Two quick notes. One, none of the links here are affiliates, they’re just links, I’m not fancy. Two, I want to acknowledge that Thanksgiving is a problematic holiday that does not celebrate good things in American history. For me personally, the day is a celebration of family and friends and delicious food, and it has been dear to me since I was a child for those reasons.
Preamble (this can be the part you skim)
What a year it’s been, huh? I’m going to skip over that. We’ve all experienced 2020. We all know why we’re here, entering a fucked-up holiday season that we’re all making up as we go.
I really hope you are not doing your standard Thanksgiving this year. There’s nothing more dangerous right now than gathering multiple generations and families from potentially multiple states and sitting them all around a dinner table to breathe at each other.
I am not doing my standard Thanksgiving, and I am very sad about it. Thanksgiving means a lot to me; some of my happiest childhood memories are Thanksgiving at my Italian Grandma’s house. Grandma made almost everything herself, giving a few key tasks to other family members. Aunt Olga made the gravy directly in the roasting pan as the turkey rested, a feat I have never accomplished. The first Thanksgiving I hosted myself was during my senior year of college, in England, and is a story unto itself involving 13 people, a dormitory kitchen, and affable British friends who didn’t really understand what I was doing but were happy to eat. (Also the British, surprisingly, do not really care about American Thanksgiving and don’t make a point to have the proper things in stock.)
When I became a proper “grownup,” with my grandmother gone, I took over my favorite holiday entirely. I have hosted Thanksgiving in Boston for 10 years; starting as “the Thanksgiving of Misfit Toys,” friends and family who couldn’t get home for whatever reason, it’s now its own thing and includes family and friends-who-are-family. Anywhere between 6-10 people join us each year, which has been an interesting challenge in some of my apartments.
This year, it’ll just be my brother and his wife joining us from literally up the street (so no travel involved), and we are going to sit at opposite corners of the roof deck huddled under blankets. A different kind of Thanksgiving. A 2020 Thanksgiving.
And since we’re all having a different kind of Thanksgiving this year, I thought it might be helpful to those who have not been hosting Thanksgiving for 10+ years if I shared some tips. I like to think I throw a pretty successful Thanksgiving, and this aggressively long post will go into ALL of the things I do to encourage that success.
Let’s get maybe your big question out of the way first. What if you can’t cook? Trick question! Anyone can be a good home cook if they follow a recipe. Recipes are great! Someone else has done the hard part, aka fucking up a casserole 100 times so they can tell you exactly how long to blanch the green beans. As long as you can follow instructions, you can cook! Also, fuck it, buy packaged stuffing. I don’t care. Just make it part of the plan.
Which brings us to the actual tips for pulling off your first Thanksgiving. Whether it’s you and a bunch of roommates, you and your spouse doing it on your own for the first time, or you by yourself finally able to make a sweet potato pie that you don’t hate, I hope this Thanksgiving primer helps!
Stop skimming now if you’ve been skimming.
Step 1: Plan the meal
This is the longest section. Please do not panic. Part of it is optional.
There is one primary reason that I successfully execute Thanksgiving every year: I plan it like a general planning a multi-day assault. Here’s how you do it.
Sit down with a pen and paper. (Or I guess open a Google doc, I don’t know what you kids do.) Do this now, today. You really need to plan this meal in advance so you can get a grasp for what you’re doing. I usually start the first week of November, but I’m extra. Given the difficulties shopping right now, the earlier you know what you’re doing, the better.
Here are the questions you start scribbling answers to:
- How many people are eating?
- Does anyone have allergies or other restrictions? Vegetarians? Vegans? (Sidebar: Vegans are really not as scary as many people make them out to be. I know many vegans. Some of them came to Thanksgiving a few years ago. They brought a few of their own sides, they ate part of my vegetarian partner’s Tofurky, and I put vegan butter in the mashed potatoes. Sometimes, when you like and care about someone, you can make small compromises to make them happy. It doesn’t hurt, I promise!)
- What do you like to eat? No, really. Just because Thanksgiving has “rules” doesn’t mean you have to follow them. If you really only like mashed potatoes, gravy, and pumpkin pie, I’m not going to stop you from just making mashed potatoes, gravy, and pumpkin pie. Live your life.
- Who is cooking? The whole point here is to avoid multiple households getting together, but if you do have non-household members safely attending, what can they bring? Outsource, baby. Are your roommates helping? Maybe fetch them in to help with the planning process. My only caveat here is if there’s a particular dish that you feel very strongly about or emotionally attached to, don’t outsource that one. You’ll be sad.
