Big Family Thanksgiving Dinner…Ready?

So you’re hosting the big event this year, huh? Friends, family members, assorted neighbors headed your way…ah, the joy of the holidays.  To quote Nigel in The Devil Wears Prada, “gird your loins”. So, here we go:

First off, take a deep breath and repeat after me: “this is gonna be fun”.  Think it so, and it shall be.  I’ll help you handle the cooking; QuinnCreative will help you handle the stress.

Rule #1: mise en place, the French culinary term meaning “things in place”. Decide exactly what it is you’re going to cook. Gather the recipes and read each one from top to bottom. Repeat…each one. I don’t care if the stuffing recipe has been in your family since the Mayflower, read it again. This is not the time for suprises and forgotten ingredients. With recipes in front of you, do the following:

1) prepare your food shopping list. Don’t forget sandwich makings for the day after.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

2) make up your “hardware” list. Do you have on hand all the pots, pans, platters, serving pieces,  etc. you’ll need to suceed? If not, now is the time to know it.

3) build your cooking schedule. What dishes are oven dishes, which are stove-top? Are there dishes that can be prepared in advance? Where will you store them?

This is a good time to remember once your turkey is roasted to perfection, you will need to let it sit for at least 20 minutes, maybe more, depending on the size, before it’s ready to slice. But knowing this, there might be some dishes on your menu that can be roasted after the turkey comes out. Plan accordingly.

Rule #2: be gracious. When a guest asks “what can I bring?” tell them. Don’t be shy here. Knowing Aunt Sally is bringing her famous “Holiday Cherry Cobbler”, your son’s newest girlfriend has the cranberry sauce and the next-door neighbor will arrive with pumpkin pie in hand will make your life a whole lot less hectic.

Rule #3: delegate. Thanksgiving means football, which means TV and assorted snacks.  From the available pool of children, create the “Snack Squad” and put them in charge of refilling chip bowls, gathering up empty cups, used napkins etc. Remember, the more people in front of the TV, the fewer people in your kitchen.

Go with their strengths. Uncle Bill a master with gravy? Let him have at it. Your spouse a whiz with salads? Make room for him at the sideboard. And don’t forget clean-up. All those who remain invisible when you’re asking nicely for volunteers automatically get assigned clean-up.  After all, Thanksgiving should be a shared experience, right? Just remember the chef does not clean up.

Tomorrow: Turkey Tips

2 thoughts on “Big Family Thanksgiving Dinner…Ready?

  1. Your french lesson is well worth the reading. I used to take the “just start” approach, and I constantly needing to stop to find a spice or get out some garlic. Invariably, I didn’t have everything or the stopping in the middle messed up something else. I still have the urge to just get started, but when I do have everything in its place – less stress, less burned food, better food and more fun.

    Thanks for tips.

  2. Yep-planning ahead sure does make it less stressful! At one time, I had it down pretty well. Start the turkey, get it turned, go play 18 holes of golf, come home, finish up and sit down to eat!
    Helps if you get a bit of practice over the years (both the golf and the turkey dinner) and keep it pretty simple.

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