So you’re cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year. And it’s your first time. And the in-laws are coming?! Holy s***! …How did you agree to this again?
Your palms are sweating, your ears are ringing and you have no freaking idea what to do. Well, the first thing is to calm down – breathe in, breathe out, “Ohmm…”
So now that you’re back on earth, let’s take this step by step, shall we?
- Read my rules for throwing a successful dinner party.
- Thanksgiving is now ten days away: this is the perfect time to plan your menu. First, finalize the number of guests you’ll be feeding and pick the dishes you’ll be serving. The classic repertoire includes a starchy dish or two (mashed potatoes, mac & cheese, sweet potatoes, etc.), vegetables, a fresh salad (with lots of greens and a simple homemade dressing), and good fresh bread. Lastly, write out a comprehensive grocery list.
- Remember: no matter how scrumptious your sides, if the turkey is not up to par, the meal will be…well, kind of a failure. A dry rub or brine, and the right flavoring agents, followed by constant basting will get the job done right. Do your research, pick the method that you feel most comfortable with, and buy your bird! All the good ones will be taken by the weekend so get yours now!
- If there is any one rule of throwing a dinner party, it is to never serve a dish you’ve never cooked before. Because you just never know if the amounts/methods/cooking times, etc. will work out as well for you as they did for somebody else. But if you can’t help yourself, for Thanksgiving, make only one new dish, but no more. Since there will be so much goodness on the table, it’s unlikely that one little side dish will ruin your entire dinner.
- Don’t do everything by yourself. If you are like me (a self-proclaimed kitchen Nazi), you will have a very difficult time with this, but if you want to be the graceful host that I know you can be, let your guests help you! The morning of the big day, your guests will inevitably call and ask, “So what should I bring?” Don’t be shy to give them assignments – people will want to contribute to this day. Ask one friend to get baguettes from your favorite bakery, another to make her famous cupcakes, and another to bring wine/beer/cocktail ingredients.
- Consider the prep/cooking time of each dish and make them in order, starting with the one that will take the longest.
Here are a few of my recipes that would make great turkey day sides:
And while you’re at it, check out last year’s comedic take on the pros and cons of Thanksgiving.