We’re hosting Thanksgiving this year. Don’t get me wrong, I love to do it, but people ask me each year, “Aren’t you super stressed about it?” The short answer is no, but they’re right, I probably should be! After all, Thanksgiving Dinner is when you invite your family and very best friends for the American Decathlon of Dinner Parties and you never want to disappoint or be a bad host.
While I get all of that, I like to think of Thanksgiving as just a big chicken dinner. Once you break it down and start looking at it that way, it takes the pressure off a bit and you can have more fun. Plus, you can do most of the cooking ahead of time anyways. Unlike your typical dinner party, everyone is weirdly ready to chip in, which is great. Mr. Handsome and even the Man Cubs are usually even more willing to help out with moving tables and chairs, etc. that they typically are because it’s Thanksgiving after all. Apart from milking all the goodwill and help you possibly can the day of, I also highly recommend getting your T-Day Game on early. It's nothing crazy but it sure does relieve some of the holiday’s pressure. Here’s my 5-day prep program.
Live and learn, Pilgrims!
5 Days to T-Day: Finalize the Guest List.
By now, your invites have been extended and the guest list is sorted but you should know who’s actually coming. If you’re not sure yet: Passive-aggressively call, text, and email those tardy stragglers to find out whether or not they expect to be fed on Thursday. And with that in mind, think twice about inviting them again next year. Humph!
4 Days to T-Day: Plan your menu.
It’s common advice because it’s true: Never, ever make anything you haven’t made before. This is not the dinner party to get experimental, Possum! Stick to the tried and true (even if that means pasta). At the end of the day remember, it's your Thanksgiving! People will have much more fun if you are relaxed and you can’t be relaxed if you are sweating out some complicated Martha Stewart-type deal in the kitchen. So sit down, think hard and make a list of what you’ll need.
3 Days to T-Day: The Big Shop
Go shopping for everything you can. Cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie filling, stuffing mix, potatoes, coffee and booze can all be bought well in advance. I’ve seen people get shouty and grabby over the last ornamental gourd at Whole Foods. You want to side step that action if you can… And if you can’t find something you need or don’t have time to run to every grocery in town, don’t sweat it! Ask a (most reliable) guest if they'd be willing to pick one up for you! Yet again, its your Thanksgiving, I’m sure they'd be glad to help in any way they can.
2 Days to T-Day: Set the Table.
I know this might sound premature but you’d be shocked at how much time you’ll save the day of by doing this in advance. At the least, you can start getting the tables and chairs sorted. Count how many napkins you’ll need, find and iron the tablecloth, etc. Wash and ready the stemware plus any special serving pieces you plan to use. This is another one I love to get the boys to help with.
1 Day to T-Day: Start your oven!
This is when I get most of my cooking done, or at least whatever I can prep. Pre-chop just about anything you can and set it aside for tomorrow. I buy a frozen turkey so I leave it in a sink full of lukewarm water to thaw out. I haven’t killed anybody so far and my bird is always juicy! If you’re baking your stuffing outside of the bird, feel free to bake that now too. I kid you not, stuffing is actually better when it’s been made and refrigerated the night before.
T-Day: Cook the Bird.
The potatoes have been peeled, the stuffing is done and the corn is ready to boil. On the day of, all I do is give the house a quick once over (giving special attention to the bathrooms because…Man Cubs) and put together the drinks. Oh and a hearty cheese + charcuterie platter because no dinner party is complete without one. And just BTW: I FEED NO ONE until 3pm. I am not cooking lunch on Thanksgiving Day… are you kidding me? So,if they can’t hold off, it’s take-away or burgers from a drive-through for lunch.
At 2pm, I hop in the shower, dress and am downstairs, playing music, with a LARGE glass in hand by game time. What?! It’s Thanksgiving! And I am always ready to greet my guests. BTW: First Guest to arrive gets a job; I don't make all the rules!
That’s it. Enjoy yourself, don’t stress too hard because, if it all goes pear-shaped, there’s always Chinese.