When I say 10 things, what I really mean to say is, Choose two or three things from this list of ten so you can trick yourself into feeling a little bit more in control of things. I woke up this morning in a panic. For the first time ever, I ordered a pasture-raised turkey from a local farm, but other than that I hadn’t done more than field a few calls from my mom…who has lots of questions about the pasture-raised turkey from a local farm. (#1: “Will it fit in your sister’s oven?”) But I took a few minutes today to make some pie dough and review the line-up, and I already feel better. Here are a few more suggestions:
1. Make Pie Dough. Even if you don’t know what you’re going to fill your crusts with, you’re never going to go wrong with a stack of pate brisee in your freezer.
2. Pick up Butter Wherever You See it. Even if you don’t know what you’re cooking yet, you’re never going to go wrong with a stack of unsalted sticks. (Meanwhile, Andy just texted me from Trader Joe’s that the butter is all cleaned out. I’m not panicking just yet.)
3. Set the Table. If you are hosting, and the feast is happening on a table that you can live without for a few days, throw down the table cloth or runner, distribute the china, and figure out your centerpiece. Last year, we just used a simple row of persimmons, which I’m planning to repeat this year. So elegant. So stinkin easy.
4. Make Homemade Stock. Cover chicken bones, carrots, onions, herbs, and a parm rind with water, add salt and pepper, simmer for a few hours, strain and freeze. Having a pot of homemade stock (turkey or chicken) on the stovetop during the Thanksgiving cooking is the best kind of insurance plan. Use it to baste the turkey, thin the gravy, simmer the sprouts, brighten the stuffing. It upgrades everything.
6. Start a Thanksgiving File. Given that it’s Thanksgiving, chances are good that the menu is pretty set already, but even so, you’ll probably need to get your recipes in order to remind yourself of what you need. About six or seven years ago, I started cutting and pasting our cauliflower, brussels sprouts, scalloped potatoes, and stuffing recipes into a word doc I called “Thanksgiving File.” The second year I pulled it up, I added a shopping list for it. We always mix it up a little in our house — like, for instance, this year we are trying out that new turkey — but for the most part, the menu stays constant, as it should (Do I need to remind you how I feel about tradition?) so I don’t need to reinvent the wheel every year. I realize this is not very helpful if you don’t have a file like this sitting on your desktop ready to pull up. But what you can do that will be super helpful (for both this year and the years that follow) is start the document today. At the very least, all your recipes will be in one place and easily accessible when you are cooking. Add a page break between each recipes so that you can…
7…Post Your Recipes. Back in September, during the photo shoot for my next book, there were always three or four recipes going at once — in that way it was like Thanksgiving every day for five straight days. The way we kept our heads together was by taping the recipes to cabinets at eye level. No shuffling through papers, no craning our necks, no bobbing back and forth between page and pan. It’s a small thing, but it adds up. Note: If you are using recipes from a cookbook, you can just use photocopies. Fixing them to the cabinet door will make you feel better I promise.
8. Buy Tickets to Mockingjay 2. Just sayin. If you’ve got a lot of nieces and nephews running around, it might be nice to have some advance movie tickets to anchor the day after Thanksgiving. (If your family is still together.)
9. Finalize Outsourcing. Sure, it’s fun to embrace a day of cooking, but it’s also wise to pick a few things you know you don’t want to deal with. Send an email to your brother and ask him to bring the wine. Ask your sister to pick up the apple tart that went so fast last year. Assign the cornbread to your niece. Whatever you decide on, make a big point of crossing that item off the list. That part feels so good.
10. Pick Up Some Host Gifts. If you’re just showing up at the feast and not cooking — you’re still not off the hook. I’ve been partnering with the indie-food site Mouth this year, and I highly recommend checking out their offerings if you’re in the market for a one-of-a-kind, definitely-will-be-invited-back kind of gift. Above: A cheese board from Brooklyn Slate, Watershed Distillery Bourbon, Carr’s Ciderhouse Apple Cider Vinegar, and TenderBelly maple bacon.
FYI: All December long, DALS readers get 20% off everything at Mouth. Just type in code DALS20 at checkout. And definitely check in with them on the day after Thanksgiving. They are having a huuuuge Black Friday sale. So you can get ahead for the next holiday.