The first rule of Thanksgiving entertaining is keep it simple. Don’t try to do everything!
Create a set of courses!
Set up a cheese and charcuterie board two hours before the guests arrive. Make sure to add plain crackers and something more interesting like an herb cranberry crisp. This is a great way to provide nibbles while you are setting up or if everything is close to done it will allow you to visit with guests while people trickle in. Serve bubbly, holiday sangria, or a signature cocktail. For kids you can add finger foods and a nonalcoholic signature beverage so they feel special too.
2. A soup or a salad course:
You should buy/make a butternut squash bisque the day before or make a salad that morning sans dressing. You can get great bisque from Whole Foods and reheat it on the stove and easily add in goat cheese crumbles and fresh herbs or flavored oil before serving. The soup and salad course is the perfect opportunity to let your turkey rest after cooking and before carving.
3.Turkey and main sides:
Don’t do too much here. Limit your sides. I like to focus on 1-2 starches and one veggie. I usually go for potatoes of some sort, stuffing, and green beans. We’ll look at recipes later. Remember Pinot Noir, Riesling, bubbly or Rosé are your best wine bets.
I don’t recommend any other commercial frozen pie other than Marie Calanders Razzleberry pie. For everything else buy it from a good bakery or make it yourself. During your soup or salad course is the best place to start your pie or crisp. Poached Pears would also be a nice surprise. Port and coffee can round out dessert.
Watching your weight but don’t want to insult the host or worry the guests? Fill half your first plate with the veggie side dish unless it’s a casserole type (if it is have seconds of salad), 1/4 with turkey and 1/8 of each starchy side. For seconds, have just a few bites more of what you liked best and leave it at that. Go for wine instead of cocktails and leave the bread or rolls alone. Apple or berry pie is usually more filling and healthier than pumpkin or pecan.
Remember, keep it simple! Low centerpieces and candles are the best way to go. A holiday bouquet wouldn’t be remiss somewhere where guests can see it like a sideboard or kitchen island. A nice but bleachable table cloth and napkin set with a colorful runner under your centerpiece finishes the look.
Unless you want to have people really dress up, don’t. Since it’s Thanksgiving entertaining, find ways to be casually glamorous but comfortable. This is a holiday where gluttony is encouraged and downright expected: don’t wear anything restrictive. For men, I’d recommend a nice set of slacks or chinos or even coated denim with a shawl collar sweater. For women, ponte leggings and an embellished sweatshirt or sweater bring the fun and comfort. Booties with a little heel is a good way to finish the look. Follow similar rules for kids because cranberry sauce stains!
Play A Game
After dinner, play a game and converse with a digestif. Chartreuse, Armagnac, Calvados, Amaro, and Underberg are all good choices. Serve dessert after the game or before depending on how much people have eaten. Apples To Apples, Cards Against Humanity, and Poker (or variants) are great group games. Settle the kids with a DVD and some warm apple cider.
Unless you need an 8,000 inch TV for $99 just don’t. There are so many internet specials you can do most of your shopping from your computer and still score some deals. The night shouldn’t be rushed so you can get up at 3 am to freeze in a line. The day after Thanksgiving for me is usually cutting down my own tree and decorating it while feasting off leftovers.
Thanksgiving entertaining is easily summed by reminding you it’s about your friends and family having a good time as well as yourself. Keeping it simple and streamlined is the best way to accomplish this. Save the Tarte Flambe and homemade Peking Duck for another time! If you have any questions or comments feel free to reach out by email or in the comments below!