Welcome to a continuation of Thanksgiving week, the actual week of Thanksgiving. If you’ve found your way over by some miracle but are not yet subscribed, here, let me help you with that:
Hello, welcome to the real Thanksgiving Week (the week of Thanksgiving), the moment we have all been waiting for. I have seen a shockingly high number of you cooking this meal ALREADY which is thrilling because no, there are no rules.
In the event you are a “last minute” person (me), here is a non-exhaustive but pretty-helpful schedule to keep if you’re planning on making this menu, along with a grocery list for all your needs. As always, paid subscribers, please use the comments section for any questions! Happy cooking and thank you for subscribing!
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TWO-THREE DAYS BEFORE:
Menu is planned! Grocery/beverage shopping is (at least mostly) done (or your grocery/wine order is placed for pick-up/delivery)! This is your chance to “get your head in the game,” without having to worry about cooking anything, really.
Transfer any non-perishables that can stand to be in a cooler for a day (condiments and pickled/fermented things, etc) and do one last fridge clean out to make room for your groceries/large turkey.
Think about who’s coming to dinner and delegate tasks/dishes to your friends and family with an email or text (i.e. “bring ice!” “bring whatever you want to drink!” “make your favorite side!”).
ONE DAY BEFORE:
FINISH YOUR SHOPPING
Pick up any specialty produce or last-minute things you need. Perhaps that’s your turkey (gotta be seasoned today!) or maybe your good, crusty bread (gotta be torn tonight!).
DRY-BRINE THE TURKEY AND MAKE THE STOCK
Season the turkey up to 48 (and at least 12) hours in advance. Let it chill uncovered in the fridge, ideally set on a wire rack inside a baking sheet (this lets the liquid drain away from the bird).
Make the stock by roasting the turkey wings and letting them passively simmer with vegetables and lots of water while you do your other prep work. Strain the stock before you clean up for the day: Keep two quarts in the fridge for tomorrow, and label and freeze the rest if you aren’t going to use it soon.
MAKE THE TART DOUGH
The recipe makes two discs—you can make two tarts (I do!) or keep the second disc in the fridge or freezer for later use.
TEAR THE BREAD FOR STUFFING
Put it on a sheet tray to dry out overnight.
GET A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP, HYDRATE
Repeat after me: I will not endlessly scroll on my phone before I go to bed because I need to be alert and focused for tomorrow! I will be hydrated and well-rested for this big day!
THE DAY OF:
WAKE UP, FEEL EXCITED
DISCLAIMER: I WOULD ALLOW A FULL EIGHT HOURS OF COOKING IF DOING THIS MENU ON THIS SCHEDULE. IF YOU’D LIKE TO EAT BY 5PM, START COOKING BY 9AM, ETC. THIS ALLOWS FOR SNACK BREAKS, EMERGENCY GROCERY STORE RUNS, A SHOWER/CHANGE BEFORE ARRIVAL, ETC.
Remember: this day is a marathon, not a sprint! Write out a prep list on an old-fashioned piece of paper (with a pen and all), or use your phone for all I care. Above all: Stay hydrated, stay caffeinated, and don’t forget to chill the wine.
TURN THE OVEN ON/MAKE THE APPLE TART
The last thing you’ll eat today is the first thing you’ll make. Roll out the crust, slice the apples, brown the butter, bake it up. This tart can easily sit out at room temp all day, so set it aside.
MAKE THE STUFFING
Slice, chop and cook all the vegetables that go into this glorious stuffing, toss them with the dried-out bread, and pop it into the oven to get the first bake out of the way. Once out of the oven for the first time, set it aside until the second bake, which happens later.
COOK THE TURKEY
You should take it out about 3 hours before you want to put it in the oven. Drain off any liquid that came out of the bird overnight (there will be a lot—don’t freak out.). Transfer it to a clean sheet pan along with the shallots and everything that goes inside (random onions, maybe a lemon, some herbs), and put it in about 4 1/2–5 hours before you want to eat (better to allow more time than not enough). Check on it a few times, rotating, drizzling with olive oil, and basting as needed.
