Having a full Thanksgiving meal does not need to be more complex than it already is. Let's face it. No party is going to be perfect. Luckily, there are ways to keep things as simple while preserving the banquet atmosphere.
The trick is to keep the basics - turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans. Backing pre-made frozen pumpkin pies such as those from Sara Lee is doable. Just follow the instructions on the box.
Prepping is important. Chop most of the vegetables one night ahead, and work out a game plan. Doing so will allow for more efficiency and appreciatively less stress on the day of execution. Also, it is good to have one friend as an assistant.
Without further ado, here is a breakdown of a simple plan. Bear in mind that this is a general overview. Links with further details have been included.
Conventional wisdom for the perfect roasted turkey calls for low heat and longer cooking time. Other recipes call for time-consuming brining, which is effective. Still, there are benefits as well as drawbacks to brining.
A far less difficult way is the two-hour roasting method. This calls for using smaller turkeys that are small than 14 pounds. If you need to cook more turkey, it is far more effective to roast two small turkeys at once. Smaller turkeys cook faster, and are easier to lift out of the oven. Also avoid stuffing the turkey. Instead, fill the cavity with small amounts of chopped aromatic vegetables and herbs instead. This cuts down on cooking time as well.
It is important rub copious amounts of oil on the turkey before salting. Butter works, but has a tendency to burn in spots that need strategic placement of foil. A more foolproof alternative is olive oil. For a more detailed breakdown, many two-hour turkey recipes already exist on the web. Here is an excellent example from Epicurious.
Be sure to allow the turkey sufficient time to cool down while loosely wrapped in foil. Thirty minutes is the minimum. Do not worry if you run overtime while preparing cooking other things. The turkey should stay nice and warm in its foil covering.
30 Min. Cranberry-Walnut Stuffing
This easy stuffing recipe comes from Campbell's website. Prepare the stuffing mixture while the turkey is in the oven. Remember to set enough time to chop the ingredients.
When the turkey is done. While the turkey is in its 30-minute cooling period, bake the stuffing. As the name implies, it only takes half-an-hour to cook.
The stuffing combines walnuts and cranberries to create an appetizing tangy medley. Vegetables include onion and celery. The recipe calls for Swanson's chicken broth. For a stronger flavor, one can alternatively use pan drippings from the turkey dripping. Click here for the recipe.
20-Min Homemade Turkey Gravy
A roasted turkey (especially an unstuffed one) will have a lot of pan dripping. All that delicious liquid can be reused immediately after the turkey is done. While waiting for the turkey to cool down and the stuffing to cook, immediately use the juices for scrumptious homemade gravy.
One recipe from OnceUponaChef calls a combination of chopped onions, chicken broth and pan dripping. A touch of cognac, fresh herb and whipping cream adds to the richness of the mixture. Non-alcohol folks can easily skip the cognac without consequence.
10-Min. Green Beans with Shallot
Next, work on the veggies. According to a recipe from Chowhound, it is possible to blanch the beans one day ahead. Doing this step allows you to cook the green beans in as little as ten minutes. The simple, but tasty recipe calls for salt, pepper and dice shallot.
Simple Mashed Russet Potatoes
Mashed potatoes do not need to be overly complicated. Again, prep is going to be key. Peel and quarter the potatoes the night before Thanksgiving cooking. Place the pieces in a bowl of cold water to prevent browning.
Put the potatoes in a fresh pot of cold water over the stove. Bring water to boil, and reduce heat slightly. Add salt. Boil for 12-15, or until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork.
While this is happening, add 1 cup whole milk and 2 tablespoons butter in shallow sauce pan. Stir constantly until mixture starts to simmer. Remove from heat immediately. Drain potatoes and return to the pot. Add half of milk/butter mixture. Mash with potatoes masher. Pour in the rest of the milk/butter and mix.
Serve immediately. This recipe comes last because mashed potatoes get cold very fast. One recommendation is to find a good friend as an assistant. Have him or her cook this simplest recipe while you work on the more complex stuff.