I know, I know….its an old saying that preparation is the key to success, but when cooking Thanksgiving dinner, its really true! I try to do as much as I can in advance, without compromising taste and texture, so the big Turkey day will be smooth sailing! Or at least, as smooth as it can be as far as the food is concerned.
In terms of prep (day before)-
- I always cut up the veggies (potatoes being the exception).
- Make desserts the day or night before.
- Make flavored butter to go under the turkey skin. I simply take one stick 1/2 cup of butter, soften but not melt, and mix in sage, garlic, and parsley, about teaspoon of each. Refrigerate over night, and allow to re-soften on the counter before stuffing under the skin of the turkey.
- If you are making homemade cranberry sauce, prepare it the day before.
- I also remove the wrapping from the turkey the night before, and leave uncovered in the fridge overnight. This helps the turkey skin dry out and gives more of a crispy skin while roasting. This year, I saw a video of a dry brine on a uncovered turkey overnight, which was literally just sprinkling the skin with salt, so I am leaning towards trying that this year.
- Allow the turkey to warm up a bit (and the butter that goes under the skin), so I take it out of the fridge and allow to rest on the counter top for at least 30 minutes before I start working on it. While its warming up, I start slicing up veggies that will go inside the turkey (celery, carrot, and onion) and peeling potatoes.
- Once the turkey is warm-ish, I stuff the butter under the skin, place the veggies in the cavity, and tie the legs together. Then spread the garlic mayo over the breast and salt/pepper the wings and legs. Place turkey in the oven.
- Prep the corn. If you are using the slow cooker recipe, throw all the ingredients in the crock pot and turn on. That’s it!
- Then I get serious about the potatoes. Dice the white potatoes and place in water, and move to the stove. You don’t need to cook them now, but they are ready and out of the way. Same with the sweet potatoes; peel, dice, and place in a bowl of water to keep them from oxidizing.
- Prep the stuffing. Cook the veggies, and combine with the bread cubes, broth, eggs, and seasoning. Place in a casserole dish, cover, and set aside.
- Sit down and relax. Its all going to work out.
- When there is an hour left on the turkey, remove the foil covering it, and place back in oven. Depending on your stuffing recipe, it may have to go into the oven now.
- Sit back down.
- When there is about 30 minutes left of the turkey being in the oven, start boiling the white potatoes on the stove and drain the sweet potatoes before placing them in a casserole dish and giving them a liberal sprinkle of brown sugar before you roast them in the oven. If you didn’t place the stuffing in the oven at the one hour mark (step #7) depending on recipe, do so now.
- Place the cranberry sauce in a serving bowl, and add to the table.
- When the turkey is at 160 degrees, remove from oven and allow to rest. The turkey temp will continue to rise to 165 degrees as it rests.
- When the potatoes are cooked, drain and mash in mixer with butter and milk (or cream). I have also been known to throw some cream cheese in there as well. If its going to be a bit, I place the potatoes back into the pot that they were boiled in, cover, and keep warm.
- Start to make the gravy.
- Remove sweet potatoes from oven, sprinkle on marshmallows, and place back in oven for a few minutes for them to melt.
- After 30 minutes have elapsed, carve the turkey. Or easier yet, have someone else carve the turkey.
- Remove the stuffing and sweet potatoes from the oven, and place directly on table. Scoop the mashed potatoes into a serving bowl and place the gravy in a gravy boat.
- Spoon corn from crockpot and place in serving bowl.
- Put the turkey on the table and EAT!