Bits & Bites / Cooking / Tips

How-to Tuesday: Hosting Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my absolute favorite holiday. Very early on I told my beau I was always going to spend Thanksgiving in Savannah- no exceptions. That hasn’t changed now that we’re married, but it is nice to spend the holiday with the other side of the family as well. Last year we did a pre-Thanksgiving meal with the Neudeck side of the fam at my sister in law’s house and had it catered. This year, now that we’re in our new place, we decided to host here. A sit down dinner for 15 people is quite the undertaking so I’ve broken it down for you in case you’re trying to host Turkey Day for your fam and are feeling just a bit overwhelmed. (I certainly was.)

To make sure you can get it all on the table, here are my best tips:

  1. Plan a menu that takes advantage of multiple cooking methods. You’ll never have room in your oven for all the dishes at once so prepare a mix of casseroles (that can be made in advance and simply warmed right before serving), something made in a slow cooker, something that’s either sautéed or doesn’t actually need to be cooked, maybe something grilled, and something that goes in the oven.
  2. Have a cocktail hour. You’re going to be in the kitchen so you’ll need some easy apps you can throw in front of your guests to occupy them while you finish cooking.
  3. Make a timeline. The only way I was going to get it all done was with a detailed timeline. I’ll post the full timeline below, but basically I started cooking on Friday night for our Sunday afternoon Thanksgiving.
  4. Get electric warming plates. Sure, you can keep stuff warm in the oven, but what if you need to cook something? One of the long plates will keep two of your casserole dishes nice and warm on the buffet.
  5. Consider alternative recipes. I have never attempted a Thanksgiving turkey…and I wasn’t about to let this be my first time. Not only were the stakes high, I only have a single oven and a turkey large enough to feed 15 would take up the whole thing…leaving no room for the sides. Instead, I made turkey breasts. They’re easier/quicker to cook and way less intimidating.
  6. Make it a team effort. I did all the cooking, but having my beau around made things easier. It means there’s someone to run out for extra paper towels or whatever last minute ingredients you forget. I put Albert in charge of appetizer set up. I handled the brie, but he got the pub cheese, olives, and charcuterie all plated up and set out. Since I didn’t have to deal with that, I was able to quickly run back into the bedroom and swipe on some mascara before the guests arrived. I also had him do all the carving. He got all the turkey on the platter so I could focus on getting the sides in the oven to warm up.
  7. Start on the early side. Our cocktail hour was called for 2:30 PM with the main meal by 3:30/3:45. Since my timeline was relatively spread out, I was able to clean as I went. Coupled with the fact that we used our everyday dishes that went right in the dishwasher (and paper plates for dessert) that meant I only had to wash the serving pieces. With an easy clean-up process, that early start time meant the house was tidy and back in working order by 7 PM. What a great feeling.
  • Cooking for 15 is tough in general because a single dish to feed that many people would have to be massive. It’s easier to cook two smaller things. In this case, we did a ham (in the slow cooker) and the turkey cutlets. This was the approach we took for all the sides, too. I don’t have a casserole dish large enough for a mac and cheese to feed the whole crowd. So instead we did two smaller starchy items. Same for the veggies. The full menu is as follows:
  • Thanksgiving plates never look pretty. But they taste sooooo good.

      Appetizers:
      • Baked Brie with Rosemary and Honey
      • Charcuterie Plate with Olives
      • Pub Cheese with Carrots
      The Main Event:
      • Honey Glazed Ham
      • Turkey Breasts
      • Mac and Cheese
      • Garlic Mashed Potatoes
      • Roasted Brussels Sprouts
      • Haricots Verts with Sour Cream and Parmesan
      Miscellaneous:
      • Cranberry Pineapple Relish
      • Biscuits
      Dessert:
      • Fudge Pie
      • Monkey Bread

    FYI: The biggest hits were the brie, turkey, and mashed potatoes.

    My timeline was as follows. It actually worked out perfectly – I included some buffers and spread everything out so I wasn’t stressed at all. As long as you shower when you wake up, you’ll have enough downtime between dishes to relax, finish your makeup, and set the table.

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