Thanksgiving is the one time each year when gratefulness, hospitality and over-indulgence rule the day.
But the task at hand in creating a Thanksgiving feast can rule the kitchen, so planning, organization and a few tips and tricks are essential to keep the peace. Once organized, slip in a few new traditions to keep it fresh, and to show your guests you’ve got this Thanksgiving nailed.
When guests ask what they can bring, tell them. Otherwise you may end up with an unbalanced menu and an overload of desserts — which may or may not be a bad thing. Assigning specific dishes endures a complete feast.
Once they arrive, put your guests to work — setting the table, filling glasses with ice, opening bottles of wine, lighting candles. Every little task helps get the meal on the table.
Serve a classic house cocktail
Every Thanksgiving morning, before the ovens are cranked and the knives are chopping, I sit in my pjs and watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade while sipping from a pitcher of Bloody Marys. With so much to do for a single meal, it’s nice to have a few minutes to relax before the hectic begins.
Come dinner time it’s nice to sip something a little more food-friendly. Rye whiskey may not be for everyone, but the Boulevardier, a rye-based cocktail, could be called “Negroni’s wintery cousin.” The drink, essentially a Negroni crossed with a Manhattan, is the perfect aperitif to a big holiday feast, and made in a big batch ahead of time, it’s also a timesaver.
Mark a quart-size deli container with a Sharpie to make measuring (and re-measuring) a breeze.
Boulevardier for a Crowd
Makes 16 4-ounce drinks
4 cups rye whiskey
2 cups Campari
2 cups sweet vermouth
Orange peels, for garnish
Pour the rye, Campari and vermouth into a pitcher and refrigerate until chilled. Serve each cocktail with a twist of orange peel.
Pair cider with the bird
Thanksgiving dinner is a hard feast to pair wine with, since there are so many different flavor profiles — sweet, salty, sour and meaty. Instead, try a craft cider. For one, hard cider is typically lower in alcohol than wine, which may eliminate some of the family drama. Second, it is an historically accurate choice — cider has been made since the colonists first arrived stateside. Hunter Gambill offers several craft varieties at his distillery, Local Cider and Angry Bear Mead. Gambill suggests Cascara Hibiscus Mead or Green Tea-Ginger Cider, $20 for a 750ml bottle.
Local Cider and Angry Bear Mead
1724 E. 7th St. Suite D, 918-505-5861, www.local-cider.com
Listen to the experts
“You can make anything into a huge overwhelming, life-draining monster,” says Candace Conley of The Girl Can Cook Cooking Studio. “Or you can do what we do and beat the living crap out of the thing with laughter, friends and a plan.” Natalia Banjac is her general manager at the studio and the yin to Conley’s yang.
“You simply can’t wait until the day before a huge project like Thanksgiving and expect to execute with authority, aplomb (look it up) and no stress,” Conley said on the second season of the hilariously frank “Not a Single Fork” podcast that she hosts with Banjac.
Visitthegirlcancookschool.com for links to the podcast as well as a calendar of classes.
Keep some traditions but start something new
My family would revolt if I didn’t offer certain things — mashed potatoes and gravy for one — but every year I try to slip in something new. When I spent a few days at Ree Drummond’s ranch in Pawhuska helping out “Team Flay” for an episode of Food Network’s Thanksgiving Throwdown, Bobby Flay made these Brussels sprouts that I fell in love with. He lost the battle, but won over guests with this keeper of a recipe.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Vanilla-Pecan Butter
Serves 6 to 8
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
¼ cup toasted pecans, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed, large sprouts halved
3 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
Grated zest of 1 lime
Grated zest of 1 orange
Pomegranate seeds for garnish, if desired
1. Combine the butter and vanilla bean seeds in a small bowl. Fold in the pecans and season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.
2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the Brussels sprouts in a medium roasting pan and toss with the oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until lightly golden brown, 20 minutes.
3. Remove the pan from the oven, add the pomegranate molasses and stir to combine. Return to the oven and cook until just tender, about 10 minutes longer.
4. Sprinkle with the lime and orange zests and toss to combine. Transfer to a platter and top with some of the vanilla-pecan butter and pomegranate seeds.
— Adapted from Bobby Flay/Food Network
Knock out some side dishes ahead of time
Whether you are the sole chef de cuisine with one oven or contributing to a potluck feast, make-ahead Thanksgiving dishes come to the rescue. Cranberry sauce and dressing can be made ahead of time as well as these decadent versions of mashed potatoes and gravy.
Serves 10 to 12
Make these rich and buttery spuds a day or two in advance and refrigerate in a baking dish. Cover the dish with foil and reheat in a 350 degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes.
5 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1½ cups heavy cream, warmed
1. In a large pot, cover potatoes by 2 inches with salted water (Add 2 tablespoons of kosher salt). Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer and cook until potatoes are tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain thoroughly and pass potatoes through a ricer or food mill into pot.
2. Over low heat, add butter and stir until melted. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until potatoes are stiff, about 1 minute. Gradually add cream, stirring constantly to combine. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately, or transfer to a baking dish and refrigerate up to two days before reheating in a 350 degree oven until hot, 20 to 30 minutes.