MAKE THE MASHED POTATOES
Boil the potatoes and steep the buttermilk-cream mixture. When potatoes are fully cooked through, combine them with the cream mixture and butter and mash. Once they’ve reached your desired texture, set aside off heat. To rewarm, just heat over medium heat, stirring till hot again; scatter with chives, black pepper, and another pat of butter before serving.
MAKE THE SQUASH
These can roast at 425° or 325°, so put them in when you can (if this is with the turkey at 325°, then great, they’ll take about an hour). Brown the butter and walnuts, then add the dates and set aside (once you’re ready to eat, warm the butter mixture and pour over squash).
MAKE THE MUSHROOMS AND GREEN BEANS
Prep the mushrooms (tear/cut!) and green beans (remove the stem!) to get them ready for roasting. Once your turkey comes out, turn up the oven to 425° and put your green beans and mushrooms in. Roast them until crispy, frizzled, and deeply golden (they can also be served “room temp” but if you’re worried about them being hot, they can get thrown into the oven just before you sit down to re-heat).
MAKE THE GRATIN
Make the whole thing as-written, but do not bake just yet.
MAKE THE SALADS
You want to do this pretty close to when you’re ready to eat so things don’t oxidize/wilt. Slice your fruit and arrange it for your tangy fruit salad, tear the escarole, chop the herbs, and make the dressing for your bitter leafy salad. These are both good tasks to delegate to anyone offering to help.
STUFFING AND GRATIN INTO THE OVEN
Once the green beans are done, put the gratin and the stuffing in the oven. The stuffing will get nice and crispy on this second bake, and the gratin will be golden and bubbly (both will take about 30 minutes).
PREPARE WELCOME SNACKS/DRINKS
You don’t need to get fancy or complicated, you’ve already done SO MUCH. That being said, it’s nice to have something for people to snack on as they arrive (and will make you feel better if you’re running a little behind). This is a GREAT place to delegate, but regardless, keep it simple and stress-free with simple things like olives, nice anchovies and pickled peppers on toothpicks (a.k.a. gildas), and some warmed figs or dates with flaky salt.
Open at least one bottle of wine, set out some vermouth/sparkling water for spritzes, etc. just to get the ball rolling. If you have a “house cocktail,” now is the time to set it out.
MAKE THE GRAVY
Once your turkey has rested for a while, transfer the shallots to a little serving bowl and drizzle them with vinegar and set them aside (look, another side dish!).
Make the gravy with the turkey drippings/that stock from yesterday and keep it warm over low heat once it’s reached your desired consistency (not too soupy, not too gloopy); keep warm till ready to serve.
CARVE THE TURKEY
The turkey should be rested at least an hour (preferably longer) before carving (it will truly stay hot for a very long time, so don’t worry about it being cold).
Once your guests have arrived and are happily snacking and drinking and you’re ready to sit, *this* is the time to carve the turkey. Slice the breast meat, keep the legs whole, and slice or shred the thigh meat. Make sure everything you want to be warm (mashed potatoes, gravy) is warm, and you’re ready to go.
Tablescape if you’d like, light a few hundred candles, and sit down for dinner.
Enjoy this meal you have lovingly prepared for everyone, have a few bottles of wine open to pass around, and set everything out (either on the table, in the kitchen, on your coffee table, wherever you have the space, really).
Get seconds and thirds, talk about which version of All Too Well (10-minute version) is your favorite (it’s gotta be SNL for me!), bring out the apple tart when everyone thinks they couldn’t possibly eat more, and watch with pride as it disappears, along with that pint of vanilla ice cream. Sip on some amaro, relax, don’t argue with anyone when they offer to do the dishes, feel proud of yourself, and— truly— enjoy your evening 😇🦃💕