Time-saving strategies for the holiday
Have a no-work Thanksgiving or as close as you can get with these tips
Start with a basic menu. That will be your game plan. Include some favorites, perhaps a new recipe. Don't go overboard. Ditch the nonessentials. Do you really need dinner rolls when you're already serving stuffing? (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune)
Yes, this is the time to strategize your way to a happy Thanksgiving dinner.
Plan smartly, rely on a few time-savers, get an assist from a friend, relative or the supermarket, then accept that your cousin will probably bring his "famous" Jell-O sea-foam salad. Now chill.
And think about Thanksgiving the way Marc Forgione — chef-partner of his eponymous, Michelin-starred New York restaurant — does.
"When it comes to Thanksgiving, the more you can do the day before, the more time you get to relax. Get as much done as you possibly can so all you're doing is reheating or finishing," says Forgione, who contributed several prepare-ahead dishes to "The Macy's Culinary Council Thanksgiving & Holiday Cookbook" (Book Kitchen, $24.95).
Forgione, who clinched his recent "The Next Iron Chef" win by creating a feast with foods served at Thanksgiving in Plymouth in 1621, was born into a family of cooks: His dad Larry is a chef; his three brothers cook. "And my sister was always in charge of the cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving."
He remembers that Thanksgiving at the family's home always included dishes brought by his grandfather and his aunt and uncle. "Don't be afraid to ask your guests to bring something. This is supposed to be a time when your whole family is getting together," he says. "Food is not supposed to be anything other than having fun, especially on Thanksgiving."
So where do you start? With a basic menu. It's a game plan. Include some favorites, perhaps a new recipe. Don't go overboard. Ditch the nonessentials. Do you really need dinner rolls when you're already serving stuffing?
"I'm a firm believer that less is more," says Forgione. "I'd rather have three amazing sides that all taste delicious than 10 OK sides."
We've planned a basic menu, with a few time-saving tips. Elaborate, eliminate, delegate. Then chill.
Forget fussy canapes. Purchase butternut squash soup, microwave hot, serve in mugs garnished with grated nutmeg.
OR … hit the supermarket for assorted olives and nuts. Or cut up raw vegetables and serve with hummus.
Go the unstuffed route. You'll cut stuffing prep time plus 30 to 45 minutes of roasting time.
OR … fill the cavity with quarters of onions, oranges and apples, plus fresh herbs (parsley, sage, thyme). Stubborn about stuffing? Bake it in a dish while the roasted turkey rests before carving.
Do you really need jellied cranberries and cranberry salad?
OR … three days ahead, rinse a 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries, put in a saucepan with 1 cup each water and sugar; simmer until they pop. Put in a glass or plastic container, cover, chill.