- What’s your budget? And what’s important to you? For example, the bulk of my Thanksgiving budget goes towards an expensive turkey from the local butcher shop, because I am a “mostly” vegetarian who only eats meat that is raised ethically. (Specifically, I buy my turkey from Savenor’s Butcher in Cambridge, MA. This is also where Julia Child shopped. This is the only thing I have in common with Julia Child.) Literally everything that isn’t the turkey I buy the cheapest version of, from whipping cream to bulk mushrooms to generic-brand dry goods. The more dishes you make, the farther afield from your normal ingredients you go, the more meat you serve, the more expensive the meal will be. The more things you make from scratch, the cheaper the meal will be but the more time equity you’ll have to put in. If you’re used to working with a small-ish food budget, you probably already know the things that are sneaky-expensive: nuts, some dairy, out-of-season vegetables. (There’s a reason sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie are staples here.) And pay attention to spices; recipes that involve only spices you’ve never used before means you could end up spending $50+ on new spices before you even get to the main stuff.
Cool. Now list out literally every dish you want to make, noting the recipe you will use. If you don’t have a recipe immediately to hand, now is the time you start to trawl cookbooks, the internet, and your group chat with your aunts. If you aren’t going home for Thanksgiving, I assure you that your relatives will be happy to send you recipes. (Unless you’re one of those families with ~secret~ recipes that can only be made by one specific person, in which case Godspeed.)
Overall, as you’re planning, think about balance over the entire meal. For example, I include a chocolate dessert to provide a different flavor profile from the pumpkin pie. (For a guest list this small, honestly two desserts are overkill but I’m doing it anyway.) I usually add what I call a “bright green” side dish to balance out the really heavy, cream-based vegetable dishes. Most importantly, think about what you want to eat.
Keep your menu aligned to your skillset and what you’ll have the time and capacity to execute. Think about recipes that you can prep in advance vs. will need to make day-of. Planning the execution of the menu is Step 2 below, but still keep execution in mind as you pick out recipes. Skip recipes that confuse you. Skip things that will stress you out. Or, use this experience to tackle something crazy and new! Just make sure you’re doing it on purpose.
(One other note, in this beautiful year 2020: A lot of restaurants are hurting and are having Thanksgiving specials. Maybe you want to build half or more of your menu out of pre-made things that will also support a small business!)
I want the key takeaway here to be this: Put together the meal that works for you, whatever that looks like. Whether you cook everything from scratch, buy pre-packaged items, or get most of it from a restaurant and focus on making desserts. But whatever your meal looks like, make it into a list.
As a sample, below is what my Thanksgiving menu looks like (with some notes about how 2020 is different).
Feel free to scroll down to step 2 if you are confident in your own menu-making, this is for example purposes and to share some tried-and-true recipes and tips.
Sample: My Menu and Recipes
This year I have one strict vegetarian, two “mostly” vegetarians who will be eating turkey, and one omnivore. In normal years I also have a list of allergies to accommodate. (In other news about how extra I am, my friends’ allergies are taped inside my kitchen cupboard.) Keep in mind that I have been cooking my entire life and have been hosting Thanksgiving for 10+ years and make literally everything from scratch because I really enjoy doing it. Please don’t get overwhelmed if your reaction to this list is “I could never do this!!” This isn’t about you cooking my menu, this is about the thinking behind my menu, and I’m sharing it in the hope that it’s useful!
Also, this is definitely too much food for four people. We live for leftovers.
Here’s what I do:
- Turkey – The general rule is that you want 1 pound of turkey per person, 1.5 if you’re excited about leftovers. This weight accounts for bones and stuff. Usually I buy a whole turkey, smallish, and roast it. This year, with only three of us eating turkey and all of us preferring dark meat, I’m just doing legs and thighs. If you’re cooking for a small number, I definitely recommend doing turkey pieces, or maybe even a chicken. Also, immediately breaking my own rule, I don’t know how I’m cooking them yet because I haven’t done pieces before. If you’re doing a whole turkey, here’s the dirty little secret: the reason turkeys tend to be dry is that the white meat and the dark meat take different amounts of time to cook. Every recipe, from spatchcocking to flipping it partway to deep-frying, is trying to mitigate this one issue. Honestly I think it’s mostly luck. I do a dry brine starting Tuesday night and then use the “just put it in the oven and baste every now and then” method.
