Frankly, I love Thanksgiving. I actually love it more than Christmas only because it’s a day almost everyone has off, and we get to eat so much delicious food! Oh, yeah, and spend time with family. I have to throw that in there. I know in my age range there are probably a lot of you out there who have been chosen by family to host the big dinner this year. It can be very overwhelming and scary actually. What if you don’t like to cook? Which pizza place will deliver in case you burn everything? Let’s take several steps back and just breathe. Really, just relax. It is not as complicated as you are thinking at all. The important things to remember are how many people are coming, what kind of food will you be serving, will you offer alcohol, and how will you entertain your guests. This basis will cover the entire evening or weekend, depending on how long any guests are staying with you. Let’s break everything down in simple steps:
Guest List: The phrase, “guest list” implies that there will be a VIP section at your party, but in reality, it is important to make a list of who has confirmed they are coming. With that base list, I always suggest adding 6 more to your count. It saves on your being frustrated when your cousin decides to bring a friend or friend to dinner or your aunt invited her neighbor she plays cards with on Tuesdays. You know how it goes during the holidays. With this total number you can buy exactly what you need, plus some of the people coming may offer to bring a dish. Take them up on their offer, even if you can’t stand another casserole. You may not like it, but one of your guests might, and it will help you from slaving away in the kitchen from Wednesday night.
Fooooooooooood: Since we live in the age of food allergies and trends, always ask your guests about any specialties. This is more for food allergies than your friend riding the gluten free wave. This will help at dinner if you are asked about a certain item containing nuts or another allergen or if you even have to worry about this at all.
If this is your first time tackling a turkey, make sure you thaw it properly 2-3 days beforehand in the fridge depending on the weight of the bird. I always hated having to pull the guts wrapped in paper out while it was still half frozen. Once you have it rinsed off and its innards removed, put some olive oil on the skin before seasoning, not butter, then season to how you want it to taste then cook it the proper heat and time length for the weight of the bird. Oil on the skin helps it become brown without burning the skin. Adding butter will only cause it to burn faster. Most packaging will tell you exactly how long depending on how big the bird is. I usually deep fry my turkey. It keeps the meat juicy, and doesn’t take as long as baking. You just have to be very careful since it’s a lot of oil bubbling around. Using a turkey fryer is a 2-3 person job when taking the turkey from the oil and getting it ready to be served on the table. If it’s too much for you, there is a product called a Reynolds Oven Bag where you slip the turkey in the bag and cook it in the oven. It works well too. I’m sure there are other companies that make a similar product, but the Reynolds holds up well through the whole cooking process. I want to throw in, don’t cook your stuffing inside the turkey no matter how you choose to cook the bird. Always cook it separately to avoid anything that’s getting cooked out of the bird that happened to stay in the bread of the stuffing. It’s most important to make sure however you end up cooking your meat, it is done at the right temperature and for the right time length.
Under cooked meat can get you or loved ones sick.
If you have leftover turkey at the end of dinner, before you have a third slice of pie, cut up the turkey completely. Remove all the meat from the bones so storing it in the fridge takes up less space, and makes making leftover turkey recipes much easier since it’s already cut for you. Plus, it’s much easier to cut the meat off the bone when it’s warm versus cold.
Booze: It’s always fun to make your own drink for the party if you do drink, or you can stick with wine. Just remember to monitor how much your guests are drinking, and keep a pitcher of water out as well to encourage spacing out consumption of drinks. This way everyone has fun safely.
Entertainment: There is nothing wrong in sitting around the table having fantastic conversations. It is a great bonding experience. If you are looking to inject some fun why not come up with a small game to play around the table? This game can include any kids joining you as well, or you can setup small crafts for them to do to keep them occupied as well. The lists are really endless in your choices. Don’t over complicate it either, you should enjoy yourself too.
It all may seem overwhelming, and you may want to give up half way through, or even during the middle of dinner, but just relax and you will make it through fine. Try to delegate any work you can if possible to help make the entire experience come together. It doesn’t have to get as serious as assigned seats and rearranging your furniture either, just make it yours and it will already be unforgettable.