This may have been my most successful do-ahead Thanksgiving ever. I love planning, shopping for, and preparing a big meal – it’s almost as much fun as enjoying the company of friends and family as we dig into a festive meal. What I hate is scrambling around the kitchen at the last minute, trying to get everything to the table, and collapsing into my dining room chair exhausted and not very hungry. Over the years my goal is to do much of the work ahead of time so that I can enjoy my guests and have a relaxed and pleasurable meal. And this year I did just that.
More and more cooking magazines and websites give you the option to prepare some or all of a dish ahead of time. I’ve become good at finding those recipes that allow for early preparation, sometimes days in advance, and brought to completion by reheating, and maybe adding a swirl of butter just before serving. This year the main attraction was turkey prepared two ways: brined and roasted breast, and legs and thighs braised and de-boned. Cooking the turkey parts separately allows for perfectly done components and fantastic flavor. These two recipes are from Fine Cooking. The dark meat was cooked the day before, deboned and allowed to soak in the braising liquid all night. After brining, the breast roasted in the oven no fuss, no muss. All done days ahead. Follow these links for Braised Turkey Legs wth Crisp Pancetta and Parsley and Maple-Brined Turkey Breast with Mushroom Gravy.
The side dishes were all done ahead as well. The Applesauce For Grownups with brandy, vanilla bean and butter is delicious and keeps for days in the refrigerator. The Mashed Potato Casserole from NY Times Cooking is a new addition to my repertoire, again, made a day ahead, browned in the oven at the last minute, and is a sensational keeper. My Turkey stuffing, a family favorite, is my own concoction and one of the few things I made the day of. A bread, a vegetable, and a cranberry dish of your choice and you have a satisfying meal and a lovely evening with your guests.
But … before I go. There’s always room for Brown Butter Pumpkin Layer Cake. The recipe actually recommends making the cake in advance as the flavors improve and blend in the fridge.