*Stolen from WikiCommons years ago*
If you woke up this morning with a sick sinking feeling because you have no idea what you are doing tomorrow for Thanksgiving, have no fear, Clever Girl is here! Not to rush you but you getter go get a turkey and trimmings. If you are really hopeless in the kitchen, go to Whole Foods, they have everything pre-done or close to pre-done in their deli section.
If you aren’t going to rely on Whole Foods to save you and you want to do it all yourself, including a Roasted Turkey, go read this article on Buzzfeed. It’s almost 100% true by my measure and it will help you enormously cause even seasoned home cooks need a refresher.
Making sure you have enough food but not too much is a challenge. Take your number of RSVP’s and assume your guests will come hungry. I always plan a half pound of turkey per person. Sides are harder to plan for, but I plan for about 3 servings of starchy sides like potatoes and stuffing and two servings of veggies like green beans and sweet potatoes when done savory (only one serving if they are sweet) per person. Three rolls or slices of bread seem average at my dinners. This should feed everyone to the point of fullness plus a day of leftovers for the home team.
As for desserts, I usually ask my guests to bring something. I’ll make an apple crisp, but I rely on others to throw down a few pies or cookies. I prefer to send sweet leftovers home with my guests.
As for beverages, that’s also a tough one. I like to get Sparkling Apple Cider for both kids and adults. It’s fun to make sparkling cocktails with it too. Some sparkling and still mineral water are also usually on hand. Everyone loves a little Pellegrino.
If you are “pre-gaming” dinner having people over early to hang out or watch a sporting event, you will want to serve appetizers and beverages. For the appetizers, just put out store bought everything on nice serve ware. I do cheese, charcuterie, olives, fruit, veggies, bread, and a few dips. You can either make a pitcher of cocktails, serve some champagne, or Belgian White or Amber beer depending on your crowd.
Wine is always present at my table! Just about anything goes with turkey. It’s the sides that trip you up. I always have multiple types of wine when I’m doing a big T-day. I expect a minimum of 1/2 bottle per person when I’m planning the meal. I often ask friends to bring their favorite bottle to share so we have some back ups if needed.
Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Rosé, and Champagne or sparkling wine. I prefer unoaked chards or balanced ones, mid-weight fruit-forward Pinot Noirs, and Pinot Noir based sparklers though Prosecco is often my choice. For Rosé, I’d got with my favorite Grifone!
Dry Reisling, Super Tuscans, Rioja, Arneis, Garnacha, and Dolcetto. You can also squeeze in a soft Zin or Merlot if you like. These wildcard suggestions aren’t really traditional, but they should go fine with most of what you are serving. It all depends on your spicing and menu choices.
My family tends to like Port or a non-flabby dessert wine. I usually rely on Barnard Griffin or Galway Pipes for Port or Vino Gelato from Ponzi for a dessert wine. I’ve picked up a love of digestif from living in Europe so those are also an option.
For table settings, I like white plates and metallic accents. I like this look because it works for any holiday. I prefer to bring in the specific holiday with one or two specialty items and the colors of my florals. I use these plates from Target. Stemmed or stemless wine and water glasses are a personal choice here.
Some big faux pas in my book are using scented candles and huge tall arrangements on the tables. You will have a cacophony of smells from cooking, adding to it is a don’t. After all the food is put away, you can pull one out if you really need to. Large arrangements obscure the view and conversation. Plus they take up valuable real estate you may need for bread baskets, wine bottles, or table settings. I prefer a few mini arrangements or one medium sized low height one in the middle of the table.
I prefer to have a fold up table with all my food on it, minus the wine, bread, gravy, cranberry sauce, and salt and pepper. I give it a nice tablecloth and let everyone serve themselves buffet style. Everything else goes on the table or the buffet next to the table.
I don’t put out too much wine out at once, I keep it held nicely in the fridge or with Corkcicles. I aerate the reds as I go by the half bottle in a decanter.
Out of the way candles and soft music are good choices too. Makes it feel cozy.
After the big meal, my family always pulls out a game. Some people set it up while the others clear the plates and put away the food. Then we all sit and play while we digest. After an hour or two, we serve dessert with its accompaniment. After that, we finish the game with coffee, tea, and additional conversation. I find this is a nice relaxing flow and it makes sure your guests are sober when they leave.
These tips are applicable to your other winter holidays too. I employ the same strategy almost exactly at Christmas. Christmas wines are a bit different since I never know what I’m having. Some years it’s crab, some it’s lamb, some years it’s prime rib or maybe it’s delivered Chinese food! I also tend to avoid the Black Friday madness unless I need something specific. Last year I got a new camera for half price at 7 pm at Target, so it was worth the hassle, but it’s not something I’ll repeat soon! I like to spend the next day relaxing and eating my leftovers. At most I do a little online shopping but that usually isn’t worth the hassle either. Saturday after T-day is all about cutting down my tree and gettin’ my decorating on. Hot cider and holiday cheer round out the weekend! I hope whatever you are doing for Thanksgiving it fills your stomach and your spirit with goodness!