I will be hosting for about 18 people. Would you mind sharing your favorite Thanksgiving dish or menu. Six will be house guest so I am also looking for lunch ideas for Friday and Saturday.
Here's a nice guide to preparing for Thanksgiving ahead of time. I picked up some ideas from this.
Here is a link that might be useful: Stress-free Thanksgiving
Start by assessing the hardware you need....will your table seat enough, What extra tables will you need? Do you have enough dishes, silverware, glasses? napkins and cloths? a pan to cook the turkey in?
Then plan your menu and know it inside and out....not enough to say "turkey, roasted with gravy, mashed potatoes and a green and orange vegetable." You need amounts and ingredients for each and to plan the dish to put it in.
Then plan what you can make ahead and freeze or refrigerate. I make my Cranberry Jezabel ahead....several days. I make turkey broth way ahead and freeze it for the gravy and stuffing, sometimes I make the rolls ahead and freeze them....defrost and warm in the oven.
Things like a squash casserole get made the night before, green beans are prepped and refrigerated. The cooler is filled with ice for the cold drinks and the big coffee pot is brought out and washed. The pie crust is made and refrigerated and if the rolls are not made ahead....the dough is made the day before.
Then day of, all I have to do (pretty much!!) is roast the turkey, make the mashed potatoes and stuffing...finish the green beans and bake the squash as the turkey is resting.
But I usually make the pies first thing in the morning....roll out the dough and fill it with apples, pumpkin or whatever. When they come out the bird goes in.
The secret to a smooth meal is planning...lots of planning....know which spoon you will use for what and what you will serve guests before the meal....
AND set the table before you go to bed!!!
Unlike LindaC, I usually bake the desserts and dinner rolls the day before. Our standard menu is turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes of some type, a fruit salad, green bean casserole (I won't eat it but the kids love it), homemade rolls, pumpkin pie or cheesecake and something chocolate.
Lunch ideas for Friday and Saturday would also be something I could make ahead, probably. Chili would be good, or lasagna, roast chicken with baked potatoes is easy and requires little time or attention as does pot roast after the initial preparation. A big pot of soup can also be made ahead of time and then people could build their own sandwiches if you have an assortment of bread and rolls.
My menu for Thanksgiving hasn't changed much through the years, I'm pretty traditional.
Turkey with stuffing
Sweet potato casserole with apples
Fresh cranberry-orange relish
Vegetable is usually green beans or Brussels sprouts
Pies, pumpkin for sure plus others
Planning ahead for a big group I would get some turkey legs and thighs, roast them and make the gravy ahead of time.
We both grew up having a creamy jello for the salad and I still prefer it today. Easy to do ahead and the sweetness and cold contrasts nice with the dinner. I quit making dinner rolls for Thanksgiving over ten years ago but for a large group I probably would do them again. I do try new recipes for my vegetable from time to time but for years a corn casserole was a must have.
Here is the sweet potato casserole we love...
Praline Apples and Sweet Potatoes
Great dish to slide into the oven just as the turkey comes out.
4 large sweet potatoes, cooked and peeled.
4 tart cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut in �" slices
1 stick butter
1C brown sugar
1/2 C sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp salt
1 C pecans, coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 350�.
Spray a 9X13 pan with non-stick cooking spray
Cut the sweet potatoes in 1" cubes and put into baking pan
Melt butter in a large skillet, over med. high heat. Add apple slices to the melted butter, saute about 5 min., just until the apples begin to soften. Sprinkle with sugars, spices and salt, continue cooking until sugars are melted and apples are cooked but still firm enough to hold their shape. Remove from heat and distribute evenly over the sweet potatoes.
Bake approx. 30 mins, or until heated through and bubbly around the edges.
The Best Green Bean Casserole
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all\-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white sugar
1/4 cup onion, diced
1 cup sour cream
3 (14.5 ounce) cans French style green beans, drained
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup crumbled buttery round crackers
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2.Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in flour until smooth, and cook for one minute. Stir in the salt, sugar, onion, and sour cream. Add green beans, and stir to coat.
3.Transfer the mixture to a 2 1/2 quart casserole dish. Spread shredded cheese over the top. In a small bowl, toss together cracker crumbs and remaining butter, and sprinkle over the cheese.
4.Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the top is golden and cheese is bubbly.
Pies...for Thanksgiving it really depends on your oven space and time you plan on eating dinner. My family always wanted dinner about 1 or 2pm so I had to make my pies the day before. If you are eating later then Linda's suggestion of making pies first thing in the morning will work.
