|My wood stove cooked turkey from last Thanksgiving.|
I work backwards from the time I am planning to serve so that I know exactly what I need to do and how I need to do it. I used to live in a house with a formal dining room and this means that I used to set the table the night before so that it was just one more thing that I could do ahead of time. You can read all about my T-Day schedule for my old house HERE. Now we live in a farmhouse with an eat-in kitchen and no other dining room and certainly no buffet for staging the food. It is definitely a more difficult house to have a large party in and is really not designed for formal affairs which means our dinners are also more country. Last year was my first Thanksgiving in this house and after Christmas, New Year's, and Pascha; I have learned a lot about how dinner need to work in this house.
First things first, I have an eat-in kitchen with a gas stove, wood stove, fridge, and a china cabinet in it. Most of the dishes, food, sink, and dishwasher are in the pantry in a separate room off the kitchen. There is no room for a formal buffet in the house and one side and one end of the table are pushed in to a corner with built in benches which means that about half the guests can't get up to the table anyway. This means that we make all the children sit and we have the sides and drinks at the table but the plates, silver, napkins and the main dishes are on an island in the middle of the kitchen. Best investment I could have made since moving here. I also have a taller octagon shaped table in the living room that is perfect for serving appetizers, so I will clear the knitting things and antique clock from the top of it and instead put a pretty cloth and my trays out there.
For many years, the kitchen was the room that was heated and so most of the family has grown accustomed to sitting in there. All the time. At the little table that was there. Drives me crazy. When you make everything from scratch, down to the bread that the stuffing is made of, the last thing you want is people hovering as you are cooking. Also, if the table is nicely set for dinner (real dishes, people, and real napkins), I don't want people moving things around on the table or using those dishes for their appetizers. My in-laws think I am crazy because they are not foodie types and they certainly don't care if the table is properly set but that's okay. We meet in the middle where I like to make food and they like to eat it. As long as I cook, they are happy; as long as they eat, I am happy. Works out in the end!
So, here is how I will run tomorrow morning with a scheduled sit-down meal at one in the afternoon.
7:30 in the morning...I will pop the chocolate croissants that I already made into the oven for 35 minutes. I will make some hot chocolate for the kids and some coffee for Ben, the teens, and me. We will just linger over the croissants. No rush on the turkey. They don't take half as long as people
7:45...Ben needs to start the fire in the wood oven. We are going all old school with the turkey. Worked out pretty well last year, so why mess with ssuccess
8:00...unload the dishwasher and put away all the hand wash from the night before. If there is going to be a place to put the new dishes, I need to do this. I will also have someone take out the compostable trash.
8:30...start the turkey. You should use the true blue, tried and trusted Cook's Illustrated method. See the link above for all the details on how it roasts. Brilliant, easy, and always delicious. I will be roasting in a wood oven which is unbelievably good and a bit complicated and lots of babysitting. Totally worth it.
8:35...bust out the Christmas movies and the crafts. The kids need to be busy. We are doing the standard handprint turkeys with real feathers as well as those 3D hands. They take time and focus which means the kids will be busy. This is also the time we bust out our traditional mimosas. Can't wait.
9:30-9:45 or so... flip the bird. We can stop feeding the fire quite so much because we want the oven to cool down some. By this time, the house will be more than a little toasty and we will probably have the door open to the mudroom and the windows in the kitchen cracked open from the top. That oven works, baby. Remember to check that post linked at the top to read more about how to roast your bird. I will also pop the bacon wrapped dates and oysters into the oven at this time. Gotta have some fabulous appetizers, right? They are sitting in the fridge just waiting to go.
11:00...I will cover the bird and turn it end to end to help it roast evenly. I will also have the kids set the table. I have a four foot by ten foot solid maple table made by one of the kids' godfathers. We usually leave it exposed so we can really enjoy it but for formal dinners, we put out my special tablecloth. It is actually the perfect length for the table. It is an embroidered one from Puerto Rico and my mother gave it to me from Christmas a decade ago. We will also put out the matching napkins. It means the world to me and it comes out for all the special events.
Noon...I will pop the stuffing, green bean casserole (after I have added the topping), and the sweet potato casseroles into the gas oven. Start the potatoes for mashed potatoes. I will probably have another mimosa about this time. I will start checking the turkey and it should be ready about now, maybe in twenty minutes. I will tent it and allow it to rest for 30 minutes before I carve it.
12:30...I will make the gravy using the pan drippings and a roux and have the kids move the covered casseroles out to the table. Ben will open the red wine to allow it to breathe and the kids can get ice and glasses ready. I will carve the turkey and bring it to the table.
1:00...we will ring the dinner bell, pray, serve and eat.
Sometime later, I will pull out the pies and whip the raw cream freshly and we will enjoy our dessert with sparkling non-alcoholic cider. It all depends on what we feel like.
We will keep all your families in our thoughts and prayers tomorrow and we hope you have a beautiful Thanksgiving with your families and friends.
In case you have never made 3D hands, and I had not until today, here is an awesome video. My kids are loving this. Big tip: make sure that you arch up enough over the hand. For some reason, it is easier to remember to do this over the fingers. Also, stop precisely at the pencil outlines and make it a sharp stop, the sharper-the better.