Game Plan for Thanksgiving Week (And a Great Cranberry Sauce Recipe Too)

Game Plan for Thanksgiving Week (And a Great Cranberry Sauce Recipe Too)

The week of Thanksgiving….the week that is supposed to be dedicated to food…the week where I really don’t have much to do in the kitchen?  Whaaaat? 

Thanksgiving is my husband’s family’s holiday.  I have yet to offer up my house as the destination because in 19 years of marriage….because honestly….it has never been my favorite holiday.

I guess I haven’t been a fan of the mandated food requirements or the stress of timing it all.  My fondest memories are of those as a kid at my grandparent’s or aunt/uncle’s homes.  (Or the year my sister made a cranberry shoot out her nose….that was probably my favorite.)

But because I am a food person, I am always asked for a little bit of a timeline to help those get organized.  So here is how I would do it……

MONDAY:

Everyone should be invited at this point and know what time dinner is at.  If it is a potluck, let folks know the number of guests so no one gets gipped out of getting a dinner roll or a scoop of potatoes.

Your menu should be decided and if you haven’t tried that recipe you saw on Facebook last week….try it now or do it another time!  (Nothing is worse than trying a new recipe for Thanksgiving and having it fail.)

Your turkey(s) should be in the fridge (if frozen solid, they will take a few days to thaw out).  If you are using fresh, you really don’t want to wait until Wednesday to buy it because you just never know what you will find at the last minute.

Speaking of shopping….you are going to need fridge space.  Monday is a great time to eat as much as you can to make room for all the goodies.

Check your spices too.  Thursday is not the day to remember your used up your nutmeg or cinnamon.  (Or the fact that your spices are older than your great grandparents.)

Make a really good grocery list and take a picture of it with your phone.  (This will be useful when you lose the list in your other jeans or purse.)  Remember to include things like beverages, ice, and PEZ.  (Or whatever your favorite indulgent treat is….chocolate, wine, salami….)

I’d get out linens, dishes and serving utensils just to make sure I had everything I wanted.  Ice tongs?  Got them.  Meat thermometer?  Got it.  That weird basting sucky thing….hmmm..where did I put that?  You get the gist of it.

TUESDAY:

Wake up, get a donut/coffee and hit the store.  It will be madness…plain and simple.

Make your pie crusts since that dough has to chill anyway.

Do whatever prep you can today.  Make a good stock for your gravy and stuffing.  Chop up veggies.  Concoct your cranberry relish (I like to do it so the flavors combine really well.) 

DON’T make salads or peel potatoes yet.  Those are more time sensitive.  And don’t you dare cook your turkey and think you are heating it up in the microwave on Thursday.

Print up any recipes you are using and have them in one place.  Print up some extras in case people want a copy.  (Like my Ginger Cranberry relish at the bottom of this blogpost.)

WEDNESDAY:

Get your table set and decorated.   Shine up those butter knives so there are no fingerprints in case someone uses them as a shank.  (You think I’m kidding.)

Most casseroles can be made a day ahead of time but remember your cooking time may have to be adjusted.  (Plus, some casserole dishes crack when you take them from an ice cold fridge to a hot oven.)

Run back to the store because you forgot something or use that as an excuse to just get out of the house.

I’m not a baker but I’d get my pies done now so they don’t suck up oven space.

Speaking of oven space, make sure you have a good timeline of what needs to go in the oven and the temperature variances.  Not everything cooks at 350 degrees.

Rest a little bit because tomorrow is going to be a long day.

THURSDAY

Peel your potatoes and put them in a pot of water making sure they are covered.  I wouldn’t cook them just yet.

Don’t forget to call any relatives that might be alone on the holiday.  They will appreciate it and it will be time well spent.

I’d give myself a 4-5 hour window of turkey cooking time depending on the size of your bird.  This gives you some wiggle room if your turkey doesn’t finish on time.

In the morning, you should have all your sides prepped and ready to go in the oven.  This is a good time to remeind people about food safety.  Keep in mind what can sit out and what needs to be refrigerated.  (And just so I say it…wash your hands and switch out your kitchen towel a lot.)

Remember to clean your kitchen as you go, designate someone to wash dishes (this is great for the person who doesn’t like social situations) and sweep up now and then.  (So someone doesn’t track a smashed cranberry onto your carpet.)

At the 2-3 hour point, have your hot plates heating and ready to retrieve anything coming out of the oven.  Depending on how many sides, check out your timeline of when you need to get things in the oven.

The hour before dinner is the hardest.  Most people are hungry and start poking their heads into the kitchen.  Tell them to go eat a carrot off that nice veggie try you bought at the supermarket last minute because it was on sale and you didn’t have time to cut up anything else.

Get your gravy going and any last minute “fresh” things like salads or grilled vegetables done.

Designate someone to get drinks on the table.  (And designate a driver if you need to drink.)

Start rounding people up to wash their hands before dinner and take a moment to thank everyone for their contributions to the day.  (Even that relative who brought a can of green beans that expired 8 years ago.)

Remember to enjoy your meal.  It doesn’t matter at this point if everything isn’t perfect….just be thankful for what you have.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Ginger Cranberry Sauce
Author: 
 
A great side to turkey or a turkey/squash gyoza as seen in the picture.
Ingredients
  • 1 Can of the whole berry cranberry sauce
  • 2-3 Tbsp Ponzu Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Fresh Ginger (It is about a 1 inch nub)
  • 1 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • 4 green onions, sliced (keep the white parts and green parts separate)
  • Optional: 1 Tbsp Sugar
Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan, add the can of cranberry sauce over low/medium heat.
  2. Use your potato masher (or immersion blender) and break up the berries.
  3. Add the 2 Tbsp of the Ponzu, ginger, vinegar and the white parts of the green onions.
  4. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring often. (Don't let it get to the point where it is bubbling out of control or the natural sugar in the cranberry sauce will burn.)
  5. Taste. I added the final tablespoon of ponzu at the end.
  6. Garnish with the green onion tops.