Two Weeks in Advance: Write out your menu, a
shopping list, and a to-do list. As you make standard trips to the market,
start collecting components on your shopping list that will keep well.
The Weekend Before: Make your pie crust.
Homemade pie pastry is worth the effort. Prepare the dough, roll it out,
fit it into the pan, and freeze. Keep in mind that frozen pie dough do not
require thawing before baking. Also, apple pies can be completely prepared
and frozen in advance.
Three to Four Days in Advance: Begin
defrosting your frozen turkey. Complete all your last-minute shopping.
Start setting aside 30 minutes in the mornings and/or evenings to start
prepping the meal. Even in 10 minutes, you can finish simple things like
measuring out the amount of sugar and pecans for a pie or chopping up
carrots and storing them in a zipper-lock plastic bag. These little
pockets of prep time can make all the difference when time gets tight
later on. Some dishes, such as cranberry sauce and dips, can also be fully
prepared a couple of days in advance.
The Day before Thanksgiving: This tends to
be the real crunch day or night, a valuable period of intense cooking that
will make Thanksgiving day a breeze. Focus your energy on baking the pies.
That's one task that you do not want to be tackling on Thanksgiving day.
If you are in need of refrigerator space, place the turkey in a large
cooler and cover it with ice water. If you are brining the turkey, add
salt and sugar to the ice water and remove the turkey from its wrapper.
With a full shelf in your refrigerator, you can now finish more advance
prep. Wash and store salad greens, scrub potatoes, and chop onions and
other vegetables. If you are baking some kind of potato casserole or other
baked vegetable dish, assemble it now, or even bake it now if you can.
With a big turkey occupying your oven all day before the meal, there may
not be room or time to bake other dishes. When baking a bean or sweet
potato casserole ahead, just leave off the topping at first. Add the
topping when reheating, so that the topping will be fresh and crisp.
Thanksgiving Day: It's the big day. Almost
everything should be either cooked, assembled, or ready for assembly or
last-minute touches. Of course, a few dishes are best when made fresh that
day. For instance, mashed potatoes are ideally made within an hour of
mealtime (a good task to delegate while you are attending to the turkey).
If casseroles need reheating, pull them from the refrigerator 30 minutes
before the turkey is scheduled to be done. After the turkey is out of the
oven, put the casseroles in to reheat. If you've made soup, keep it warm
in a slow cooker. This way, your stove top will be freed up for making
gravy or other last-minute vegetable dishes.