If you care about food, this time of year is key for scheming, planning, and concocting the ultimate holiday meal, or at least a meal better than last year’s…or maybe if you are not all that ambitious, something just as good. However important it feels to you, Thanksgiving is in the air and men and women, young and old, are deep into prepping for next week’s gluttony throwdown.
I have cooked countless Thanksgiving feasts, both on my own and with some family assistance, and had varying results. Most years things are pretty great, but fall short of perfection. Some years, well some years are a learning experience. No matter how serious and dedicated you may be about the meal at hand, there are some essential guidelines to cooking a worthwhile Thanksgiving meal, and here are a few of them:
Sure this is an obvious one, but so many people do a hack job at the fundamentals of planning. This includes everything from assembling a recipe list to making sure you have enough sea salt (I have seen households run out of salt on Thanksgiving – it is not a pretty thing). I would suggest two weeks before T-Day (yes, you are already late) start assembling a recipe list, finalize it, and then start collecting ingredients before the markets run dry. It happens every year. Someone is always brought to tears as they come to terms with the fact that all of the fennel bulbs are gone, gone, gone. Stock your pantry with non-perishables first, and then (closer to Thanksgiving) secure some of the fresher ingredients.
Take stock of all your chairs, dishware, and place settings, making sure you have enough cutlery to prevent your less refined guests from eating with their hands. Are you going to need to buy candles, or borrow chairs, tables, etc? This is all stuff you want secured before Wednesday. Make sure all plates, serving bowls, and linens are clean, and I don’t mean cleaned last December.
Drinks and Hors D’Oeuvres:
There is nothing that provides the necessary buffer between hungry, impatient guests and their delayed meal like a plentiful amount of drinks and hors d’oeuvres. You would be surprised how often these two things are overlooked. Sure there might be a few bottles of beer and some gifted wine, but none of it is inviting enough to provide the necessary distraction and happiness to keep the peace. And for the drinkers and non-drinkers alike, setting out a few plates of finger foods and hors d’oeuvres keep children and prying adults out of the kitchen until the meal is ready to go.
What are some of your trusted tips for Thanksgiving preparation? Favorite recipes? Ways to keep family harmony intact?