Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Two Week Countdown to Your Best Thanksgiving Yet

A couple of years ago, I waded into uncharted waters and prepared my very first Thanksgiving feast.  It was for a client (and good friend) who was hosting Thanksgiving dinner for a party of 12.  Hence, the word 'feast'.  While I had contributed dishes to the family meal, and even hosted Thanksgiving dinner before, I had never prepared the entire meal!  But my love for food and sharing made this the perfect job for me, and one I'll never forget.  I planned a menu intended to delight and wow in the same bite.  From there, the heavy lifting of shopping and prepping and cooking and baking, and related tasks began.

It was a labor of love that required thoughtful planning, timing, and not too few tried and true tips and advice to get me to destination complete: having the entire meal ready to serve for my client and his guests at the designated meal time.  And so, for this Thanksgiving season, I want to pass along some of the tips and advice that helped to make that movable feast an ultimate success.  

From start to finish, here's my fast and easy guide:

Step 1:  Secure the headcount
You'll want to aim at confirming the headcount as soon as possible so that you can appropriately plan your menu--including number of servings needed, quantity of ingredients and other essentials.

Step 2:  Plan the menu
With the headcount secured, you can begin to plan your menu--including the number of courses to be served, dishes you (and/or guests) will prepare vs. buy, etc.

Step 3:  Take Inventory
Before you make your shopping lists, take stock of what you already have on hand--including ingredients, tools, special equipment, dinnerware, glassware, linens, etc.  From there you'll have a good take on what you need to buy altogether, supplement, or even possibly borrow.

Step 4: Make Your Shopping List and Get Going
For items that are perishable or don't freeze well, you'll want to hold off until closer to your preparation date, but for everything else, plan to complete as much of your shopping in advance as possible.  This will save you the sure-to-come stress of being at the crowded market with everybody else on Thanksgiving eve.

Step 5: Do-Ahead!
Scour your menu for those dishes that can be made in advance (whether a week, a day or even several hours) and prepare them in advance.  For instance, most soups, and even pastry dough, can be made ahead and frozen until you're ready to thaw and use.  Blanching and storing veggies overnight for sauteing the next day is another example.  This, by far, is the greatest stress buster and time saver for me in planning any event.

Step 6: Final Check-Up
Revisit steps 1-5 a couple of days before the big day to account for any last minute changes or needs that might arise.  From there, you should be well on your way to enjoying a stress-free, un-hurried, and truly delightful meal and gathering that's nothing less than your best Thanksgiving yet.

Happy Eating!

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