I love Thanksgiving…good friends, family, food, football and fun.  What’s not to love? To be honest, though, I didn’t always love it…when I was a kid it seemed kind of silly to me how my mom slaved away all day just for one meal. But ever since I’ve been the cook I totally get it. Yes it can be a lot of work but it’s the work of love. All that effort is worth it for the “ooohs and aaaahs” when you walk in with the Turkey. Or watching your husband’s face as he takes that first bite of your famous Sweet Potatoes that he loves so much but only gets this one day a year. Personally, I also love the strategy and planning that Thanksgiving takes…and that’s the key to actually enjoying this holiday as host. So not only am I sharing my menu, but I am also sharing my detailed cooking and timing plan to get it all done and downloadable shopping lists. That’s right, time to start enjoying your own Thanksgiving party!

You all know by now that I love to cook and hopefully you agree that I am a pretty good judge of recipes as well…therefore I can almost guarantee that my menu below is going to be delicious. I’ve been hosting large Thanksgiving dinners for years now and I can proudly say I haven’t had a dud yet (knocking on wood as I type!). Some of the dishes below are old favorites but many are new.  Since I have a bit of a smaller crowd this year I’m keeping appetizers more simple than usual (and yes one leans Mexican!) but otherwise this year’s menu is pretty typical of a SavoryGirl Thanksgiving. You can also check out my previous SavoryGirl Thanksgiving Menu, if the one below doesn’t suit your fancy.

Last year the Pancetta Crisps, Succotash, Kale Salad and Cranberry-Pepper Jelly were big hits out of the new additions…one of which is making a repeat performance this year along with the turkey brine recipe and my ever-present sweet potatoes.

This year I’m placing my bets on the new stuffing and mashed potato recipes to be the big winners

Dish # of Servings Make Ahead Day Of Heat Needs
Breakfast Brown Butter, Ginger & Sour Cream Coffee Cake 8 Yes – 1 day
Appetizers Bresaola Wrapped Persimmons Makes 24 No
Union Square Cafe’s Bar Nuts 2 1/4 cups Yes
Chips, Salsa & Guacamole 6 Yes
Fruit Platter 6 Yes
Veggie Platter & Ranch Yogurt Dip 6 Yes
Dinner @ 4:30 Beer Brined Turkey 6 Brine 2 days in advance Oven
SavoryGirl’s Famous Sweet Potatoes 6 Yes Oven
Parker House Rolls Makes 36 Yes – 6hrs Oven
Whipped Potatoes with Horseradish 8 Yes – 1 day Oven
Bacon, Apple & Fennel Stuffing 10 Partially Oven
Alton’s T-Day Gravy 4 cups Partially – stock & schmaltz 3 days Stove
Saute of Winter Greens & Shitake Mushrooms 10 Partially – 2 hours Stove
Cranberry-Pepper Jelly 2 1/2 cups Yes – 3 weeks
Cranberry Sauce (store bought) 6 N/A
Dessert Rum Pumpkin Pie 8 Yes Oven
Toasted Pecan Pie (both pies with Paula’s Perfect Pie Crust) 8 Partially Oven

Now onto the planning…no one likes to feel like the hired help while their family & friends are having fun eating and drinking, but unfortunately it happens pretty often for many hosts. My detailed spreadsheet, which I have perfected over the years, is designed to ensure that you have just as much fun at your own party as everyone else does! It seems excessive at first, but trust me this level of detail really helps things go according to plan and get everything on the table on time. It also helps spread the work out over the previous week so the holiday actually feels like a holiday. Feel free to download it below and use what you can to help your holiday go as smoothly as possible.

Week Before Prep Schedule
☐ Make cranberry-pepper jelly ☐ Pick up Turkey! ☐ Start brining turkey ☐ Make coffee cake for breakfast
☐ Make pie crusts & freeze ☐ Make bar nuts ☐ Make turkey stock & schmaltz ☐ Roll out crusts & put in pans, refrigerate
☐ Caramelize pecans for pumpkin pie ☐ Chop all onions & veggies – pre-bag for each recipe ☐ Toast pecans for pecan pie
☐ Tear up bread for stuffing so it can start drying out some ☐ Make pumpkin pie filling
☐ Make veggie dip ☐ Make sweet potatoes (without marshmallows – add day-of)
☐ Make Mashed Potatoes
☐ Finish all stuffing prep
☐ Make veggie platter
☐ Make fruit platter
☐ Make guacamole
☐ Set dinner table
☐ Set up bar and chill wine/beer

The big day!  This is where timing is critical…but if you’ve done as much as you can on the previous days then really Thanksgiving day itself is a snap. It’s more about timing, assembling and just a bit of cooking which means you should have lots of time to watch the Macy’s parade, snack on appetizers and cheer on your team (Go Pats!) along with your guests!

8am ☐ Make Parker House Roll Dough so they have time to rise
9am ☐ Enjoy Coffee Cake for Breakfast while watching the parade for a bit!
10am ☐ Pour pumpkin pie filling into prepared crust and put in oven
☐ Put pecan pie crust in freezer for 20 minutes, make pecan pie filling,  assemble and put in oven when pumpkin comes out
11am ☐ Make Bresaola Wrapped Persimmons
☐ Start preparing Turkey for the oven
12pm ☐ Put Turkey in Oven*
☐ Put out appetizers
1pm ☐ Take sweet potatoes & mashed potatoes out of the fridge to start coming to room temperature
2pm ☐ Assemble stuffing
☐ Partially make Winter Greens & Shitake, set aside
3pm ☐ Put pre-made sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes & stuffing in oven
☐ Put out cranberry sauces & wine
3:30pm ☐ Put Rolls in Oven
☐ Finish Winter Greens & Shitakes
☐ Make gravy with turkey pan drippings once Turkey is out
4pm ☐ Present beautifully plated Turkey to guests…then hand off to designated “Turkey Carver” to get to work!
☐ Start bringing finished dishes to the table and rounding up guests
4:30pm ☐ DINNER TIME!
6pm ☐ Make whip cream & assemble pumpkin pie.  Warm pecan pie slightly

So there you have it…my super type-A Thanksgiving menu and plan. In addition to the tables shown here, I have also provided full grocery shopping lists by dish (and all totaled up if you want to make the whole menu) in the attachment below. So go ahead, download today and start making your Thanksgiving easier, more enjoyable and super tasty!

SavoryGirl Thanksgiving 2012

Happy Thanksgiving everyone…whatever you cook and do I hope you have a wonderful day surrounded by those that you love.

If you have your own approach for keeping Thanksgiving tasty and low-stress or favorite recipes you want to share we would all love to hear from you!