrigeration and something that can be picked at. Then we bring out the appetizers around mid-afternoon. In the past, we've gone overboard on the appetizers, making 4 or 5 different things. This was then followed by everyone being way to full to fully enjoy the turkey and sides. So, this year, I've decided to limit the appetizers to maybe 2 things. This year, we're going to have spinach dip with veggies, chips and bread, and bagel chips, cream cheese and lox. They can be prepped that morning (at least individually) and just stay in the fridge til we're ready for them.

As for the turkey, we like the crispies of the deep fried turkey, so that's what we'll be having this year. Be sure to dry the turkey up as much as possible, and make sure it's fully defrosted. I was watching a Time Warp episode on the Discovery Channel where they put a frozen turkey in the pot of hot oil, and well, let's just say... we definitely should not do that. Scary stuff! Check it out!

Anyway, once we feel like everyone is ready to eat... or almost anyway, we'll announce the lowering of the turkey. I know, it's kinda funny, but when you're about to put a 17 lb turkey whole into a vat of hot oil, it's a sight to see. Don't forget tho, to account for some time to heat up the oil. Heating up the oil will take about 45 minutes.

While the oil is heating , you can prep/cook all of the sides. I go pretty simple on sides and pick the ones that take only a little bit of time to set up then just goes into the oven. This let's you spend some time enjoying the day with your family. After all, that is the most important part of the holiday. For sides, we're going to have stuffing, garlic mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, and creamed corn as well as some dinner rolls and well... rice (just in case, I am filipino after all).

You'll want everything to be pretty much ready to go by the time the turkey is resting. That's a big tip on it's own. Never serve the turkey right after you finished cooking it (taking it out of the oven or fryer). It needs to rest for 20 to 30 minutes before you even carve into it. This allows all the juices to go back into the meat.

Last of all... Dessert. Depending on the dessert, they can usually be prepared a day or two before. I like doing this because then you don't have to worry about it at all on the day of Thanksgiving except to remember to serve it. This year we plan to make a pumpkin roll the day before and just leave it in the fridge til it's ready to serve. If I have time, I also would like to make some iced pumpkin cookies because even though you're probably full from the big huge dinner you just had, one little cookie doesn't seem like too much. :-) Also, these things go well with coffee, which would be good to combat the sleepy side-effects of turkey.

Okay, snap back to the present (just one week before the big day). Now that you've settled on a menu, you have to take into account that your guests need to be entertained. Not that watching me running frantically around the kitchen isn't entertaining... but you know. So, be sure to have something available for all of you to play. Here are some ideas.

  • Football
  • Poker
  • Game console of choice (PS2, PS3, Wii) and games (Guitar Hero :-) )
  • Karaoke
  • Board games
  • DVD trivia
  • Bolo golf (also known as ladder golf... I'm hoping to post about this soon – stay tuned).
  • DVD movies

These are good ideas for before and after the dinner if people are still there and awake. :-)

Okay so here's the menu


  • Deep Fried Turkey (with Creole seasoning)



Okay so I think this is the schedule.
Weekend before
  • clean house
  • proof bake dinner rolls
  • shop for groceries if you haven't already
  • take the turkey out of the freezer and into the fridge.
  • Organize all the recipes you're going to use.

2 days before

  • make dessert
  • make gravlax

1 day before

  • make spinach dip
  • cut veggies (better yet, get baby carrots... done)
  • make croutons for stuffing and prep other things for stuffing

Morning of Thanksgiving

  • put champagne in fridge
  • buy newspaper :-)
  • set up sweet potato in slow cooker (will make the house smell great by the time the guests come)
  • check defrosting of turkey and start drying/draining
  • peel potatoes and keep in water
  • put out nuts and chips
  • last minute cleanup
  • set up games/activities
  • cut gravlax


  • prep the dinner table
  • prep appetizers

~ 2 hours before dinner

  • start heating up oil
  • cook all the sides

~ 1 hour before

  • cook rice
  • start cooking turkey
  • cook mashed potatoes

~ 20 minutes before dinner

  • rest turkey
  • brown dinner rolls
  • turn off slow cooker and place all the food on the table or buffet counter.
  • Give dogs their thanksgiving treat so they're busy while we eat
  • take champagne out of the fridge
  • light candles
  • and call everyone to eat

Eat, Drink & be Merry!
Don't forget the desserts.

Okay good. I plan to use this schedule myself so I hope I'm not forgetting anything. :-)
Good Luck with the planning.

Update [11-24-08]: I've decided to try making my own gravy this year. Without the pan drippings this might be a bit of a challenge. So, I googled it. I found this site that has a decent description of how to go about making gravy without pan drippings. Basically, you start with chicken stock add some of the parts of the turkey that is generally unused and some choice veggies and simmer some to reduce and concentrate the flavors. Then add some red wine (yum) and some thickener like cornstarch or flour (side note: be careful with the cornstarch... a little goes a long long way). Anyway, I'll post all the results after thanksgiving. :-)
Happy Thanksgiving!!!


Captain Monkeypants said...

Wow- you are a planner! This looks awesome. Except the rice. Do you put gravy on that? Please do a blog after Thanksgiving to let us know how it turned out- mostly I just want to see the Pumpkin Roll because I'm salivating at the thought...

Fe said...

Thanks. :-) Sure, I'll have a post-Thanksgiving post.

frydzz said...

ummm....definitly need to remember the newspaper thing...nothing more entertaining that going to every gas station, grocrery store, etc, looking for the paper and finding only ones without the Friday ads. Grr. :-) Oh don't forget the creamed corn (which I can make Au Gratin if you like) :-)

Fe said...

Good call on the creamed corn. I've added it, thanks. Finding a newspaper after Thanksgiving dinner is kinda like a treasure hunt with no treasure. Not looking forward to doing that again. But then again... -good source for those ads.

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