It’s the final countdown before the big day! This seems like a good time to offer a few last minute tips and tricks. These are just a few I’ve picked up but, of course, feel free to leave additional tips or questions in the comments section if there’s anything I missed!
1. When carving the turkey, many people start by slicing the breast from the outside in, which can lead to the first slice getting all of the skin. If you remove the whole breast, lay it on the cutting board, and slice from there, each piece will have a nice piece of crispy skin. This photo from foodnetwork.com illustrates this idea well.
2. If you have a spare burner, it can be handy to leave a pot of stock warming on a back burner as you prepare the meal. One of the major sins of Thanksgiving, dryness, can be easily overcome with a ladleful of hot stock. This is also a great way to reheat things if your dishes didn’t all come out at the same time. Just hit that stuffing, potatoes, or turkey with some hot stock to warm it up.
3. Consider cooking the turkey upside-down. This leads to a less beautiful presentation, but if aesthetics aren’t a concern or you carve the turkey before presenting it anyways, this can lead to extra moist white meat.
4. If you are serving a large crowd, you could consider cooking two smaller turkeys rather than one large bird. This helps to prevent the breasts from drying out before the rest of the turkey is cooked and can keep more guests happy. Four legs are better than two!
5. Think about using squash for serving. One year we didn’t have enough serving dishes for everything we wanted to make so we served the stuffing in roasted acorn squash and incorporated it into the centerpiece. This year we’re serving pumpkin soup inside a pumpkin instead of a big bowl. This can add a festive touch and give you one less serving dish to wash at the end.
6. If you have trouble with lumps or grit when using flour to make gravy, you can skip the flour and make a slurry by whisking corn starch and stock and then using that mixture to thicken the gravy. We came across this trick when we moved and forgot to buy flour but had corn starch on hand and it was the smoothest sauce we had made to date.
7. I realize I sound like the ambassador of cheese, but I think it’s a good trick to keep in mind that if anything seems a little bland, a nice shred of parmesan cheese can go a long way. This works great for squash, potatoes, brussel sprouts, and lots of soups. We’re even grating parmesan into our gravy this year.
8. Don’t forget the herbs! Sage is the superstar of Thanksgiving. If you have any dish that doesn’t quite taste enough like the holidays, my first suggestion would to be to add more sage. This works whether you use dried sage or fresh. This is a photo of our awesome purple sage plant. If you ever think about starting an herb garden, this is a great one to start with because it grows quickly and the thing just won’t die despite our best effort.
9. Keep in mind that there are many things you can do today if you want to get a head start. Some casseroles like the broccoli casserole that is a staple on our holiday menu since it was passed down from the Southern grandmas can be mixed up the day ahead and just baked the day of Thanksgiving. Just save any crispy topping (like the dry stuffing mix on this one) for the day of so it doesn’t get soggy. Celery, onion, and carrots can all be chopped up in advanced and stored in plastic bags also.
10. Don’t forget to give thanks! It’s easy for foodies like us to get wrapped up in the gastronomical whirlwind that is Thanksgiving, but giving thanks is really a highlight of the day. I can always be thankful for a day full of food and family.
Finally as you cook your way through the day, don’t be afraid to improvise!
“Recipes are road maps not contracts” ~ Michael Voltaggio