What do I need in my house for Thanksgiving?

blase73November 5, 2006

My husband and I are hosting Thanksgiving this year (for family only, about 12 people) and we've only been married for 2 years. I mention that because I'm sure our kitchen isn't equipped with everything one "needs" to prepare a proper Thanksgiving.

I'm not sure what all I'm responsible for making yet, but we're definitely doing the turkey, stuffing, gravy, my famous green-bean casserole, and several other sides.

I know I need to order a new knife set because the cheap set we have now needs to be replaced.

Anything else you good people could think of?

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Buy or borrow a really good meat thermometer. My friend gave me one a few years ago, much better than our old one, and ever since our turkeys have been absolutely perfect. My daughter even went from disliking turkey to liking it. I thought the turkeys were good before, but boy, does that thing make a difference. Definitely a worthwhile investment.

Look at your recipes and make sure you have enough of all the staples, as well as coffee and accoutrements.

Do you have table linens, and if so, do they need to be cleaned/pressed? Candles? A gravy boat? Pie server? Do you need to polish silver? These can all be done way ahead.

You can do your centerpiece way ahead if you use gourds and squashes and then stick in a few leaves and flowers at the last minute. I like to set the tables a day or so ahead; it makes me smile every time I walk by. (This year, with a new kitten in the house, that may not be a great idea.)

Have fun!

    Bookmark   November 5, 2006 at 10:25AM
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totally agree with gellcom on the thermometer. I have the one that you insert the probe into the turkey and watch the temp of oven and temp of turkey that sits outside the oven. It was about $40 at Fante's but worth every penny since in the years before my turkey was always done 2 hours early. My oven is off! Definitely go by the reading of the thermometer even if the turkey is done well before it is supposed to be. Nothing worse than dry turkey. It tastes awful and is very hard to carve. I have parked mine on the counter for up to 2 hours in the past.

When the turkey is done, start your sides.

Also, invest in a good non stick roasting pan and a rack. Bed Bath & Beyond have them for a reasonable amount of money. The set is usually the pan and the rack. Macy's is where I got mine years ago, and they weren't that expensive there either. If you are doing gravy, it will be worth it. Those disposable pans are a mess. I know its one less thing to wash, but for me not worth saving the little time in cleaning the good pan.

Use your innards except for gizzards and heart in a separate saucepan with water to make some turkey stock for your gravy. Start this early when you are cleaning your turkey and getting it ready for the oven.

Herbs de Provence is my staple for seasoning the outside of the turkey and then I do roasted carrots with the same seasoning. Compliments abound.

I am fortunate enough to have a set of Wustoff knives (b-day present one year). If you cannot afford a set, just buy the carving knife. Well worth the money. Can't say enough about having good knives and keeping them sharp. I just got an email from Sur La Table that they are sharpening up to 3 knives for free so they may be having a sale at this time.

After I clean my turkey I cover it in olive oil, rub it in really well, then season. I don't stuff it.

I do everything I can possibly do ahead, even if I just chop the components of different recipes the nite before, I put them in ziploc bags and mark what they are for. Sometimes, I shouldn't say sometimes, Thanksgiving day will start to get a little crazy and this is your first time out. The more ahead you do, the more relaxed you will be.

Make a menu, make a grocery list, post it on the fridge. Post every recipe or put them all together where they can be found and followed easily.

I do dressing on the side because it affords me more oven room and the ability to juggle what I am doing in the oven vs. what I am doing stove top. I try to do 4 stove tops - 1. Mashed potatoes., 2. sauteed green beans with either lemon and butter or butter and slice almonds. I do the green beans ahead - day before I blanch and put into a ice bath and then into a ziploc which stays in the fridge till the last minute when I saute them and dress them up, 3. my stock pan and usually another unusual veg that I change up from year to year. Last year it was Southwest Succotash from an old Bon Appetit. Very different and very very good. I hate having the same old stuff. Somethings you have to have, others I like to change up.

I do my own cranberry sauce, but serve the stuff that comes in the can as well for those who won't try the homemade. I make mine a week ahead and park it in the fridge.