Makes about 3 cups
Wouldn’t it be nice, once the bird comes out of the oven, to feel a sense of completion to the Thanksgiving feast? Make a batch of gravy up to a week ahead of time, and you can start carving the turkey without last minute whisking and straining of pan juices. This version still has all of the flavor of a last-minute gravy, but without the rush of trying to get everything to the table at the same time.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound chicken wings
1 large onion, unpeeled, coarsely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled, coarsely chopped
1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped
A small handful of rosemary, thyme, and/or bay leaves
1 cup dry white wine
6 cups (or more) homemade turkey stock or low-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup Wondra or all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high. Cook chicken wings, turning occasionally, until golden brown, 10–12 minutes. Add onion, carrot, and celery and cook, stirring and turning wings often, until everything in pan is deeply browned, 14–16 minutes. Add herbs and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Pour in wine and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits stuck to the bottom of pan. Bring to a boil and cook until wine is reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add stock and return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced by a third, 35–40 minutes.
2. Strain fortified stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a heatproof bowl. (You should have about 4 cups. If you don’t, add enough stock or water to get you there.) Discard solids. Keep fortified stock warm while you make your roux.
3. Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking constantly, until roux is golden brown and looks smooth and shiny, about 4 minutes.
4. Whisking constantly, ladle fortified stock into roux, pouring in gradually and making sure to incorporate after each addition before adding more. Simmer, whisking often, until gravy is thickened and reduced to about 3 cups (it should coat a spoon), 8–10 minutes. Stir in Worcestershire sauce, taste, and season with salt and pepper
Make ahead: Gravy can be made 5 days ahead. Let cool; cover and chill. Reheat over low before serving.
— Adapted from Bon Appetit
Serves 8 to 10
This quick, no-frills version of a holiday classic involves five common ingredients and 15 minutes on the stove. Make extra for a crowd, to ensure enough for day-after turkey sandwiches!
2 8-ounce packages cranberries, fresh or frozen
1 orange, zested and juiced
¾-1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1. Put all the ingredients into a saucepan. Stir in ½ cup water and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
2. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries burst and the sauce thickens, about 15 to 20 minutes. Cool and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Make ahead: Refrigerate up to a week or freeze for up to one month
Let someone else do the turkey
Customers love Boston Deli for their hearty lunches and creative dinner menu, but may not be aware that the attached market features many delicacies from the restaurant as well as other gourmet offerings to take home.
Owner Ken Shafer, known for the ribs and chicken cooked on his Hasty-Bake grills, is offering maple-molasses-brined and wood-smoked, seasoned turkeys and spiral-cut, raspberry-port-glazed hams for Thanksgiving. Both are fully cooked with easy warm-up instructions. The market can custom-carve the turkeys or send them home whole. Jalapeno-cornbread stuffing, house-made sourdough, apple and almond stuffing, gravy and other sides, pies and accoutrements will be available in the market during pickup next week.
Boston Deli Grill and Market
6231 E. 61st St., 918-492-4745
Let someone else do dessert
Your oven will have enough to do on the big day without having to worry about cranking out pies, too. Instead, leave the baking to someone with a commercial convection oven.
Antoinette Baking Co. may be known for fancy French pastries and delicate macaroons, but it’s a guarantee that any dessert that comes out of this kitchen will be amazing. The bakery is offering several varieties of pie for the Thanksgiving holiday, ranging from classics (pecan, pumpkin and apple) to decadent (coconut cream, lemon blueberry meringue and French silk). And if pie isn’t your thing, grab a flourless chocolate cake or pumpkin roll. Whole desserts range from $25 to $40.
Antoinette Baking Co.
207 N. Main St., 918-764-8404
Cherry Street Kitchen can help get the day started with breakfast (mixed berry muffins, sausage rolls and fruit platters), get the meal started with appetizer platters (veggie, fresh fruit or charcuterie) and end the evening with assorted baked goods. Pumpkin pie bars and pecan bars are faves ($36/dozen), but if you can’t decide, indulge in a dessert tray that includes some of each, as well as cookies, muffins and berries ($35 to $80).
Cherry Street Kitchen
1441 S. Quaker Ave., 918-884-3408
Brookside’s Blue Moon bakery doles out delicious baked goods every morning (the morning buns are to die for!) and for the holidays will offer seven varieties of pie as well as coffee cake, pumpkin bread and cookies (Pies start at $17).
Blue Moon Bakery
3512 S. Peoria, 918-749-7800
Let someone else do it all!
Lambrusco’z To Go has been offering fully-loaded Thanksgiving dinners to-go for 25 years. Order complete meals ($75 for two, up to $325, serving 10-12 guests) ahead of time (The deadline is Saturday, Nov. 23, so don’t tarry!) or stop in the Brookside deli next week and select from a la carte side dishes (mac and cheese, broccoli-rice casserole and the like) and desserts (whole pies and cakes or dessert assortments). For the complete menu, visit: www.lambruscoz.com/holiday-menus
Lambrusco’z To Go
1344 E. 41st St., 918-496-1246