Doing as much ahead as possible makes the day much more enjoyable for you.
What kind of turkey are you buying?
Now I get menu together first,make sure I have all ingredients I need,I get everything ready the night before recipes,etc ready for next morning,I have an Aga I have the 4 oven,I can put Turkey in slow oven overnite,get things ready put in different ovens pull out when ready to eat,I have 12 guests every year.I put the dish its to bebaked in Ihave all ingredients there ready togo.makes it alot easier.
I brought up the topic of Thanksgiving a few weeks ago.
Here is a link that might be useful: Thanksgiving 2012
I host 18-25 every other year and like to have an abundance of food - for take home plates mainly.
Cooking two turkeys is a huge time saver for me, I make one the day or two before T day and make the gravy then. The sliced turkey is arranged on a platter and is usually what is used for those take home plates, or third helpings.
I prefer birds in the 10-12 pound range.
The day of Thanksgiving, I cook the second bird and
serve it hot, we do buffet style and I carve as people come through the line. The turkey is piping hot and to me, appealing. I garnish the platter nicely and the turkey tastes good. We also usually have ham and two types of dressing and nothing very trendy.
I seem to be the only person I know - outside of a few of you!- who are particular about fresh pies. I like the pumpkin and apple pies to be still warm from the oven so I get up very early on Thanksgiving to make pies ..and whip the cream that morning.
I don't think things have to be original or unusual or even nouveau creative, just good.
This is one of my favorite recipes to serve using leftover turkey. You could make it up ahead and just add the turkey the next day after you've roasted it and served for Thanksgiving.
CRANBERRY WILD RICE SALAD
Makes 4 servings
1/2 cup wild rice
2 cups water
1 cup fully cooked, skinless turkey breast cut in cubes
1/3 cup dried sweetened cranberries
2 green onions, sliced
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 lettuce leaves
1/4 cup chopped English walnuts, toasted
1. Rinse wild rice, then combine wild rice and water in a saucepan. Cover and cook until rice is tender and water is almost absorbed, about 45 minutes. Uncover and let simmer about 5 minutes or until all of water is absorbed. Spoon into mixing bowl and allow to cool slightly.
2. Stir in turkey breast cubes, cranberries, green onions and celery.
3. Combine olive oil, vinegar, mustard, sugar, pepper and salt; whisk until well combined. Drizzle mustard mixture over rice mixture.
4. Just before serving, spoon onto lettuce leaves and garnish each serving with 1 tablespoon walnuts.
Here is a link that might be useful: Cranberry Wild Rice Salad
If you're doing all or most of the cooking yourself, do a lot of prep work ahead of time. Peeling potatoes ahead of time and putting in big container of water will save ya time. Be ready with places to stash food. If something needs to be refrigerated... think using a cooler, cuz fridge space will probably be tight. Or if it's already COLD in my area... might put things in garage or even out on deck... in covered container, like one of those storage tubs. Have gas grill on deck... one side off and other as low as it'll go... good place to put stuff to finish or just stay hot.
Set the table, or at least get out dishes, glasses, silverware SEVERAL days ahead of time. God to do this a few days early since thinking a lot of people are pulling out "special" tableware that might not get used often and could need a wash first?? Also dig out all your serving spoons so you're not frantically hunting for that big spoon for the mashed potatoes.
DON'T make the mistake I did TWO years in a row! All I hadda do was make my "infamous" sweet potatoes. TWO years in a row clogged up garbage disposal when I tried to feed the peels down it! First time, thought it was a fluke... was sure I ran plenty of water for a good long time, but apparently not!?! Second time, sent much smaller batches for much longer time... still clogged?? Peels from sweet potatoes are a lot more fibrous than regular potatoes.
Don't go by that pop-up thing in the turkey. I usually start with the standard 20 min/lb. Will use a thermometer to check temp but generally go with how my grandmother always judged doneness... then legs and wings feel like you could pull them off without neediing a lot of muscle... it's done.
Just curious.....Am I the only one whose family always contributes to the Thanksgiving/Christmas meals? Most everyone brings a dish although whomever is hosting always does more than one. This is true on other occasions where family is involved, and there are usually at least 10 to 12 people, or more. I've noticed, on the CF, more than once that it seems the children are like invited guests rather than family. Is this just a southern thing? I'm just sayin'.....
