Plan

to do Maybe you like to entertain in a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants sort of fashion. Good for you. That’s not my style.

I’m much more of an OCD, overplanned, to-do listed party girl. There are lots of lists, and sometimes there are charts and graphs. It works for me. Wanna see?

We had a blast this Thanksgiving, and hosting a group of 20 was of course a lot of work, but much more relaxed than it would’ve been, had I not had a plan.

The plan:

Thankgiving 2013: SxMW

Snacks

Mixed nuts/ crudités/ dried fruit/ honeycomb

Cheese plate: pimiento cheese/ goat cheese fondue/ blue cheese balls

Pomegranate Martinis

Cranberry-Orange Jello Shots 

Green Bean Salad

Green beans/ spiced roasted pecans/ maple shallot orange dressing

Turkey Two Ways: Smoked & Roasted with Bourbon Gravy

Maple bourbon brine with orange and spices/ bourbon turkey gravy

Mini Maple Cornbread Sausage Dressings in Ramekins

Maple cornbread/ Italian sausage/ apples/ onions/ celeriac/ calvados

Fall Slaw

Julienned red apple/ bacon/ Vidalia onion/ shredded collards/ creamy garlic-Parmesan dressing/ thyme

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes

Riced Yukon golds/ buttermilk/ butter

Individual Sweet Potato Tarts

Riced sweet potatoes/ marshmallow fluff/ pecan tartlet shells

Pumpkin Bars

Pumpkin sheet cake/ salted caramel/ mascarpone whipped cream

Here’s how it went down.

in the brine 2 days ahead, I brined the turkeys. (That’s assuming they’re fresh. Brining is a perfect opportunity to thaw a frozen turkey, but it takes several days.) I used kosher salt, maple syrup, brown sugar, bourbon, whole nutmeg, cinnamon sticks, star anise and dried peppers.

smoked turkey 1 day ahead, I smoked the larger bird using sugar maple wood chunks. I halved it first and removed the backbone and wings, saving them for stock.

smoked turkey light and dark Allowed the smoked bird to cool enough to handle, then pulled the meat and transferred it to a casserole dish, for easier reheating on the big day.

browning bones for stock I took turkey #2 out of the brine and allowed it to air-dry on a baking rack, uncovered, in the fridge for a day. Then I took its neck and giblets and added them to a pan with the wings, neck, backbone and giblets from turkey #1. I browned them, then made a quick stock for my gravy.

turkey stock It doesn’t look super-appetizing here, but all that fresh flavorful liquid makes one heck of a gravy once it’s strained.

gravy See? Yum.

potatoes taking a dipI boiled and riced the potatoes and sweet potatoes, mixed them with their respective additions (butter and buttermilk for the potatoes; marshmallow fluff, brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice for the sweet potatoes).

mashed potatoes The mashed potatoes went into the casserole they’d be reheated in. The sweet potatoes were stored in a microwaveable container.

dressing Then I made the dressing up to the point of baking and refrigerated it.

cran orange jello shots Cranberry-orange jello shots were also a great make-ahead.

collard slaw Shredded raw collards and julienned red apples got tossed in a creamy garlic Parmesan dressing, then topped with bacon.

tablescape Finally, day-of, the table got ‘scaped …

kidstablescape the little table, as well …

roasted the turkey, roasted …

beans the beans, blanched and tossed in maple-orange-shallot vinaigrette …

buffet the “cheese plate,” assembled …

marshmallow sweet potatoes in pecan tart shells and the pecan tartlets, filled with sweet potato-marshmallow deliciousness.

sneaking a peek I let the short set check out the spread first.

cheers And we kept them happy (don’t worry, it’s sparkling cran-apple).

mandy and brett But most importantly, I enlisted others! You should especially do this if your in-laws from Colorado are experts at making delicious shrubs (infusions for mixed drinks).

make dough Or your mom is in town and she’s good at pretty much everything.

pumpkin bars salted caramel mascarpone whipped cream Or your mother-in-law makes delicious pumpkin bars, so all you have to make is the salted caramel with mascarpone whipped cream.

So most of the work for our shindig happened on the day before, or two days before Thanksgiving. Planning is not overrated. Plan more — you’ll enjoy the party more.

2 thoughts on “Plan

  1. Love it. Also love that Cookie wore her Viking apron…
    I am a packing anal retentive. You know me well enough that I usually go with the flow, but when it comes to packing, I plan WAY ahead!

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