NO-STRESS Thanksgiving Prep Plan
Every year I teach a sold out Thanksgiving Class with waitlisters begging to be admitted. Why? Because this is THE American food holiday, and this holiday causes lots of stress to hosts and hostesses.
The number one question my students come to class with is: What can I do in advance?
Since we are making all the recipes right then and there together as a group, it is actually easy for me to explain and for everyone to understand what can be done in the days prior and what needs to be done last minute. You, however, presumably, have not been to my class and haven’t made all these recipes with me.
So let me break it down for you.
Basically, you can do all this in one long day, but that’s a looong day. I broke it down into 4 days, but these are just a few leisurely hours a day. Leisure cooking is good. Want to speed up the process? Do it it all in two days. No problem.
Here’s the overarching theme, if you will:
You are going to be making a broth and that broth is going to be a part of multiple recipes, including a soup. These recipes all taste better when made in advance so that’s good news for us! You will make stuffing, but all the components of the stuffing are fine to be made in advance. The desserts are great done in advance too, even the pumpkin bread because it’s so moist. Only the turkey and the roasted veggies should be done right before the meal. Everything else can be assembled or reheated on game day. Make sense?
Don’t worry, I stepped it out for you. You’re gonna be just fine. Just cook with your heart. That adds the best flavor that will be unmistakably appreciated!
P.S. If you are making the stuffing in advance I suggest making a little extra roasted mushrooms and sausage cuz you won’t keep your fingers off of them! It’s my downfall every year. xo
On the menu:
The Easiest Turkey Ever
Tuscan Garden Grove Brussels Sprouts
Nobel Prize Winning Multi-Grain Portobello Stuffing
Root Vegetable Soup with Crisped Sage
Celery Root Mashed Potatoes
Sunshine Pumpkin Pie with a Date Pecan Crust
Pumpkin Bread (Wheat-Free, plus Gluten-Free Option)
4 Days Prior: Grocery Shopping
#1. Print out all the recipes.
Don’t expect your grocery shopping for Thanksgiving to just take an hour. It will take longer, but that’s ok. Think of yourself as an artist who is setting up the studio. Take your time to procure all the right ingredients so you can begin to paint your culinary canvas, step by step over the next few days.
You will find the most delicious vegetables at the farmer’s market, but if there isn’t one convenient go get the best, preferably organic, produce you can find. (My favorite is the Santa Monica Coop – now in Culver City too – and then I get everything else I need at Whole Foods.) The flavors start with the quality of the ingredients.
3 Days Prior: Make Broth as your Base
Make the Batch of Broth that keeps Giving and Giving as this will provide you with foundation for the Root Vegetable Soup, the Celery Root Puree, and the Nobel Peace Prize Winning Stuffing! Because you’re making the broth ahead of time, you can cook it for hours. Let it cook all day long if you can. You honestly can’t cook a broth too long. The longer it cooks, the better it tastes, AND it tastes even better the next day, and better the day after that! So get it started early.
Note: You’re going to make a lot of broth, but if it doesn’t fit in the fridge you can keep it on stove overnight and bring to a boil the next day to purify it before making your soup and celery root puree the following day!
2 Days Prior: Soup and Sides
- Make Celery Root Puree – except for final step, which is baking it.
- Make Root Vegetable Soup and store in fridge.
- Crisp sage leaves, steps 8 and 9 in Root Vegetable Soup recipe, and store in airtight container. Don’t put in fridge or humidity will soften them. Step
- Prep the Stuffing:
- Complete sections 1-3, which includes roasting the mushrooms and fennel, stale-ing of the bread, and the sautéing and the sausage. Refrigerate the goods.
1 Day Prior: Desserts!
- Make your Pumpkin Pie. If you’d like, you can prep the crust and inside separately. In this case, you would make crust 2-3 days in advance, and the inside 1 day in advance. You can also bake it 1 day ahead. Pumpkin pie is good served cold!
- Make Cranberry Sauce.
- Bake Pumpkin Bread. If you like it warm, do this on the day of instead. It will stay moist though, just cover it and try not to eat it!
Day of!!! – Putting it all together
5 hours before game time:
- Turkey: Wash and dry turkey. Stuff with vegetables. Season and let turkey come to room temperature. Steps 1-6, except the preheating of the oven, which you can do later.
- Brussel Sprouts: Do steps 1-7, which is the prep minus baking them. If you want one less thing to do later, bake them now and just serve at room temp. They will still be totally delicious.
- Do all the steps in “Assemble the Stuffing” on the stuffing recipe.
2 ½ -3 hours before:
Get your turkey in the oven! Once it’s done, let it rest so it tenderizes. Carve it up last minute.
1+ hour before:
- Put the Stuffing in the oven, covered for 30 minutes. .
- Put Brussel Sprouts in the oven. (Note: If you have doubled your recipe, it could take up to 90 minutes to cook, so leave yourself time. If you are just seeing this note now, cook them the last 10-15 minutes at 500 degrees and you’ll be fine. Don’t let them burn!)
- Bake your Celery Root Puree, covered, Step 6, until hot. (Recipe calls for 30 minutes, but since it’s been in fridge, will take longer. You want it really hot!)
- Heat up the Soup!
- Remove Cranberry Sauce from fridge to come to room temp.
- I like the Pumpkin Pie cold, but if you want it at room temp, take it out now.
30 minutes before:
- Remove cover from Stuffing and finish baking.
- Check your Turkey.
- Chill out and have a sip of wine. The part is more fun when YOU are relaxed. Don’t be timid to ask friends and family to help in the kitchen. There are always a handful who LOVE to help. It helps to break the ice.
Start with the Soup, top if with grated pecorino romano and the sage leaves and just let it flow from there!