At the Food Network NYC Wine and Food Festival last month, my favorite demonstration was Bobby Flay's. Although it was early October, Flay had Thanksgiving on the mind. He loves the food-centric holiday so much that every year, he wakes up at 5 a.m. and cooks a feast for 40 friends and family members. To find out how Flay makes his Thanksgiving a delicious success, read more
Happy Thanksgiving! We hope you're enjoying the best feast of the year. However, if your meal is turning out to be more hell's kitchen than heavenly bliss, you may want to give one of these numbers a call.
- USDA Meat and Poultry: 1-888-674-6854, 8 a.m. - 2 p.m. EST
- Butterball: 1-800-BUTTERBALL, 6 a.m. - 6 p.m. CST
- Honeysuckle White Turkey: 1-800-810-6325, automated info 24 hours a day
- Jennie-O Turkey Hotline: 1-800-TURKEYS
- Lightlife: 1-866-474-6985, meat-free tips
- Reynolds Turkey Tips Hotline: 1-800-745-4000, 24 hours a day
And if all else fails, order up a pizza and laugh about it next year!
So you're a procrastinator who happens to be hosting Thanksgiving dinner. You've done nothing to prepare and Thanksgiving is tomorrow! Don't worry: With help from the store, you can put together an elegant and delicious dinner in just 24 short hours. Here's how:
- Take a deep breath. Remember, Thanksgiving is about spending time with loved ones and being thankful, not about being chained to your stove.
- Jazz up store brought products. Stove Top stuffing tastes homemade when you add fresh chopped parsley, sage, sauteed mushrooms, and celery.
- Enhance boxed mashed potatoes with sour cream, cheese, garlic, or fresh herbs.
- Top frozen green beans with sliced almonds, bacon, or chopped roasted red peppers.
- Get a reasonably priced, oven-ready, no thaw Jennie-O turkey.
- Place canned cranberry and premade/packet gravy in your best serving dishes. This way no one can tell you didn't make it from scratch.
- Buy a frozen pie or pick up one from your local bakery.
- When all else fails, grab your phone and see if you can get reservations at a restaurant that is serving Thanksgiving dinner. If they're all booked, order Chinese takeout.
The big feast is just a few days away, and while all of your thoughts are on shopping and prepping, be sure you don't overlook the leftovers. If you're like most Americans, your fridge is going to be crammed with leftovers the day after. To avoid this, why not send some of them home with your friends and family? If you can, head over to your local craft store and pick up some fun Take-Out Boxes. If you don't have access to a craft store, then pick up some cheap plastic containers such as Gladware or Ziploc. This way, when your guests are ready to hit the road, you can send them home with some of the food, and not have to worry about whether or not you'll see that bowl again.
If all else fails and there are no containers to be had, use Ziptop plastic bags. It's not very glamorous, but it will definitely make transportation a lot easier.
Alternatively, if you're a guest at someone else's dinner, consider bringing your own containers. It does sound a bit presumptuous, but if your hosts are not prepared, it will make things much easier. Plus you'll be able to avoid the, "Oops! We still have so-and-so's plates."
Do you have any other ideas on how to send folks home with leftovers? Share your tips below!
Don't wait until Thanksgiving day to do all the cooking; start today and reduce tomorrow's stress. Here's how you can get the prep work for Thanksgiving dinner done in advance:
- Make desserts one to two days before Thanksgiving. Or break it up over the course of two days. Make the pie dough on Tuesday and the filling on Wednesday. Be sure to bake the dessert the day before Thanksgiving. Everything bakes at different temperatures so this will free up the oven. Also the dessert will have plenty of time to set.
- Make rolls, breads, or cornbread for stuffing/dressing the day before. These can be reheated last minute while the turkey is resting.
- Peel potatoes on Wednesday. To prevent oxidization, place in a bowl of water in the fridge.
- Thaw the turkey. Take it out of the freezer now; the last thing you want is for the bird to be half frozen when you stick it in the oven.
- Chop the vegetables the day before. This will give you lots of free time on Thanksgiving. Place in bowls covered with plastic wrap or sealed plastic baggies in the vegetable drawer of your fridge.
- Depending on the appetizers you are serving, prep or make these the day before as well.
Got a great tip about how to prepare a dish before Thursday? Please share with us below!
Try to get all of your Thanksgiving grocery shopping done before next Wednesday. Heading to the grocery store the day before Thanksgiving is like getting on the freeway in the middle of rush-hour traffic — not a good idea. Shoppers are inevitably grumpy, store clerks are stressed, shelves are empty, shopping carts are nowhere to be found, and the checkout lines are gigantic.