- Tofurky – My partner is a vegetarian, so every year I make a Tofurky. Best news ever for a multitasking cook: Tofurkys can be thrown in a crock pot and mostly ignored. Here’s my complicated recipe: put a layer of chopped potatoes and onions in the bottom, set the tofurky on top, and mix together 1/2 cup each orange juice and soy sauce and pour it on top. Put that baby on low and cook 4-5 hours, basting every 45 minutes. (Pro-tip if you’re doing a turkey AND a Tofurky: invest in two turkey basters so you can baste them both easily with no washing in between.)
- Cornbread Dressing – Family recipe. I can share if there’s interest. I prep all the different components in advance and then assemble right before baking.
- Green Bean Casserole – This recipe is a bit involved and involves frying your own onions, but you could also just make the green bean part and top with those French’s onions everyone loves. You can do everything except the onions the day before. I use veg broth.
- Spinach Gratin – This is hands-down the most popular thing I make every year. I double it, and sometimes triple it, and there are never leftovers. I used to diligently make it with fresh spinach (which is a bitch to clean) but in my old age I’ve started making it with frozen spinach and nobody knows the difference. I use a half/half combo of cream and veg broth.
- Sweet Potatoes – No marshmallows here. I actually didn’t know I liked sweet potatoes until a friend brought some roasted ones for Thanksgiving one year. That’s when I realized I like sweet potatoes when they’re savory. Make the kind of sweet potatoes you like, or none at all. This particular recipe can be made entirely the day before.
- Cranberry Sauce – I don’t really like cranberry sauce, so my friend usually brings it. When I make it I just use the recipe on the back of the bag of cranberries. Find a recipe with some flavors you like (orange? nutmeg? booze?) and get on with your bad self. Can easily be made in advance, and should be so it has time to chill.
- Mashed Potatoes – Also usually brought by a friend. Mashed potatoes are great to make in advance and heat up at the right time. I recommend doing that – they always take longer to cook than you think and you don’t want to hold up the entire meal because (hypothetically) you forgot to put the water on to boil early enough. (Hypothetically.)
- Gravy – We have two: the vegan one that comes with the Tofurky, and the one that I buy from the fancy butcher with my turkey. I am a good cook. I can’t make a fucking gravy to save my life. Maybe it’s part of my lineage and that’s why Aunt Olga made it instead of Grandma. I don’t know. It’s also stressful because if you do it correctly from turkey drippings (or are attempting to) then you’re doing it last-minute. So I buy it. Feel free to use packets.
- Bread – My sister-in-law usually brings homemade bread, and I’m hoping she will again. Bread is a great thing to outsource or buy, because it’s kind of time intensive with specific timing needs that can throw off the rest of your prep. Also I killed yeast once in like 2012 and I still haven’t recovered.
- Pumpkin Pie – Family recipe. I can share if there’s interest. To me this is one of the requirements of Thanksgiving. For you it may be pecan. Or maybe you hate pie. (Update 11/11/20: a friend just shared this great idea for making mini pies! I might try this.)
- Chocolate Peanut Butter Tart – This requires a food processor, but if you have one it’s DELISH and also can be made entirely the day before.
I usually make a third dessert just so there are options (and because, as previously noted, I’m extra). I also have 2-3 more sides with a larger crowd. The recipes above are all required in my heart, and I rotate trying other things to round out the table. In the past these options have included:
- This Ottolenghi cauliflower cake – I make this frequently, it’s great. I made it once with the sesame seeds around the sides and it is super not necessary, definitely feel free to cut that step.
- A mustard and kale salad from Ottolenghi’s Simple
- A zucchini and almond salad from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
- A broccoli slaw from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
- Dijon brussels sprouts – I like this and have made it for other meals as well, but I don’t know that I’d make again for Thanksgiving. It’s got a “this needs to be done last-minute” aspect that I usually try to avoid.
I also always do a round of apps, but am probably going to skip them this year with the smaller guest list. What I serve for apps changes more than the rest of the menu, but I always make these roasted nuts and have some sort of cheese and cracker situation. My big tip for apps – keep it simple. In normal years, you want the apps to be something that can sit around for a while and then just be grabbed out of the fridge and served whenever people start to arrive. Deviled eggs are also good.
