Monthly Archives: October 2011

Talking Turkey

Most of us only roast a whole turkey once a year, so it’s not surprising that producing a beautifully burnished but still juicy bird seems like such a mammoth achievement. All kinds of turkey taming tricks keep circulating, but most either don’t work or entail serious defects.

I turned to the National Turkey Federation (which represents American turkey farmers and is dedicated to educating consumers about turkey)for some answers. They don’t have a bone to pick regarding a particular brand and their Web site is stuffed with information, including this timeline. It’s exactly the kind of planning tool I recommended in my last post.

Happy Thanksgiving!

This headline may strike you as an oxymoron, since Thanksgiving can be the holiday from hell for a hysterical hostess: So many guests, so many dishes, such high expectations!

But you can turn the day into a delight for both you and your guests, I’ve learned, by following the simple suggestions below and by keeping the menu manageable. (Especially if this is your first time hosting the holiday meal, resist trying those exotic recipes you’ll find in the food magazines, and plan sides you can make in advance or cook on top of the stove, since your oven is likely to be occupied roasting the bird for 3 to 5 hours.) You’ll be grateful you did.

Don’t Wing It –Planning ahead is the key to ensuring a smooth and stress-free holiday, and it isn’t too soon to start. So grab a pad and begin immediately by jotting down all the particulars, from your family’s must-have holiday dishes to the serving pieces and kitchen equipment you’ll need. Once you’ve established your menu, write the grocery lists immediately, so you can pick up non-perishables early and spend less time fighting last-minute crowds in the stores. Finally, make a detailed cooking and serving schedule to keep you calm and organized through it all, from pouring the cider to slicing the pumpkin pie.

Be an Early Bird– The more you do now, the less pressure there will be later. On the big day, you’ll have enough on your plate just dealing with cooking the turkey, warming the accompaniments, and attending to guests. Some tasks can be done way in advance, such as buying a frozen turkey or making and freezing soup to serve as a first course. Others can be scheduled for the weeks and days ahead: From cleaning the silver, ironing the tablecloth, and choosing the serving pieces, to baking or ordering the pies, making the side dishes, and prepping the salad fixings to be tossed with the dressing just before serving.

Flock Together- Thanksgiving is all about getting together with family and friends, so don’t bear the burden alone. My happiest Thanksgiving memories are of those where I shared the cooking duties with my mother-in-law and one where a bunch of cousins gathered in one large kitchen, each responsible for making a part of the meal. So consider making a “cooking party” your new traditional, or delegate dishes for your guests to bring along.

Potluck Party

Neighbors from our mountain community have come up with the ultimate example of “taking help”: The stir fry party. I know that I’d be shy about asking so much of guests, yet I found the idea delightful when I was invited to participate. It wasn’t just another boring dinner party. It was fresh, and I found it fun doing my little part.

Here’s how it worked.  Since they’re vegetarians, they asked guests to bring specific vegetables, trimmed and ready to add to an enormous stir fry made in the huge electric wok that sits on their deck. What’s more, they asked everyone to bring “an easy” appetizer or dessert.

Aside from the cooking, which required some effort, their contribution was the drinks, an enormous pot of rice, a sesame noodle dish, and some colorful disposables. Most important, they assembled a room full of interesting people (friends not food) and created a memorable occasion.