Wednesday, November 14, 2012

T-DAY Making Plans for Thanksgiving

Yes I said T-DAY.  I say this because for many people preparing for thanksgiving can be a battle ground.  I am going to give you some tips how to PLAN ahead to win the war. 

First of all let me say I love Thanksgiving because most people like to show off their cooking skills and make REAL food. For those of us that eat REAL this is truly something to be grateful for.  I also love that a whole day is set aside to say thanks.  Remember to be thankful for family, friends, good food and good times and that’s just the beginning. 

Menu Planning:

·       Write a menu and guest list.  Email the menu including drinks and mixers to your guest list with a response deadline. Let them if they would like to bring anything on the menu put their name next to it.  If they would like to bring something else add it to the list and put their name next to that. Then have them click reply all.  Wait until your response date and see what you will need to make or provide to complete the menu.
·       People who do not like to cook often times will bring beverages.  Usually the last thing you need is store bought dips and snacks so this is a good item to have on your menu for someone to select.

Planning Ahead:

·        Write a grocery list and a prep list for all items you will need to make or buy.
·        Thaw the turkey under refrigeration for up to 5 days in advance on in a pan with sides on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator so no raw juices can drip into any other foods.
·       Go shopping early in the morning or late at night up to 5 days in advance.  Less people will be shopping at these times.  Believe me it is worth it!

Make ahead anything that can be made in advance:

·         Mashed potatoes and stuffing can be reheated in a crock pot or oven.  Make up to 3 days in advance.
·         Twice baked potatoes-make up to 3 days in advance.
·         Pies-make up to 2 days in advance.
·         Make Roux for gravy up to a month in advance.

Setting up:

·       Find and clean all linen dishes, serving platters, silverware and serving spoons and place in one spot in your home until needed.
·       Set the table 2 days in advance.
·       Put sticky notes on platters and cookware that state what item will be presented or made in them.
·        Line up your buffet table allowing one linear foot per item served.
·        Have “to go” containers available and give leftovers away or set up TV dinners for your family to eat all week or freeze immediately following the event.  More hands make less work.  You will be alone tomorrow do it ASAP.  People want to help so let them!  Make one example and have them takeover.


·       Give yourself a  KISS-Keep It Simple Silly; a turkey is just a big chicken.  Don’t panic you can do this!
·       Smaller turkeys taste better and yield more meat so if needed make 2 or make 1 turkey and 1 breast.  Even better make one the day before as a back up.   It can always be used as lunch meat.
·       Your turkey should weigh in pounds the number of guests attending.  For example a 12 pound turkey serves 12 people with leftovers after it has been cooked and carved.
·        Save your bones to make soup stock later.  I do this even if I go somewhere else. I simply ask “are you going to use those bones?”  If they say “no” I bag them up put them in a cooler in the car or just the car depending on the weather here in Michigan.  I freeze them to make stock at a later time. See this post.
·       To make gluten free stuffing replace bread with cooked rice or quinoa.  

Turkey Cooking Tips:

·       Let the turkey be at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking.  When cold meat is placed in a hot oven it contracts and can become tough.
·       Remove innards.  Rinse the turkey and pat it dry. Season inside and out with salt and pepper.
·       Lift skin on breast meat (still keeping it attached) and smear softened butter underneath or place strips of bacon over the breast skin and meat.
·       Add chopped carrots, onions, celery and apples to the cavity of the bird before roasting.
·       Roast the turkey on a bed of chopped carrots, celery, onions and apple. This will add flavor from the bottom up.
·       Allow 12-15 minutes roasting time per pound of bone in turkey.  Convection ovens cook faster.
·       Start the turkey in a 400 degree oven to “sear “in the juices.  After 30 minutes reduce the heat to 325 or 350 degrees and roast until juices run clear and a probe or instant read thermometer inserted between the leg and the thigh at the thickest part reads 160-165 degrees.
·       If the turkey browns to quickly tent with foil.
·       To keep your meat moist let the turkey rest 20-30 minutes before carving.

Making Gravy Old School with a Roux:
Roux-a roux is equal parts fat to flour.  Roux keeps for several months in the refrigerator.

½ cup butter, ghee, oil, bacon fat or lard (butter is my favorite!)
½ cup flour or brown rice flour
·         Melt butter in pan over medium heat and whisk in flour until mixture begins to thicken and bubble.  Cook 1-2 minutes to remove the “flour” taste.
·        Use immediately to thicken soups, stews and gravies. 
·        Use 1 tablespoon of roux to 1 cup of liquid.
·         Add desired amount of roux to hot liquid and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until thick about 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat.
·         Store unused roux in a jar in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.  Can be used hot or cold when adding to a hot liquid. Remember to bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for a few minutes stirring continuously.
Strained drippings turkey plus enough chicken or turkey stock or broth to measure 2 cups
2-4 tablespoons of roux; depending on how thick you like your gravy

·       Heat drippings and stock to a simmer; stir in roux and bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cook and stir 2-3 minutes.  If too thick add stock.  If too thin add a little roux and cook another minute or two.

Yield 2 cups

Pictures from The Holiday Class I did Chef Kelli from Pure food at Schoolcraft College.  Watch for us on Fox 2 Detroit's morning show this Saturday November 17th.

Rustic Pear Tart


Mustard Crusted Salmon



"Barber Style Pork"

Pork loin wrapped in bacon to look like a barber pole


Pumpkin Polenta


Goat Cheese and Fig Flatbread


Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Oatmeal Struesel

A great REAL substitution for marshmallows; certainly go with tradition if that works for you!  Thanksgiving comes once a year!

Fingerling Potatoes Wrapped in Bacon





Orange Scented Brussels Sprouts

Last but not least remember to be grateful!  Check out how my sister Kim's family remembers. Click here.
Take it One Prep at a Time,
Chef Jackie



  1. Thank-you Chef Jackie for your helpful tips! Thanksgiving should run smoother for our family with your directions. I appreciate the little techniques I pick up from you that are not mentioned elsewhere. Things like cold bird in hot oven = tough meat: no one tells you these things.

    1. I am happy to help. Sometimes as chefs we forget all of the things we do automatically without thinking. I just taught a Holiday class last week so it reminded me of all of the extra tips we do to make the perfest turkey! Taking your meat out befor cooking applies to all meats except ground meat. This will make a big difference when you grill.
      Chef Jackie