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Ten Point Plan for Thanksgiving: Procrastinators Rejoice, Turkey Day is Still Possible

Published by Karl Sandness

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So you haven’t figured out what you’re doing for Thanksgiving yet? Pour yourself a glass of wine, print out my Thanksgiving Cheats and this Ten Point plan for Turkey Day Procrastinators. Read, make your list and get to it!

  1. Get a fresh turkey. Make sure it’s not frozen or too big for your pan or oven. These are the two most common mistakes. Two smaller turkeys are better than one huge one. Figure on ½ lb for each serving – don’t forget leftovers. Use compound butter and drape the breast of the bird with cheesecloth dampened in broth, butter or oil. Strew carrots, onions, celery, apple, parsnip coarsely chopped, around bottom of roasting pan. Baste the bird with broth, only to keep the cheesecloth moist. Remove it during the last half hour or so of roasting to crisp breast skin.
  2. Make some compound butter. Alternatively,here’s another shortcut: Mix some Bell’s Seasoning (fancy poultry seasoning) into a softened stick of butter. (Can be made ahead.) You could also use my Thanksgiving Spice Rub instead.
  3. Best-ever mashed potatoes. Buy Yukon Gold potatoes and a few cartons of good, low salt chicken broth (I like Pacific) Boil the potatoes in the broth. Drain, dry in the pan. Mash (or use a ricer if you have one) potatoes adding hot milk, a bit of butter, and plenty of ground white pepper. The buttery flavor of the Yukon Gold along with the boiling in broth greatly reduces the amount of butter you’ll need to get rich-tasting mashed potatoes. One potato for each diner and one for the pot is the rule of thumb. Unless you’re my friend Matt, in which case you ignore the rule and double the recipe. I recommend somewhere in between. (Potatoes can be peeled, cubed and stored in water overnight.)
  4. Orange-Bourbon Sweet Potatoes? The easiest and best recipe for Jackie’s Killer Sweet Potatoes.
  5. Green beans add some color and zip to all the carbs and comfort foods. Simply blanch, then close to serving time you can microwave or sauté them quickly in a bit of butter, 1/3 C of toasted pine nuts and about 2 TBSP of lemon juice plus grated lemon zest. Any leftovers will make an excellent green bean casserole the next day.
  6. Dressing (cooked outside) or Stuffing (cooked inside) the turkey. Keys for procrastinators are: decide on a couple of simple additions (mushrooms and herbs, or apple and sausage) to add to a good quality stuffing mix. Use broth to moisten and bake in a buttered dish, covered then un-cover in the last few minutes to crisp top.
  7. Gravy. Nothing inspires more fear or makes a meal more delicious. I never could understand the hysteria. Check my earlier cheats for tips but be sure to use Wondra. You can make your roux using a 1:1 ratio of butter and flour and get a starter batch going ahead. Add gizzards, neck, heart (but not liver) to a simmering pot of broth, add a bit of Kitchen Bouquet for nice dark color. De-glaze the roasting pan with Madeira or even port for a rich gravy. (Can be made ahead with turkey wings and veggies, browned and simmered.)
  8. Cranberry sauce. Sauté 1-2 TBSP of shallots in butter. Add 2 bags of washed, stemmed cranberries, cook on medium heat with about 1 C sugar. Stir and listen for popping berries. Add zest of an orange and juice the orange into the berries. Stir in 1 TBSP Dijon mustard. At the end, add Cointreau, Grand Marnier or brandy to taste. Chill. (Can be made ahead, this makes a lot. Cut in half if you’re serving a smaller group.)
  9. Salad – Roasted beets, orange sections, and arugula. Fresh pomegranate seeds are the perfect addition. (Wash greens, roast beets and section oranges the day before.)
  10. Pumpkin pie. Even if you use a store bought pie crust (I am shaking my head here, why buy one when mine is so easy? ) you can gussy it up by crushing pecans and gingersnaps and pressing them into the bottom of the crust and halfway up the sides, before adding filling your pumpkin pie filling. (Can be made ahead.)

Have a guest bring crudite, put out some spiced nuts or nibbles. Dinner rolls and wine are other easy-to-delegate items.

You can literally:

  • Shop Tuesday,
  • Prep Wednesday,
  • Cook Thursday, and Enjoy.

The only problem with this plan is that you will forget next year to start earlier because in your memory, it was simple to do pretty much at the last minute!

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