Hosting a successful Thanksgiving dinner is all about the preparation.
Doing as much in advance as possible and enlisting the help of friends is key.
One of my rules of thumb is to write out my menu and decide what I am cooking and what I am buying prepared. If I am cooking most dinner items I prefer to buy dessert like pies from Briemere Farms in Aquebogue or pumpkin ice cream from Magic Fountain in Mattituck. For smaller bites to accompany after dinner coffee or tea, I like biscotti from Aldo's Cafe and bite-size desserts from Mali B's in Greenport. Most towns and cities have somewhere to buy locally made desserts or if you have time to make them, do your baking in the early mornings.
Stuffing and gravy
String beans with mushrooms
Cranberry candied heirloom carrots
Because Thanksgiving dinner is so extensive, I keep hors d'oeuvres very simple. A nut tray, one or two cheeses; one soft and one hard. Love Lane Cheese Shop if you are on the North Fork or Murray's Cheese Shop or Artisanal if you are in New York City. Serve with nice olives, crackers and hummus or your favorite Salumi. Try to arrange this spread near a self serve bar so that you may enjoy the company of your guests. A lighter-bodied red like a Pinot Noir and a white wine with some floral qualities like the First Crush White from Bedell Cellars. I have tried many great dry Roses on the North Fork from Pindar's sparkling Pinot Meurnier to the the Nautique line of Peconic Bay, Blanc de Noir sparkling. To see what winemakers are drinking, check out the New York Cork Report and get some tips from Lenn Thompson. Purchase some mixers (club soda, tonic water, cranberry juice, etc) to accompany your spirits of choice and some local beer from Greenport Harbor Brewing Company and the Pumpkin Ale from Blue Point.
Whether you cook a whole turkey or make a stuffed turkey breast en Croute, it is important to have marinated it the night before and to make your favorite gravy recipe and your stuffing at least a day in advance. If you are only using the breast, you may want to pick up some turkey giblets or wings to make the gravy. Mashed potatoes, cauliflower or turnips can be done the same day as well as roasted carrots and yams.
Tuesday, November 20th
Make gravy and store in refrigerator in containers. It will keep till Thursday.
Also make your cranberry sauce
Wednesday, November 21st
Make stuffing in separate pan and refrigerate.
You can use this stuffing to fill your roasted bird or roulade the following day.
Season or Marinate your bird or parts before you go to bed.
Thursday, Happy Thanksgiving!
10:00 am: Prep- wash and cut all veggies, set dinner and buffet tables with cutlery, glasses, napkins and plates.
12:00 noon: Assemble bar and snack trays. Do not choose a table that is against the wall or guests won't be able to access the drinks and bites from all angles. Make sure you have plenty of ice and tongs. Leave space to place desserts that your guests will bring along with serving utensils.
12:30pm: Blanch carrots, sauté mushrooms and shallots and set aside.
1:30pm: Make mashed potatoes or veg of choice (gravy conductor)
2:00pm: Whip cream for your desserts and cover with plastic and place in refrigerator.
2:30pm: Depending on the size of your bird or parts, assemble with roasting yams and place in oven allowing 15 minutes per pound.
While turkey is in the oven, place a stick of butter out on plate so that it's room temperature at dinnertime. Place bread in baskets and cover with a tea towel to keep fresh.
3:30pm: Take a shower and get ready!
6:00pm: Welcome guests and enjoy your cocktail hour but keep your eye on the clock.
6:20pm: Remove turkey from the oven. Lift turkey out of pan and place directly on cutting board (same cutting board will later go directly to table), tent it on the board with foil and allow to rest for 20 minutes. Leave yams in pan covered with foil so that you don't have to reheat them.
6:40pm: Slice turkey on board, heat and toss string beans and place in platter. Remove yams from pan and place in bowl. Heat gravy and place several on the table. Place cranberry sauce on table and call dinner guests to the table.