I usually find a fall garland at a local craft place to use as a runner down my table. If you start with this, you can embelish with gourds or anything "fall-like" that you can find. I put my candle sticks zig zag within the garland down the table. You could also use votives. Just don't use scented candles.

Don't forget an hor de overs (sp?). Don't overdo, but have a little something.

I serve buffet style. I also usually have been 12-14 and if I were to set the table family style, no one would be able to move.

You will need water and wine glasses. A pitcher for the water.

Set your table the night before. I have three cats, I know it is an issue, but get a squirt bottle and start practicing now with keeping the kitties off the table. I have cats that jump up on the table, but I don't think your guests are going to want to see your cats walking across the table they are going to be eating at:,).

Most of all, be creative, look at what you have. You may be surprised if you think out of the box. Things always have more than one purpose. You can really get creative with your serving dishes.

No matter what, do not appologize for anything you don't think is exactly right. Short of poisoning someone, just be quiet and accept the gratitude of your guests.

Good luck and have a great Thanksgiving!

    Bookmark   November 5, 2006 at 3:35PM
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Thank you both for the wonderful ideas!! Some things I had thought of already

I went to Michaels today and they were having a 70% clearance of all fall stuff, so I got some cute pumpkins, gourds, silk leaves, and neat fall garlands that I can place in the center of the table.

I have plenty of unscented tea lights and pillar candles I plan to use all around the room and on the table intermingled with the garlands.

I have actually already started setting the table (just trying out different combos of placemats and/or runners) and my two cats love coming in there with me to "watch" me. Good thing is I live in a Cape Cod with no official dining room; my dining room is actually the fourth bedroom at the front of the house with a door that shuts. So I will keep that door shut up until Thanksgiving Day!!

    Bookmark   November 8, 2006 at 8:01PM
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Make a list of all of the food you are planning to serve and identify what serving dish you will use for it and what pan you will cook it in. That will tell you what you need. Don't forget to include serving forks and spoons.

Good Luck

I think Thanksgiving is the most fun meal to cook.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2006 at 12:55PM
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I'd invest in an instant read thermometer (about $10) and a baster. I know most frozen turkeys are "self-basting" but I think it crisps up the skin and keeps the turkey moist to baste it with pan drippings or a little chicken broth. Definitely need one if you do a fresh turkey. Happy cooking! I agree, Thanksgiving is a fun meal to cook.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2006 at 11:30AM
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(extra toilet paper!) No joke, it's easy to forget stuff like that. With 12 guests in the house, it's a good idea.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2006 at 10:19AM
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Make sure you have:

good oven mitts
a roasting pan large enough,
a meat thermometer (a must!), I prefer instant reads,
very sturdy turkey forks (or equivalent) to remove the bird form the pan,
a large platter for the turkey (you can wrap a disposable in foil, no need to spend big dollars all in one year),
at least two nice boats or pitchers for your gravy,
one serving dish and spoon for each dish...including the ones others may bring 'cause they never bring serving stuff!!!
several little dishes for butter, pickles and cranberry sauce
if you are doing "sit down" you will need at least three salt and peppers shakers......you can buy the little wee ones for super cheap.

I have done Thanksgiving for a million years, my fondest memories are the early years when I had nada to do it with....but we laughed and enjoyed. After the event, write down what you wish you had had for this year...makes for a great Christmas list!

    Bookmark   November 17, 2006 at 12:02PM
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Make a Thanksgiving Book with your menu, shopping lists, recipes, time table and notes. You'll thank yourself many times over the years. I made copies for my children when they wanted to copy what we did for Thanksgiving,
A huge glass brandy sniffer filled with apples and nuts makes a nice decoration for the serving table. Have a fire going if you have a FP. Plan what music you would like to have playing during dinner. I like soft acoustic guitar. After dinner, we play a team word game while we eat dessert in the living room. Then the leftovers are put away and the dishes done. Have lots of storage containers.ready. Delegate and have fun

    Bookmark   November 17, 2006 at 7:57PM
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