This is my first Thanksgiving as hostess. It's something I have been waiting for, day dreaming about, and collecting recipes for since before there was a Google. I'm so excited that I need to give someone, anyone, a present - one copy of Susan Feniger's Street Food, to be exact. But give me a minute to get there.
I've hosted enough dinner parties at this point to have learned some good lessons about large, multi-dish meals that I feel generally prepared. I'm sharing the cooking responsibilities rather than trying to do it all myself; we're not attempting to make seven different dishes that require baking at four different temperatures; and, we're doing a lot of prep, including one entire dish, in advance. Also, we're having a cocktail hour before dinner - that way, if things are a little late or a little overdone, everyone will be in full festivity and just plain won't care.
For the turkey, which is the one part that makes me a bit angsty, I'm going with this recipe. It's Bitten Word-endorsed, so it's tested and approved by the best, and it's spatchcocked, so it will cook faster and take less room in my oven. I've said this before, but if you're still planning your meal, go read their full Thanksgiving extravaganza for this year and past years and you'll end up with more great ideas than you can imagine. I'm making my grandma's sausage stuffing and sauteed shaved Brussels sprouts and leeks with bacon and breadcrumbs, both of which you'll find posted here in the coming weeks. I'm on the fence about making a variation of Ina's potato and fennel gratin (the original here). It's one of my absolute favorite foods and I can only justify consuming that much heavy cream and Gruyere at a major holiday; however, we have a small group and I don't want to be completely ridiculous. Our friend Rach will make the mashed potatoes and this haricots verts and white bean dish with a shallot vinaigrette -- also Bitten Word. It's totally make-ahead and really fresh and bright, so it will balance the richness of...everything else. Rach is also making these Gingerbread cupcakes, also Ina's.
If I had to make Thanksgiving dinner on a desert island and had only two recipe sources, The Bitten Word and Ina Garten would be all I'd need. Plus, I'd invite Zach and Clay and Ina, because they seem like they'd be a blast at a desert island dinner party.
My lists are finished - menu and food to-do's and set up to-do's and grocery lists. My cocktail hour playlist is in the works and my dinner playlist is in my head. Tomorrow, I'll set out linens, glassware and place settings and make sure I have the right serving dishes for the meal. I'll make sure the fridge is cleaned out so I have plenty of room this week, chill the white wines and sparkling wines, and make sure I have the red I need for the meal. Monday night I'll brine the turkey and Wednesday night I'll pull it from the brine and stick it in the fridge overnight. I'll also prep the sprouts and chop the veggies for the stuffing. We're not eating until 2:30 or 3 and my turkey takes less than two hours, so if I decide to add the gratin, I have time on Thursday morning.
In about an hour, we're going to do some cocktail recipe testing - we now have five different kinds of bitters. I received this book on bitters last year and didn't expect I'd pick it up too often, but I'm completely taken with it.
So, to summarize, this is my recipe for not freaking out:
1 part sharing the fun
1 part liquoring up my victims in advance
1 part list making and advance prep
3 parts keeping in mind that this is about being thankful to have such bounty and such friends to share it with
(And if all else fails, I'll close my eyes and think of Lake Garda, Italy and that infinity pool at the top of the page.)
So tell me, how do you keep calm, cool and collected? And enter to win a copy of Susan Feniger's Street Food right here and give a shout out to your favorite side dish!