“Wow Grace, sure are a lot of Smitten Kitchen recipes on this list!” Yup. Deb’s great, the recipes are clear and delicious, and they aren’t really as complicated as they look. She also usually includes tips about how to make things in advance, which is key when we get to Step 2.
So that’s what the menu looks like. Got all your recipes together? Good. Time to move on.
Step 2: Plan the execution of the meal
I will preface this step by saying if, in this step, you realize you can’t execute everything you decided to make during Step 1, that’s fine – just redo your menu. This is why we do things in advance.
OK, take out your pen and paper again. This part is more like a puzzle. Now it’s time to figure out when you need to do everything. We start at the end and go backwards.
What time are you eating on Thursday? Write that down. The timing of Thanksgiving dinner is a contentious issue across the United States. I usually do 4pm, since we’re outside this year we’ll do a little earlier, maybe 3pm. I’m not going to get involved in your choice, just pick a time. I like mid-afternoon because it’s the only meal of the day. (Note that if you do have guests, you want them there at least a half hour before mealtime, earlier if you have proper appetizers, but also definitely give them an earliest time you are OK with them arriving. Give yourself some breathing room.)
What MUST be done on Thursday? The turkey. Anything salad-like. Anything that really will only taste good if it’s served immediately. Dressing/stuffing. Gravy, if you’re making it from turkey drippings. Reheating anything you’ve prepped or assembling anything you’ve purchased. A SHOWER. Put your shower on the schedule. Please shower.
What full dishes can be almost entirely prepped, and when are you able to prep them? I take off work the Wednesday before Thanksgiving every year and I cook all day. This isn’t feasible for everyone. Can you cook Tuesday night and Wednesday night? Get up at 5am on Wednesday to prep something before work? Maybe you’re more rational than I am and you’re making a normal-sized meal that can all be made on Thursday itself. And how many dishes do you need to find time to prep? Some things, like pumpkin pie, I cook first thing Thursday morning. From the menu above, the spinach, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, and chocolate tart are made almost entirely on Wednesday.
What can or needs to be pre-prepped? Yes, this is a different category. Do you have anything (like a Tofurky, or a turkey) in the freezer? Put on the schedule when it needs to come out of the freezer. The turkey needs to come out earlier than you think it does. Thaw it in the fridge. If you’re dry-brining it, that takes a few days too. Make your pie crust, they taste better after they sit a while anyway. (Or, make your pie crust way in advance and freeze it – just put on the schedule when it needs to come out.) Are you, like me, very extra and you’re making the cornbread and white bread for your cornbread dressing? Do that on Sunday and stick the breadcrumbs in the cupboard.
What needs to be reheated, and for how long? Here’s where it’s key to remember one thing: once the turkey comes out of the oven, it needs to rest for 30 minutes. This is the magic 30 minutes; a lot happens here. I usually have 5-6 things prepped to heat up or cook; I average out the temperatures and jam everything in the oven. I promise it works. But make sure everything that you are carefully planning to prep you are also planning to heat up. It’s a separate step.
(If you have one) Can you put something in a crock pot? The crock pot will relieve valuable oven/stove space. I’ve heard you can make mashed potatoes in a crock pot, though I never have. The Tofurky always goes in the crock pot.
When are you preparing the place you’ll eat? Put that on the schedule, even if you’re able to assign it to someone else. Who is setting the table? That can be done in the morning. One of our tables is in the basement. I want that upstairs by Tuesday night, just in case something catastrophic has happened and it’s unusable. Do you (hypothetically) only use a tablecloth once a year? You’ll want to wash that, which can happen early in the week.
When are you shopping? More on this in a second, but you want to put your shopping on your schedule. In a normal year, I usually go to two grocery stores, the liquor store, the butcher, and then to Target at 7pm Wednesday when I realize I’ve forgotten something. This year will look different, but it’ll be on the schedule.
Are you sharing your kitchen? I have it pretty easy, I’m basically an Italian Grandma and my partner knows he is not allowed in the kitchen for two days. But maybe you’re cooking this meal with others. Make sure the schedule works for them. If you’re each making separate dishes, maybe you agree that someone else makes their stuff on Wednesday morning, and then you do your prep Wednesday night. If you’re cooking together, make sure your togetherness time is noted and amenable to all involved. If one member of the team is contributing by being responsible for dishwashing, make sure they know all the times that might be expected of them. I promise this saves trouble later.