Oh our family all definitely bring stuff, it's mostly horrible though. Store bought, or jello, cool whip, store bought pie crusts, canned green beans, store bought rolls.
I don't mind good store bought but there is a difference between fine bakery rolls and the local grocery store.
I try to make the bulk just because I like my cooking!
In my family, everyone, or almost everyone, brings something.
Bumblebeez,I understand what you're saying and I think we've all probably been there at one time or another. Guess I'm just lucky to have a family of good cooks, but I do understand where you are coming from. I will admit that my sister-in-law only knows how to prepare 2 or 3 dishes (she's single and never wanted to cook) but we can always count on her for at least 1 of the ones she has learned to do well. She hosts the Thanksgiving meal, with the help of DD#3 so doesn't need to do a lot of cooking. Not much store bought food finds its way to the table. DH always wants the canned jellied cranberry sauce, so that's easy for someone, but most everyone loves LindaC's Cranberry Jezebel and that's one of my contributions.
Bumble, I'm on your side. I usually only cook for 2 but that means everything from scratch just the way I want it. Not aware that we will have any guests this year, and that's ok. I still cook for 3 days and enjoy every minute of it. We eat for another 4 days on the leftovers. There's no downside!!
Do it the way you want it!
jude31 brings up an interesting subject....While I like the idea of family members bringing a dish to our big dinners, it just doesn't work well for me, probably because I have so little experience hosting in this style. My mom always prepared everything if she was hosting, and now that she's gone, I have sort of taken over that role. I would really like to not have to do all of the cooking and prep, but I always sort of obsess about not having enough food, so make more than I should. I'm not a control freak, melting down if a cousin brings the wrong brand of ice cream (although I wish DB&SIL would arrive on time, particularly when they bring hors d'oeuvres), but I could sure use a few tips on coordinating this style of cooperative supper.
Hehe, one year my mil was in tears at the thought of all the dishes I had to wash. I set up tables throughout the great room and dining room area.
The next time I hosted she begged me, in tears again, to take some money from her to buy paper plates. Only that year did I cave in. I bought nice plates, napkins, etc from the Hallmark store and afterwards was so mad at myself for doing that. Haven't done it since and if takes me 2 weeks to handwash everything - and we do have 2 dishwashers- so be it.
Everybody is going to have china appetizer plates, goblets, salad plates, chargers, dessert plates, entree plates...and whatever else takes my fancy.
I did have one relative with 3 young boys thank me one year as her boys never got to eat Thanksgiving like that and it made her glad they were able to experience the real deal.
Nancy, it's funny you say that about the creamy jello salad. My Mother made one for years and the girls still want me to make it, in spite of my negative feelings about Jello, LOL. It has chopped apricots, pineapple, cream cheese, jello, pecans, I forget what else. They love the stuff, along with Ocean Spray cranberry sauce in the can, jellied and not whole-berry.
Jude, my family tends to do it both ways. I like to cook, so if it's just my girls and their families, perhaps Mother, I do most of the cooking. Mother dislikes cooking but mostly insists on bringing a vegetable tray or some wine. The only people in the family who drink wine are Mother and Elery, but Elery appreciates it, LOL.
At Christmas, when there is more extended family, everyone brings a dish to pass but much of it is pre-made or commercially prepared, and you never know what it'll be. It could be anything from deli potato salad to a bag of Chips Ahoy cookies, but it's sure interesting, LOL. Doesn't matter, we eat it anyway.
Elery's family each bring something to their holiday dinner, but we still cook too much. One son and DIL will bring rolls from a local restaurant which is "famous" for them, or a deli tray from a local grocery. Another son likes to cook and is a good cook, he'll bring something yummy. One son is in California and if he's there he's staying in a motel with his wife and three boys, no kitchen. Elery's daughter is getting better at cooking but was traditionally counted on for Doritos and beer. It makes for interesting meals. (grin)
I'd rather use "real" plates and flatware, but at times like Christmas we'll use disposables and that's OK too. I'm really flexible as the meal matters much less to me than the opportunity to just spend time with people I love. Frozen pizza and beer will make me as happy as prime rib and lobster, if I can have my family and friends with with me.
Thanks everyone for all the wonderful advice and mouthwatering recipes. I have made a basic menu and a cooking timeline. I have already started my table decor. I will have two tables and serve buffet. My SIL will bring pies and a casserole for Friday night. I will have some coolers set up an the grill idea is a great one for the extra heat. Still stuck on lunches as there are some picky eaters.
