Most Common Thanksgiving Mistakes

Thanksgiving is a holidays filled with food traditions.  When it is done properly it is memorable and arguably one of the best meals to enjoy with family and friends.  Although with all the different side dishes and the concern of serving a dry turkey it can be one of the most stressful.  So use this list of the most common mistakes and helpful tips to avoid them and make this Thanksgiving the BEST EVER! 

I treat this dinner no
differently then any other large gathering. 
First I sit down and write the menu I will be serving including
everything from appetizers and snacks to mains and sides to desserts.  Then I go dish by dish and write down all the
ingredients and equipment I need in order to prepare the meal.  The biggest reason chefs can pull off events
with a lot of moving parts is by being organized.  You will find if you are organized and
mentally prepared it will be less stressful and yield a better experience for
everyone including you. 

Once you have your menu and
grocery list you can decide when you will do the bulk of your shopping and what
you can prepare ahead of time.  Things
like vinaigrettes, sauces, desserts, as well as washing and prepping vegetables
can be done ahead. Also if someone offers to prepare a side dish, gratefully
except and scratch that off your list. 
You can concentrate on other things like being a good host.

Things you can prepare 2-3
days ahead

– make vinaigrettes and
dressing for salads,  

– prepare all cookies, cakes
and pies and desserts

– Make your cranberry sauce

– wash, peel and cut all
vegetable that will be roasted or baked

– The Gravy.  Brown the turkey neck and add onions, carrots,
celery and garlic then low sodium chicken broth and simmer for 1 hour to make
the gravy.  Mix cornstarch and cold water
and mix until completely smooth.  Slowly
add to the sauce and then continue to simmer for 20 minutes.  Strain and cool until Thanksgiving. On the
day of you can just reheat it. NO Stress, 
you can also remove all the fat from the roasting pan the turkey was
cooked in and deglaze with white wine or water and add to you finished sauce as
well to add more flavor.

– Stuffing. Cube your bread
for the stuffing and toast or allow to dry out on counter.  The dryer the bread the more flavor it will
absorb when you add it to the vegetables and chicken or vegetable stock.  Cut the onions, carrot, celery and garlic
into a small dice and sauté with oil until tender and reserve until
thanksgiving.  Day of add stock to the
vegetables and bring to a boil.  Add
chopped parsley and sage and butter to your bread with your cooked vegetables and
pour just enough stock to moisten. 
Season with salt and pepper and bake at 350 covered for 35-40
minutes.  Then 15-20 minutes before
serving uncover and allow it brown and crisp. The Best Part in my opinion.

– The Turkey! One of the biggest mistakes people make is not
giving your turkey enough time to defrost if using a frozen turkey.  You should allow your turkey to defrost in
the fridge for at least three day. Keep in mind it takes 24 hours for every 4
lbs of turkey to fully defrost, so plan ahead. 
I find brining your turkey is messy and is not really necessary if you
defrost and cook properly.  The day
before I like to unwrap and wash the turkey really well in salted water. Then I
dry it as best I can and put back in the fridge uncovered so the turkey can air
dry which will help ensure the perfectly browned and crispy skin. Reserve the
neck for your gravy.  On Thanksgiving I
remove my turkey from the fridge and season it liberally inside and out with
salt and pepper. I rub the outside with softened butter and put it in a
roasting pan on a bed of carrots, onions, celery, garlic and fresh sage and
rosemary. Leave on the counter for 2 hours to allow to come to room
temperature.  Preheat your oven to 325
degrees a half hour before you plan on cooking it.  Keep in mind it takes about 15 minutes per
pound at 325 degrees to cook.  While
cooking be sure to baste the turkey with the pan juices every hour to start and
every 15 minutes for the last hour.  During the last hour add a ¼ cup of maple
syrup to the pan juices and it will give you great flavor and help with achieving
that beautiful color. You are looking for an evenly golden brown turkey with an
internal temperature of 165degrees. 
Using a thermometer inserted in the thigh to test the temperature. When
done remove from oven and lightly cover with aluminum foil and allow to rest
15-20 minutes.  So decide when you would
like to eat then subtract a half hour to allow the turkey to rest before
slicing and do your math.  18-20 turkey
should take 4-4.5 hours.  So if you are
planning on eating at 3pm
then the turkey should go in at 10:00 am.  Be out by 2:30- 2:45
and serving at 3:00pm.  Easy Right! 

When serving I find it easier
to remove the entire breast and slice it separately then trying to slice it on the bone.  Same for the legs and thigh.  Remove the bone from the thigh as well will
make it easier and for a better final presentation.

As far as sides, and having everything hot at the same time.  Your mashed potato will stay hot on top of the stove covered for a half hour or so.  You can brown your stuffing when your turkey comes out as well as take that time to heat up your pre-roasted vegetables or cook your green beans.  Don’t be afraid to pop your mashed potato or sweet potatoes in the oven or microwave to warm up.  The key is to have everything cooked and staying warm or finishing up while turkey is resting. 

Organization will take the stress out of the biggest food holiday of the year. So let’s get cooking!!

Good Food is an Adventure!