What are you cooking in? Do you have all the dishes you need? You don’t want to realize on Thursday morning that you’re short two casserole dishes. Make sure you have every dish and tool you need, for both cooking and serving, and if you’re missing anything put on the schedule when you’re going to get it. If you are making a turkey, buy a meat thermometer. If you are making gravy from drippings, get a gravy separator. But you don’t need to go wild buying dishes you may never use again – not to sound like a shill, but I live for Reynolds foil baking pans. I have actually found that I prefer to use their disposable roasting pan on top of a heavy baking sheet because it makes cleanup a breeze. Reynolds, call me. I will take your sponsorship.
Basically, you need to take every step of every element and put them in order and assign them to people. If you think this is overwhelming, imagine trying to do it on the fly. This is really the most important step in this process. Play with it. What’s reasonable for your life? Maybe you can’t do tons of prep, but you can wake up at 5am on Thursday. I like to prep one recipe at a time, but maybe you can multitask. Maybe it’s OK if you cut that one dish that you can’t quite figure out a time to cook.
Here’s my big prep tip: you want to end up with two separate schedules. You want one that is overall, big picture, for the entire week, and one that is just for Thursday. Big Picture will make sure you get everything shopped for and prepped; Thursday is down-to-the-minute of when does the turkey go in, when does the Tofurky go in, when do things come out of the fridge to rest a bit before going in the oven, etc.
Here is what my “Big Picture Schedule” has looked like the past few years. You can see in 2018 (purple) where I fucked up the bread on Saturday and had to jam it into Tuesday, and also where I was simultaneously cooking for the book club that I was for some reason hosting the Sunday before Thanksgiving.
To get here, you may need to scribble around a bit on a piece of scrap paper and then once you’ve made decisions about what you are doing and when, transfer that into a final, clean checklist.
I don’t have a picture of my “Thursday Schedule” because I tend to do those on scrap paper and cross things out and rework times throughout the day (like oh crap the turkey’s cooking faster than I thought, what do I need to do sooner?). And then it gets thrown out at the end. Basically, time everything out as best you can, calculating backwards from your mealtime. Here are some key things to include:
- Figure out how long your turkey should take to cook, add 30 minutes for it to rest at the end, and you have the time it needs to go in the oven. Which means you can time back when to take it out of the fridge and prep it. Budget more time than less to cook. The turkey can sit in a warm oven for a bit if necessary (the reason we have gravy is to cover up dry turkey), but you absolutely do not want to eat undercooked turkey.
- Sides that need to be reheated while the turkey rests should come out of the fridge about 30 minutes before they go in, so an hour before planned mealtime.
- Premade gravy should be heated up on the stove about 20 minutes in advance. If you’re making actual gravy, reserve the same 20 minutes to do that, but measure out everything before that.
- Tossing a salad last-minute? Put on the schedule to take everything out of the fridge that you have already prepped. If you’re chopping the vegetables that day (which you should, for freshness), that is a separate, earlier step.
- Put the wine or bubbles in the fridge. My fridge is often too full of food on Thanksgiving, so I jam one bottle in somewhere and then have a few bottles on deck to swap in when the food comes out.
I know, math, I’m sorry. You are doing all this math and putting together a complicated schedule in advance so you don’t have to think about any of this on Thursday. You just do it.
Finally – schedule in some buffer for Thursday. If you end up with an extra half an hour to sit with a glass of wine, #blessed. But if you need it, you’ll be glad it’s there.
Step 3: Shop
This one’s going to be tricky in the year of our Lord 2020.
I assume you still have your pen and paper handy? Excellent. Because first you need a list. Sit down with all your recipes again and make a list of every ingredient you need. For things needed in multiple recipes (*cough* heavy cream in this house) make notes of quantities across recipes so you make sure to have enough.
Cool. Now examine your pantry and see if you already have anything, in which case you can cross it off. (Though don’t accidentally use up all your flour or spices between now and Thanksgiving.)
Great, what’s left is your shopping list! Now you just need to organize it based on how you are shopping during the pandemic. Usually I do a series of grocery runs over the week leading up to Thanksgiving, waiting until as late as possible to buy fresh vegetables. This year I’ve been using Instacart, and my main concern is that things will be out of stock and I won’t be able to make quick judgement calls on replacing them. It’ll also be impossible to pop from store to store if one store is out of something. Doing things ahead of time is the name of the game here. The earlier I know I can’t get something, the earlier I’ll be able to figure out a substitution or eliminate a dish.