I've got the picky eater thing too, and for years I thought of Thanksgiving as a real challenge--to figure out what was healthy and would please all the picky eaters. Then I started realizing that my family all went out on a junk food "run" when they first arrived, or brought it with them. Then another year I decided to give them what they wanted and skip anything healthy, and I ended up feeling sick and bloated for a week. The key is to Keep It Simple. Just make a simple turkey. Brined, deep fried bagged or barbecued turkey may be easy and way beyond delicious, but if this isn't the kind of turkey you are used to making, now is not the time to try it out. There is no reason you can't make turkey for Sunday dinner that other way some other weekend!! I'm not saying you have to roast it but rather saying don't feel like you have to do something special--plain old roast turkey is fine. I would prefer two smaller (10-12 lbs) birds for a big crowd, but that might be just me. Get a good meat thermometer! As for the next day, again keep it simple. Turkey sandwiches and spend some time making some salads to go along with it, like potato, pasta, mixed chopped vegetables, whatever your family likes, again keep it simple. For example, you can always boil up some additional potatoes for potato salad the next day when you're making them for the mashed on Thanksgiving. Or do turkey tetrazinni for dinner, super easy. Then make turkey soup with the carcass and get a deli tray and a couple different condiments and breads for another dinner or meal. For breakfasts after Thanksgiving, well there is really only one answer--PIE!
Chili is a good thing to make the day after if you don't want turkey. It's a totally different flavor profile and the smell it gives to the house/kitchen is very appealing up here in the cold north.
My family are notorious munchers, so I have cheese and crackers, mixed nuts, party mix, dips and spreads, dried and fresh fruits, etc. around for snacking.
The key is, don't try to do something elaborate, just do a nice meal with good quality ingredients and call it a day. The hardest thing for me is to find a tried and true stuffing recipe, since I'm kinda picky about that, and I don't like sage. And I hardly ever eat it at other times of the year. But Barnmom's Thanksgiving thread, linked here, has a whole passel of recipes. That might be a way to go, you can have fun "auditioning" some recipes during the weeks before Thanksgiving. I would just like to add that the price they are charging for cranberries is ridiculous! I would love to audition a cranberry dish or two, but this year we may just go with applesauce and wait until they go on sale after Thanksgiving to get our cranberry fix!
And accept help unless that gives you indigestion. And the rule in our house is if you don't cook, you do the dishes!!
Now if you're a foodie and menu freak like me, check out the link I posted below to the Williams and Sonoma Thanksgiving menu and recipe site. One of the best, IMHO and I have often gotten ideas from there.
Here is a link that might be useful: Williams and Sonoma Thanksgiving Guide
Oh jeeze I forgot the point of my post! Meno-brain!!
The idea of keeping the dishes simple is that then folks can help you. So for example if you are making turkey soup, maybe dad likes the challenge of breaking up the carcass so it will fill up the soup pot, and mom will peel a carrot or two. Or if you're doing a sandwich buffet, dad cuts up the turkey meat and puts it on a platter, mom takes out a selection of breads and arranges them on a platter--all simple stuff that the family can help with. Also, I think it is really important to teach the younsters how to help make Thanksgiving dinner, because that way they will have some sense of tradition and be able to do it when it comes around to being their turn. Maybe it's because I'm a teacher, but I have no problem doling out and designating tasks!! OK, so the kids are watching video games, no biggie. Sweethearts could you all be dolls and help me set the table, here, you do the napkins like this (wow that's cool) you set the forks out, you do the knives and spoons, etc. and it's all done in 10 min. and didn't you kids set the prettiest table!! :) And BTW here's a little secret I'm going to let you in on, take a peek at this PIE we're going to have for dessert! Now don't tell anyone, OK. Helps to have the dishes all set up and ready to go. Oh, and who wants to use this cool masher tool and learn how to mash potatoes!!
The way I do it is I make being the chef's assistant sound and look like it is some special assignment that only a few worthy folks can handle. I also think a little bit ahead of time about who can do what. So the BIL who doesn't know up from down in the kitchen fancies himself a bartender--great he's in charge of keeping everyone well quaffed. Son who is on the low carb diet is in charge of carving the turkey. Wait, he doesn't know how . . . well here are the carving tools, you're a brilliant boy, cum laude college grad., you can figure it out, maybe your Uncle Henry can help you I hear he carved a mean turkey in his day. Oh that was marvelous, thank you so much, I'm so proud of you for stepping up. Hey it looks like all the cool people are hanging around helping. And so it goes.