If you've made your lists you should be able to shop for nonperishables like vegetables, canned goods, alcohol, and dried foods today or tomorrow. Shop for last-minute items like fresh herbs and flowers on Tuesday afternoon. Pick up bags of ice the night before from your local convenience store and store in coolers outside in the garage or your back patio.
Most stores and bakeries are open on Thanksgiving morning, so make a quick pit stop to pick up bread and any forgotten ingredients as early as possible. Treat yourself to a coffee while you're at it, it's going to be a long day!
Today's Thanksgiving tip is actually a really simple one. However, if you're a first time turkey chef, you'll definitely want to listen up. When you buy a whole bird — this is true for many chickens as well — there is actually a small packet inside of it. The packet is in the cavity of the bird and it contains all the giblets — heart, gizzard, liver, etc. — wrapped up in either a paper or plastic pouch. Whatever you do, make sure you remove this from the bird, especially if it's plastic. If you don't, the paper may burn, or even worse the plastic may melt. If the paper burns, you might still be able to salvage everything, however, if the plastic melts it's all over. It will have contaminated the turkey and the giblets, and your meal will be ruined. So simple tip, reach in and take the giblets out of the turkey.
If you're wondering what to do with that little packet, why don't you try making a giblet stock for your gravy? To get the recipe, read more
Although there are many alternative ways to cook a turkey — grilling, smoking, deep frying, etc. — the most classic way to cook the Thanksgiving bird is in the oven. Here are some tips that will help you roast your turkey:
- Invest in a roasting thermometer.
- Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey's thigh. Make sure the thermometer does not touch the turkey's bone because it will throw off your reading.
- When the thermometer reads 160°F–165°F the bird is properly cooked. Take the turkey out of the oven and let sit, untouched tented with foil, for 20–30 minutes. The turkey will continue to cook while it rests, increasing the temperature to around 180°F.
- Depending on the shape and size of your bird and its temperature when it enters the oven, the turkey should take anywhere from 1.5–5.5 hours to cook.
- Follow the recipe you are using to set the oven temperature and determine whether or not you should baste the turkey. Generally turkeys roast at about 300–325°F.
Hope this helps! If you've got another turkey tip, please share your secret with us below!
Last week we highlighted a classic Thanksgiving feast and this week we've gone completely vegetarian. However, what if you're a meat-eating family who happens to have invited a few vegetarians? Do you have to follow the vegetarian menu? Can you still have your turkey? Before you start fretting, I've got a few simple tips on how to turn your classic meal into a veggie-friendly one. And no, you don't have to have to serve Tofurky.
- Start things off by making all of your appetizers vegetarian. Serve things like cheese and crackers, olives, nuts, bread and lentil spread. Your meat-eating family and friends are not going to turn these down.
- When it comes time to make the sides, make sure they are veg friendly. If you've got stuffing that's cooked inside the bird, make sure you have some cooked outside that is completely meat free.
- Make sure the stock you use is vegetarian. One of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to cook for vegetarians is overlooking the kind of stock they use.
- Consider adding a hearty side dish such as pumpkin ravioli or baked squash. This will serve as the main course for your vegetarian guests, but will also be enjoyed by the rest of the dinner party. If you don't have time to make something, place an order from a veg-friendly restaurant.
For a few more ways to make your classic feast veg friendly, read more
I never really had a hard time with gravy until last year when it would not thicken. You can imagine the panic attack I had when I explained to my guests why the gravy was as runny as water. To ensure that this doesn't happen again, I've read every piece ever written about gravy. Here are some of the tips I've learned for making it great:
- Think about proportions. Start by figuring out how much gravy you want. Generally you'll need about 1/2-cup per person. For 4 cups of gravy, you will need 4 cups of stock.
- You will also need fat to make the gravy. For 4 cups of gravy, you'll need about 6 tbsp. of fat.
- Use the pan juices when making the gravy. Put the pan on the burner and collect up the fatty goodness. These are full of delicious flavors.
- Deglaze the pan with wine to ensure the flavorful browned bits are removed from the bottom of the turkey roasting pan.
- Flour or cornstarch is necessary to make a roux.
- Make sure the stock/broth is hot when you add it to the mixture.
- Use a wire whisk to make the gravy.
- The gravy must reach the maximum heating point— begin to boil — before it will start to thicken.
Got a great tip I forgot? Please share it with us!