When I am preparing a meal for a holiday, I think of myself as the conductor of an orchestra. It must go back to my university days when I studied Music Theory. Music has many different fundamentals or elements. So does preparing a feast. Every culture and religion celebrates some sort of
Holiday. Whether you prepare a turkey or any other meat or fish, for a main course, the timetable I use should work for you. I like to break the tasks down. I make sure that whenever I am prepping, that I gather all of the ingredients and tools I will need for that particular dish. I put them on a cookie sheet and as I use each item I will put it way i.e. spices, sugar, baking soda etc. Use your list from my previous blog or if you threw it out then sit down and write a new one.
So, let me walk you through this:
48 hours before the holiday dinner:
Based on a 10-12 pound frozen turkey you will need 48 hours for it to thaw. Refer to my previous blog to read all about safely handling the turkey.
Prepare your pies or any other dessert. It doesn’t matter if you choose to bake your own or buy ready made, saving time is the key issue. Baking two days before the meal will ensure that you do not need to use the oven on the day you roast the turkey.
Depending on my time I will cook the turnips since the large waxed ones we get in this area take a long time to cook.
I’ll also bake the squash. Make sure that you have enough storage containers to put the cooked veg into the fridge for storage.
If you make your own cranberry sauce, this can also be prepared in advance.
24 hours before …
Prepare the stuffing. I no longer stuff the bird I cook it separately and serve it in a casserole dish.
Wash your other vegetables and where suitable peel them and put them in water into the fridge if there is room.
If you are serving a green salad from scratch make it and seal it in a zip lock in the fridge.
Check on the turkey and if it isn’t thawing and is still quite frozen then you need to put it into cold water overnight. Once again check the directions from my previous blog about handling poultry.
Go over your list and see what else there is that you can do on the day before. This year I made biscuits and wrapped them in foil and warmed them on the day of the feast.
It is really important to keep an ongoing list so that you don’t go too crazy the day of and find out that that an ingredient is missing or that something you are making takes up too much oven time. Most of us are everyday people who do not have a celebrity kitchen so we probably only have one oven.
The day of…
4 hours before prepare and bake/cook/steam/puree your vegetables/casseroles and have them all ready to reheat right before the meal. This will take place once your turkey is finished and resting on your counter waiting to be carved.
3 hours before put the bird in the oven.
2 hours before serving make sure that all of your food is prepared and assembled and that if you have them in pots that serving bowls are on hand. Set your table or prepare your buffet if that is the route you are taking. Make sure that your serving utensils are also available and hot mats or pot holders are also in place.
1 hour before use a meat thermometer and check that the turkey is cooked and up to temp. If it is done then take it out of the oven and put it on a cutting board to rest. Cover it with foil to keep it warm. Turn your oven down to a low heat and reheat as many dishes that your racks can hold. Remember to turn your stove burners off and then you can also use the stovetop to warm some dishes if oven room is a problem.
½ hour before make your gravy, while it is bubbling away on low heat carve your bird and put it on a platter and cover it again in foil.
¼ hour before pull everything out of the oven and put it on the table. Make sure the food is covered until the last minute. Turn off your oven and pop in the turkey to keep it warm. Strain your gravy. Make sure everything is ready and on the table i.e. a cork screw if you are serving white wine. Keep in mind the dessert if it requires heating.
Let the music begin…
Pull the turkey out and put the meat and gravy on the table and then tell everyone that ‘dinner is served’. If you have paced yourself and have organized your holiday meal then you too will relax and enjoy your creation. Put on some festive music and celebrate!
Pre-heat the oven? Really? If I was the sort of person who planned ahead, I wouldn't be eating this Totino's Party Pizza in the first place. ~Adam Peterson