A few tips that span regular-time and pandemic-time:
- Get as many dry goods/basics as possible by the Friday before Thanksgiving. I’m talking butter, flour, things in cans. This gives you a bit of security, especially now. You don’t want to realize there’s no canned pumpkin left in your city on Wednesday night.
- Try to be completely done with your shopping by Tuesday night. This means you can hit the ground running with prep on Wednesday, and you don’t have to deal with grocery stores the day before Thanksgiving. I usually wait until Tuesday to do my final shop for fresh veggies, just so they’ll be as fresh as possible. (If your prep schedule is different, adjust your shopping deadline – but if possible I really don’t suggest waiting until Wednesday for any shopping unless it’s an emergency.)
- If you need anything very specific, get it ASAP. For us it’s the Tofurky Feast. There’s only one option we like. We need it. So we’ve already bought one and it’s in the freezer.
- Don’t forget beverages, whether they are alcoholic or not. If you go non-alcoholic, get something fancy and fun! Treat yo’self. If you do drink alcohol, you don’t want to be fighting everyone else with a Drizly account on Wednesday afternoon. And I highly recommend getting yourself a beverage to cook with. I love a nice glass of white wine while I’m cooking.
- Make sure you get those dishes and tools you discovered you needed in Step 2.
Finally, one thing that’s going to have to (continue to) hold true for all of us this year is to be flexible. Stores are going to be out of things, delivery times will be slower. Give yourself buffer time, be patient with employees, and if you end up absolutely not being able to get an ingredient – improvise. We’re all improvising this year.
Step 4: Cook
It’s time!! Literally now all you have to do is execute the plan you made in Step 2.
Sounds so easy, huh?
Honestly, just take it slow and stick to the plan. What prep work is on your plan? Do it on schedule, you made the schedule for a reason.
For me, Wednesday is the big day. When I wake up on Wednesday morning, I run through the list of tasks I need to do that day and just take them one at a time. My preference is to make one entire dish at a time, but YMMV. I usually start with the pie crust, it’s a quick easy win. Then if I’m making the spinach dish with fresh spinach, I do that next because it takes fucking forever. I tend to alternate throughout the day things that I consider easy prep with things that are more involved. When I’m done making the spinach, maybe I’ll sauté the veggies I need to prep for the dressing. When I’m tired of looking at vegetables I make the chocolate tart.
For anything you prep, store it with all of its component parts and instructions for how to complete it on Thursday. For example, for the spinach gratin, I prep the spinach, and separately prep the breadcrumb topping. Once it’s cooled I put the topping in a baggie, tape that to the lid of the spinach casserole dish, and then tape a post-it note on top that has an oven temperature and an amount of time. This saves you from trying to keep track of all your recipes in the final Thursday rush.
On Thursday, it’s all about the turkey and the timing of the turkey. Adjust your schedule as you go, if you end up getting delayed and putting the turkey in 20 minutes after you wanted to, fine, everything else gets pushed back a bit. Review the Thursday Schedule every now and then throughout the day to make sure you’re on track. Anything prepped that is going from fridge to oven should come out of the fridge about 30 minutes in advance to start casually coming to temp – make sure that’s on your schedule, maybe even set an alarm.
One important note: Keep up with cleaning the dishes! Every time you finish a task, wash all the dishes that were involved. If you have a dishwasher (lucky!) load it and run it as you go, but make sure you don’t put something in that you’ll need for the next dish you’re prepping.
Step 5: Eat
Eat up baby, you’ve earned it!
I assume nobody really needs directions for this part. This is the part where you reap the rewards of your hard work, and spend a lovely few hours with your family or housemates or cat while they all tell you what a great job you did. This is my favorite part.
Don’t stress about getting everything on the table exactly at the same time. People can start serving themselves while dishes are still finishing up, and nobody has ever been sad when mashed potatoes show up, regardless of when it happens.
This ended up being way longer than I anticipated, so many thanks if you read this far and I hope it was at all helpful. I have a lot of thoughts about Thanksgiving, and cooking for multiple days to feed my family and friends this special meal is truly one of my favorite projects of the year.
This is going to be a weird holiday season for everyone. Take care of yourselves. Take care of your friends and your family. We’re all in this together, “this” being the hellscape of 2020.
If you have any remaining questions about how to pull off Thanksgiving, or if I need to clarify anything I said above, I’ll happily respond to comments!