After I started going to Culinary School, Thanksgiving was pretty much handed down to me. It was my sole responsibility to hammer it all down. Being Mexican, we have a ton of folks come through. It’s more of a party than a dinner. We do it up. So you can imagine how terrified I was to have to cook a Thanksgiving feast for over 50 people each year. Initially I had zero clue as to how to put it all together. The first year I was dumb enough to try and start cooking in the morning and hope to have it all done by the evening. Needless to say we ate dinner really, really, really late that year. After each Thanksgiving, I’d reflect on what I could have done differently and thats when it was all clear, I had to PLAN, PLAN, PLAN. There’s no two ways around it (Unless you buy out… to each their own). That’s when it got easier and that’s when I realized I could start a couple weeks ahead to make it that much easier. I created an monthly outline (that I follow as well) to make my Thanksgiving Day less stressful. I spend a lot less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying family and friends, which is why I want to hand this down to you.
The Calendar is broken down day to day for the next three weeks leading into Thanksgiving. The first week your assignments will be super simple and as the weeks go on there’s more hands on labor involved. Don’t be afraid, remember this will only make the day of a whole lot easier so take a couple minutes each day to get these items out of your hair. Feel free to makes notes on the margins and keep this calendar on your fridge or a visible area for quick reference while in the kitchen.
Monday, November 6- Clean out your freezer
This is a good time to start cooking whatever frozen stuff you’ve been hoarding the past couple weeks. Go ahead and get rid of those freezer burned burritos and make room for that turkey and some prep you’ll be working on along the way.
Tuesday, November 7- Plan the menu
Three weeks should be enough time to get an epic menu all worked out. Whatever recipes you plan, make sure you look up methods to kind of have an idea of what you’re getting yourself into.
Wednesday, November 8- Check your equipment
Look at those recipes and make sure you have all the proper equipment necessary to complete it. If you’re hellbent on making a particular item, now is the time to plan ahead and get the equipment to you asap. Think roasting pan, baking dishes and a calibrated thermometer.
Thursday, November 9- Make your grocery list
Organize your list in sections (like produce, proteins, frozen and so on) and according to your grocery stores lay out. Don’t forget to add resealable plastic bags and plastic containers for leftovers.
Friday, November 10- First round of shopping
Today, buy non perishable items like sugar, flour, canned or frozen items. If you have room, go ahead and pick up your turkey. Be sure to stop by the butcher counter and ask for turkey wings, necks and backs for stock.
Saturday, November 11- Make turkey stock and gravy
The foundation of every good Thanksgiving is a flavorful stock! I like this recipe. Remember those turkey pieces I asked you for? Well, today is stock and gravy day. No one wants to be whisking gravy the day of right? Get that baby out of your hair today! Make sure to save enough stock for soups and stuffing!
Quick tip- pour cooled stock and gravy into plastic resealable bags and freeze flat to buy you some space.
Sunday, November 12- Make pie crust + freeze/ plan table decor
Make the dough and roll it out into disks. Make sure to wrap tightly to avoid freezer burn or permeated odors from your freezer.
Pick out linen and tablescapes. Go on Pinterest and save some ideas. I have some here.
Monday, November 13- Shop for beer and wine
I like to have a variety so doing this in advance helps just in case I have to go to multiple places to source.
Wednesday, November 15- Clean out fridge
You’re going to need space in the fridge so make sure to start going through your leftovers and almost empty bottles.
Saturday, November 18- Make copies of your recipes/ plan cooking timeline
Gather all your recipes. If they’re from books or magazines, make sure you take the time to copy them and STUDY. Have some sort of idea what the recipe is going to entail before you commit to it. Hang them on your fridge or tape them to your cabinets to access them easier.
Start planning what your going to cook ahead of time and what your timeline will be for the day of (whats going into the oven when and so on).
Sunday, November 19- Pick up your turkey and perishable items
This should be your last shopping trip (at least try for it to be). Remember to try and organize your shopping list by food types and in the route your planning on taking at the grocery store. It’s going to be a mad house so work smart. Also, try and think of items you’ll want for the day after like stuff for sandwiches and such. Remember to calculate two pounds of turkey per adult and one pound for children to ensure you have plenty for leftovers or el recalentado.
Monday, November 20- Defrost your turkey/ Make the brine/ Set out your cookware
Place your turkey in the fridge, it’s going to take a day or two to completely thaw and you want to do it safely so get that sucker out. If you brine your turkey, go ahead and make the brine now. I like this recipe.
Set out your oven safe dishes and decide what foods are going where. Label it with a sticky note. There’s nothing worse than winging it last minute.
Tuesday, November 21- Prep + Chill/ Pick up decor/ Chill the drinks/ Start sides + dessert
Start chopping. Most of the knife work should be done today to make the next couple days easier. Cut lettuce, make salad dressing, make rolls and freeze, cut veg for stuffing and so on.
Pick up flowers for decoration if your tablescape has them, gourds and so on. Have everything for the table decor ready.
Chill your drinks.
Start prepping out your sides, cook pasta, shred cheeses, make béchamel etc. Start desserts.
Wednesday, November 22- Finish prep/ Brine turkey/ Clean house
Finish up whatever prep you have left. Assemble your mac and cheese, make soup, assemble your stuffing and so on. Truss or spatchcock and brine that turkey.
Gather the family and start cleaning leaving the kitchen for last.
Thursday, November, 23- Set the table/ Enjoy a drink!!
You did it! Throw that turkey in the oven, set the table and start heating sides as oven space becomes available. Pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy the rest of the day. At this point you can get family to help making sure things are done and so on.
I prepared a calendar you can print and post on your fridge. Feel free to mark off the tasks once they’re completed to ensure you’re keeping up. If you feel you have it in you to do more than the tasks listed on any day go right ahead. This is simply an outline to help make the day of Thanksgiving less stressful. Let me know what you guys think.