When there are hundreds of articles this week detailing how you should prepare for Thanksgiving, why should you read this one? Because this is one that will really save the day! You don’t need a running commentary on grocery shopping or how to avoid politics at the table. There are enough to do lists that set your timeline by the minute. (But if you do need one, Cuisine at Home has a pretty nice guide.) You need something real.
In actuality, there are little things that can’t be overlooked or else they will become part of your family Thanksgiving folklore for years to come!
First, the most obvious, can you cook? There is still room in a multitude of cooking classes this weekend at The Chopping Block if you need a crash course or workshop to help boost you through the cookingist (not a word but it should be) holiday of the year.
- Thanksgiving Crash Course Demonstration, Saturday November 20, Merchandise Mart.
- Thanksgiving Crash Course Demonstration Saturday November 20, Virtual
- Hands on Thanksgiving Workshop, Sunday November 21, Lincoln Square
Get your refrigerator cleaned out. If you play Jenga every time you take something out, it may need a little refresher. Review your expiration dates and take advantage of this time to tidy up.
Peek inside your vegetable drawer. Wean out the old to make room for the new. Don’t be wasteful and toss good food. Experiment with new spice combinations or sauces before Thanksgiving with things you already have in the house. For example, I made both the Bon Appetit Gochujang Brussels Sprouts recipe and a play on green bean casserole by roasting some green beans and drizzling them with hollandaise and crispy onions!
What about beverage space? If you have a brother-in-law who gets through the holiday more sauced up than your cranberries, then make sure you have some coolers with ice available for him to put his liquid lunch in. (I am totally not speaking of anyone I know, it is just an example, yep, let’s go with that.)
Also designate some spots on your counters for guests who ask “where can I put….” If you don’t, your beautiful mise en place will become misplaced!
The most important space of the day will be oven space. Good intentioned guests may want to know when the oven will be free or if there is room for their infamous casserole. Put someone in charge of that balancing act so your oven isn’t losing heat by being opened every two minutes. I like to label things with PIA (put in at) stickers. It helps visualize how many things need oven time and temperature constraints.
Also, everyone says to get your platters and dishes ready but also get your serving utensils lined up. There is nothing more stressful than trying to get everyone seated while a guest is searching all your drawers for a slotted spoon or the big fork. Make sure you have your trivets or potholders ready too so you have designated spots on your table for hot dishes.
I always print up one copy of any recipe I use. It is great to share if someone loves a particular dish or if there are allergy ingredient concerns.
Like it or not, someone is going to have to go to the bathroom. Make sure you have extra rolls of TP accessible to guests, your soap dispenser is completely full and your trash bin is empty. I’m also a fan of the paper guest towels for drying hands. A little basket on the vanity with some hand sanitizer, dental floss and antacid really shows you care. (A few extra face masks might be nice, too.)
Instagram or InstaGROAN Moments
It is okay to take pictures of food. It is not okay to make everyone wait while you try to recreate a Norman Rockwell painting. Food can still taste great without people following it online.
My real-world example: I wanted to make adorable swirled Duchess potatoes. I had it all pictured in my head and then tried to plate them. Without sounding vulgar, they ended up looking like one of the most popular emojis. The taste was delicious (recipe below) but the IG execution was a fail.
If your guests want to take pictures, try to do it while the turkey is resting.
Be prepared to change a topic! You know your audience/guests. Odds are not everyone is on the same page on every issue that is going on in the world. If things go south, ask someone to pass the potatoes and mention the fun fact like potatoes are the most important non-cereal crop in the world and fourth most popular. Next thing you know, topic is changed and you are part of a fun conversation instead of having someone sitting in the other room squeezing a stress ball.
Whether you have football games to watch or the tradition of picking Secret Santa names out of hat, make sure you have something planned for your guests to keep them entertained that doesn’t involve asking for your Wi-Fi password.
My husband’s family likes games, a light walk and building gingerbread houses with the kids. Don’t underestimate the uniting power of a simple jigsaw puzzle while you sit and wait for it to be time for pie.
Getting People Out of Your House
You’ve been cooking for days; the dishes are washed and that turkey tryptophan has kicked in. Time for everyone to go! Without being completely rude, start suggesting leftovers people can take home with them. Use up those to-go containers you repurposed during the past year and pass the Saran Wrap. Everyone will scurry to the kitchen to grab the dish they brought and head out the door. Ta-dah!
In all seriousness, whether you are the host or just show up because it is expected, remember to say thank you. Appreciate those who are surrounding you and those olive counting tradition starters who aren’t here this year. (And yes, Grandma, I’m hoping you have time to read my blogs in heaven and know that there will never be a Thanksgiving as wonderful as the ones you did for us.)
The Chopping Block Lincoln Square has retail options if you have any last-minute cooking needs (including the option of preordering a pumpkin or apple pie to pick up on Tuesday or Wednesday before Thanksgiving.)
Emoji Duchess Potatoes
Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe
Makes 24 little potatoes, 6-8 servings as side
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
1 pound sweet potatoes, washed and holes poked for steam release
1 pound russet potatoes, washed and holes poked for steam release
- Note: Look for all of your potatoes to be the same time for even baking.
2 Tablespoons of butter, divided
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 Tablespoons milk
Salt and white pepper
A couple tablespoons of melted butter
1. Heat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Place all of the potatoes on a large baking sheet.
3. Bake for about 50 minutes. (Give the potatoes a squeeze. Larger potatoes may take longer, mine weren’t the same size, obviously.)
4. Slice open potatoes.
5. Grab two mixing bowls.
6. Put 1 tablespoon of butter in each bowl. (The hot potatoes will melt it.)
7. Put all the sweet potato filling in one bowl and the white potato in the other.
8. Add salt and white pepper to both.
9. Add maple syrup and cinnamon to the sweet potato.
10. Add milk to the white potato.
11. With a handheld mixer, mix the white potato first. Don’t overmix. If it isn’t smooth, add a little extra milk.
12. Knock your beaters clean and mix the sweet potato. (If there is some white left on the beater, it is no big deal because we are going to swirl them all together later.
13. Take a large pastry bag and fit it with a large star tip.
14. Lay it flat.
15. Carefully place the white potato in so it only takes up half of one side lengthwise.
16. Top with the sweet potato. (It may not all fit in one bag so you may need to do two different bags.)
17. Drop oven temp to 400 degrees.
18. On a large baking sheet with parchment paper, pipe out half dollar size (or macaron size) swirls of potato. (I was laughing hysterically as I piped them so please forgive me for the quality control of the sizes.)
19. Drizzle with butter. Don’t brush or your swirls will come undone.
20. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Bottoms should be brown. These may have looked better plated upside down!
The outside will have a buttery crust, but the inside is smooth like a whipped potato. Figure out how to plate them better than I did, and have a great holiday!