Now this is my idea of heavan, but if it gives you nightmares, then by all means enlist the help of your family to keep everyone OUT of your hair. My mom can't abide by sharing her kitchen space, so my dad's job during Thanksgiving was to keep us kids busy around the house cleaning or playing outside. Later on I learned to work around her by setting up stuff in the dining room where all the serving goodies were stored.
Now mind you, I have a one butt kitchen and I have to parse this stuff out very carefully, but it can be done. Luckily I have a large dining room where I can stage things. If you want to orchestrate a communal type dinner where everyone participates, the key is to think of everyone as a beautiful resource and figure out the one job they will shine at, and then let them!! And then praise them!! Even if the job is making sure all the coats get transported to the guest bedroom and out again at the end of the day!
Jude31, I smiled when I read your comment about others bringing dishes. My first thankgsiving with my wife's family was 25 years ago. My mother in law hosted in a small home, that required the family to eat in four different rooms. She did the turkey and dressing and everyone else brought a dish. Since we were newlyweds and my wife was not a cook, we were assigned to bring pear salad. That was our assigned dish for 4 years until there was another new couple in the family and we got to bring something more complex.
My wife and I both enjoy cooking and have been hosting the holiday dinners for the past 10 years. My MIL's health began failing about the time we moved to our current home. I've taken over doing the turkey and dressing. I'm the only one who makes it like she did. None of the daughters can match it, its all by taste and texture. When I make it, I do a dozen pans and share with my wife's sisters.
As I divided up the menu amongst the family this year, I ran into a challenge. my wife and daughter wanted to make sure that they had leftovers of certain dishes. So I get to do the 2 turkeys, dressing, rolls, mac & cheese and apple slab pie.
Our first Thanksgiving is on the Saturday before. The second is on Thanksgiving and with my family. I basically cater it for that side of the family. My wife and I will be the only one under 75 at that meal. Its hosted at an aunt's and we bring all the food. The new location is central, so while I finish the cooking my wife will pick up those who cannot drive and shuttle them to the house.
So each year, I have a Thanksgiving both way.
bamahostaman, I like that idea, shuttling the family to dinner so everyone gets to come!
I've offered to host tgiving this year and have never made a full sized turkey (i've done just breasts for dinner though). I've read about splitting the turkey a la Tyler Florence. It makes so much more sense to me. Has anyone tried it? With what results?
I've invited neighbors (5 adults, 2 small children, 2 of whom are very french and very chi chi! ) and I've no idea what they consider traditional or what they'll bring if anything. So I'm pretty much planning on doing it all, unless they offer....then I can replace theirs for mine.
I figure on a traditional menu though....
Gravy (make ahead)
Stuffing (make ahead...apple onion)
Garlic mashed potatoes (in the oven)
Sweet potatoes (in the oven)
Some kind of veggies...haven't decided yet...
Pumpkin chiffon pie with whipped cream
Am I missing anything?
Here is a link that might be useful: Split turkey
Sounds brilliant to me Annie. I would maybe add one other dessert, that's what we do at our house, but that's because not everyone likes pumpkin pie (hard for me to belive since it is my favorite). My mom doesn't, but dad doesn't like mincemeat, so we have both. I suggest apple pie, but that's just me. I can whip up an apple pie in minutes with my apple peeler.
Lpink, you are a wonder! What good you would do for a childs confidence and self esteem, or an adults either for that matter!!!
There'll only be 12 of us for Thanskgiving. We don't have any small children at our table anymore. One granddaughter who is 37 will be the youngest there.
I'm always asked to bring green beans and cornbread dressing. So I'm taking:
Haricots Verts with Herb Butter
KatieC's Potatoes Elegante
Cranberry Jezebel and I think I'll take
LindaC's Apple Cake with Cake Gravy
The rest of it is up to the young folks. DDIL always brings 2 pies, chocolate and coconut, and homemade rolls. DD#1 is bringing ham and sweet potaoes, DD#2 will bring the turkey,a green salad,and deviled eggs. DD#3 usually fills in any gaps. DSIL, who is hosting and doesn't really cook will fix her marinated pea salad and the tea, coffee etc. Never know what DGD will bring but she will contribute something good. No one really likes pumpkin that much.
It's always good and a good congenial group.