We had a very nice, very relaxed Thanksgiving gathering last Thursday at our house. It was small — just our local family, but we had lots of good food and a really good time together.
After hosting any event, I like to do a little “post-mortem.” Y’know . . . to help me take stock of what went well (or didn’t), and jot down some notes for the next time I host such an event.
This year’s post-mortem highlights?
We cooked the turkey the day before Thanksgiving! I’ve been wanting to try this strategy for years, but Tom is the “turkey master” here at our house, and he has been resistant to changing up his long-standing and time-tested turkey recipe/method. This year, though, he followed his usual, beloved turkey “procedure” on Wednesday — and then we tried Ina Garten’s suggestions for her make-ahead turkey re: storing and re-heating the next day. It turned out fabulously! Tasty. Easy. Stress-free. (Plus, all that turkey-mess was cleaned up and put away before our guests arrived.)
My pies (I made standard pumpkin pie from the New York Times recipe and Smitten Kitchen’s cranberry pie with thick pecan crumble) were outstanding this year (if I do say so myself). For the first time in my pumpkin pie making life, I managed a crack-free, perfect-custard pumpkin pie — and it was noticeably more delicious than usual. I have set a new standard for myself.
Brian brought Brussels sprouts and cooked them up at our house. Delish! And . . . so much fun to have him in the kitchen, and to watch him take joy in his preparation.
On the downside, I didn’t take many photos. And that’s a shame. I love having photos of my family — and Thanksgiving is a perfect opportunity for refreshing my photo collection. It’s quite unlike me to “forget” to take photos, but there you have it. I did. (Pretty much what you see above is . . . it.)
In summary? Make everything ahead — even the turkey. Repeat the pies. Encourage Brian in the kitchen. And don’t forget to take photos.
How about you? Do you do “post-mortems” after gatherings and events? And if you celebrate Thanksgiving, how was your day?
(Another highlight: We cheered our little turkey-trotter from afar. Erin ran her first 10K in the San Jose Turkey Trot, and Keith kept us up-to-date on her progress. They both earned their turkey dinner.)
Your feast looks and sounds delicious. With the kids just in from TX and Bonnie still in China, we opted for a Whole Foods Thanksgiving meal and it was very, very good. I did make some roasted carrots and two pies along with cranberry chutney. Like you, I took only one or two photos. I think I was too busy stuffing my face – lol.
I took zero photos this year. I love the idea of cooking the turkey the day before. Might try suggesting that although the turkey cooker holds his traditions tightly 😉
I love this! Especially that you were entirely in the moment which I hope is what caused you to forget to snap photos! 🙂
I tried a NEW pumpkin pie recipe… which after I started was sure it was doomed to failure. I used a pre-made pie crust, which crumbled… so I rolled 2 crusts together… and voilà… one practically perfect crust. Which I pre-baked… to perfection. I could hear Paul Hollywood saying… no soggy bottom here!
Then I did a happy accident… because I did not have my readers on so I missed the entire part where I was supposed to turn up the oven to bake the custard. I did not… and that slow bake, though it took longer… way longer than the recipe called for… was perfect. No cracks. It was Pumpkin Pie Nirvana! (and was as good for brekkie as it was on T-day!)
This sounds like a wonderful Thanksgiving! I’m going to have to take a look at Ina Garten’s make-ahead turkey. I’ll admit I’m skeptical, but with you endorsing it and I think Carole was giving it a try, I might need to try it. I always think that if I’ve forgotten to take photos (like this year) that just means I was present and having fun.
P.S. We need Lebowski 2024 shirts to be a thing!
I did my turkey a day ahead for the first time too! I was expecting 14 for dinner and I knew I could not fit everything in the oven for that group. I did a bit of online research and found the Ina Garten method, the Pioneer Woman method, and the Williams Sonoma method. I was skeptical, but, like you, found it worked perfectly. I agree that it was nice to be able to get that dirty pan out of the way, plus I was able to make the gravy ahead and avoid that last minute chore. It’s a win-win-win.
I did the turkey the Ina way, too, and had good results EXCEPT that my turkey took FOREVER to cook and it wasn’t done before everyone came over. I think next year I’ll do it the day before instead. I’m glad you had a great day with your family, we did, too. And I didn’t take any photos either!
I would love to try that turkey recipe…though I anticipate push back. 🙂 I made a new corn pudding with a Jiffy (go Chelsea!) mix and it was a hit so that may become a regular in the rotation. No pictures either, no pie making for me but the meal was hot and absolutely delicious! Glad you had a nice day!
I have only once made the turkey (my mother loves doing Thanksgiving and isn’t ready to relinquish it), but I am fully in favor of making ahead. For years, she and my dad have been getting up early to make the turkey Thanksgiving morning. It’s usually done before midday, so it’s carved and placed nicely in a serving dish and all the mess is cleaned up long before dinner. Kiddo and I did our pumpkin bread baking (four dozen muffins plus a large loaf) the day before, and the only cooking/baking I did the day of was making Ina Garten’s apple cranberry cake, and only because I thought it would be best when fresh. The whole meal was delicious!
Thanks for the post! My pumpkin pie cheesecake was over churned or whatever it might have been, plus needed a bit more sugar, and my graham cracker crust was soggy (because the water from the water bath leaked) so live and learn.
Do you know the name of your china/stainless pattern? It’s very elegant.
Make ahead turkey would be a fantastic way to make T-Day easier on everyone! We don’t usually cook a turkey (I’m not a fan) and this year we were alone so we did something untraditional. I’ll share this idea and also keep it in my back pocket!
My sister always hosts Thanksgiving dinner and I always host Christmas dinner. We were a small gathering this year and having a smaller turkey was a lot easier to work with! I’m glad you had such a nice time with your family!
What a wonderful Thanksgiving in Michigan … and California (GO Erin GO!) This was our first time with the whole family at Katie’s new house and it worked really well. I only wish we’d had more leftovers. and I’m looking forward to a re-run at Christmas, with Lucy five weeks older (maybe I can relax a little?!)
Congratulations to Erin on her run. Your Thanksgiving sounds lovely. We went to my sister’s. I made my Grama’s roll recipe. They were a labor of love but came out very well. I think not having so many photos probably means you were enjoying the day. I definitely made some notes about the roll recipe so I can make them again with less angst.
We had a fun Thanksgiving mostly traditional but with a few variations. We had a turkey-ette, just the breast since only my husband likes turkey and my daughter added an absolutely delicious mac n’ three different cheeses casserole. Where are our traditions going…:). Next year will have to try Ina’s make-ahead turkey (is it in one of her books? i have most of them), perhaps do a dress rehearsal at Christmas. My best pumpkin pie was my first. The recipe was the same as all subsequent ones, don’t know what was different except that one rested on a cool November kitchen counter for three days. Must have benefited from the “curing” time. Last minute snacky addition – dates. In season now and in an appropriate autumn-y color. A three-year-old said they tasted like raisins…why not?