What is Thanksgiving:
Thanksgiving is a U.S. holiday which is celebrated annually on the fourth Thursday of November every year. Thanksgiving is a time to gather family and friends and be thankful for what one has and enjoying a plentiful meal together.
The traditional American version of Thanksgiving dinner has the majority of its dishes made from foods native to America as the first Thanksgiving feast of 1621 contained such foods as wild turkeys, waterfowl, venison, seafood, fruits, pumpkins, etc. A Thanksgiving dinner would as such not be complete without foods as listed below:
Thanksgiving Dinner Menus/Traditional Foods & Some Side Dishes:
- Turkey: This constitutes the main dish, usually prepared whole, stuffed, seasoned then roasted.
- Stuffing/Dressing: This is the food with which the turkey is filled. Today it is served next to the main meal (a side dish).
- Mashed Potatoes: This is a potato that has been boiled, peeled and crushed to give a soft and creamy paste with added butter, milk, and some garlic.
- Gravy: Cooking the turkey and other meats usually produce juices which are turned into a thick sauce. This sauce is used to top mashed potatoes, meats, and other
- Cranberry Sauce: Cranberries, grated lemon peel, sugar, and water are boiled and the mixture is simmered to give a sweet but slightly sour flavor.
- Corn Bread Dinner Rolls or Angel Biscuits: Dinner bread adds variety and character to any table. While enable folks to grab and go.
- Green Bean Casserole: Made by slowly cooking cream of mushroom soup, fried onions and green bean in an oven.
- Candied Yam: Made by adding spices, brown sugar, butter, and marshmallow to potato and baked and can be used serves as a side dish.
- Pumpkin Pie: A delicious, warm spice and pumpkin filling inside a flaky crust.
- Pecan Pie: Made with pecan nuts, spices, and maple syrup.
Fix-Ahead Prep Tasks For A Stress-Free Thanksgiving
Fourteen Days To Thanksgiving:
- Make a list of your guests.
- Find out food allergies and drink preferences (a sure safeguard for undue embarrassment).
- Write out the menu, a shopping list, cooking schedule, and timetable.
- Decide on the fix-ahead dishes.
- Plan to delegate duties: decide on people to help with the preparation, the helps they’ll render when to come; those to bring items like wine, side dishes, serving dishes, cooking utensils, Be sure that everyone involved is informed.
- Gather the equipment needed – a large roasting pot for the turkey, meat thermometer,
- If you’ll be baking pie for dessert, make the dough for the crust now and freeze.
- If you intend using cheesecakes as part of the meal, fix it now and freeze.
- If you choose to either barbecue, deep-fry or smoke the turkey, then do not stuff, let the stuffing come as a side dish.
Seven Days To Thanksgiving:
- Clean out the refrigerator to make room for prepared dishes & groceries.
- Go shopping & buy the frozen turkey and non-perishable ingredients for the dinner recipes.
Cook’s Tip: Estimating that each guest eats about 1.3 pounds of turkey, round off by multiplying with the number of guests to attend, if ten, your turkey should weigh 13 pounds.
- Gather other equipment like a cheese grater, strainer, electric mixer, differently sized mixing bowls, baking dishes.
Four Days To Thanksgiving:
- Begin thawing the frozen turkey.
Cook’s Tip: A 5-pound turkey requires 24 hours thawing time in the fridge.
40°F is the refrigerator’s turkey thawing time. (Defrosting turkey at room temperature aids multiplication and breeding of bacteria)
Three Days To Thanksgiving:
- Set the Table: Iron table linens, designate the serving platters, ensure the glassware and silver sparkle.
- Prepare cranberry sauce, other sauces, jellies, and dressing. Refrigerate all.
Two Days To Thanksgiving
- Tidy up the house, kitchen, and bathroom.
- Brine the turkey. Refrigerate.
Cook’s Tip: Brining the turkey before baking keeps it moist, tender and flavorful)
The container for brining should be big enough to hold the turkey and “brine mixture and also able to fit into the refrigerator.
- Allow the frozen dessert to thaw in the refrigerator.
- If making a gelatin dish is in the plan, do so now. Refrigerate.
Day Before Thanksgiving:
- Finish preparing any pie you were making.
- Do a second shopping now: Buy the perishables – salad greens, fresh bread /seafood,
Preparation (Mise En Place):
- Prepare every ingredient for all the different dishes: wash, trim, chop the vegetable, set out the spices, herbs,
- Clean and dry the salad greens, store in resealable plastic bags.
- Prepare the fix-ahead mashed potatoes.
- Set the table using your best dishes to give that ‘special occasion ‘ look, set out the flowers and other decorations.
Thanksgiving Day Dinner
- Prepare the turkey and put the turkey into the oven to roast, pay attending to cooking times guidelines, so, your turkey finishes at the appropriate time.
Cook’s Tip: You could decide not to stuff, but serve it as a side dish, which in modern times is a food safety recommendation.
- Defrost every other frozen item.
- Chill white wines and other drinks.
- Set up the bar and other drinks you plan to make.
- stand the finished turkey at room temperature.
Cook’s Tip: Refrigerate any dish that’s ready more than an hour before dinner.
Thirty Minutes Before Dinnertime:
- If the turkey is ready, let it stand while making the gravy and reheating side dishes.
- Dress the salad now.
- Carve the turkey.
- Serve the meal.
Cook’s Tip: Save the carcass drippings and remnants for turkey soup or slow cooker both.
- Wrap up every leftover within two hours.
- Make coffee and tea, whip cream for pies and serve
Tips For Thanksgiving Meal Preparation
Tips For Preparing Turkey:
- Remove turkey from refrigerator and allow to sit for 1-2 hours.
- Preheat oven to 350°
- Place turkey in a shallow roasting pan with legs tied together and wings tucked underneath.
- Coat the skin with herbed olive oil or butter and cover the bird with a thin aluminum
- Add a cup of water to the bottom of the pan.
Cook’s Tip: Since cooking varies according to the size of the bird, check the wrapper to ascertain its approximate cooking time.
- Roast the turkey until the temperature of the thickest parts of the thigh, breast, wing, reaches 165°F or more.
- In the last 1¹/2 hours of cooking time, remove the foil from the breast, baste with pan juices to aid browning; add more water if needed.
- The turkey should sit for about 20-30 minutes before carving for the juices to evenly saturate the meat.
Tips For Making Stuffing/Dressing:
- Make the stuffing slightly dry if you intend stuffing the turkey with it. This way it expands and moistens as the turkey roasts.
- Dry the bread overnight at room temperature, then slice and bake in an oven to avoid sogginess.
- Spoon the stuffing lightly into the turkey cavity. It won’t reach the desired 165°F if it’s too tightly packed.
- If you’re baking your dressing in the oven, make sure it’s moist – add some butter, cold water or turkey stock.
Tips For Preparing Mashed Potatoes:
- Use higher starch potatoes (the Russets or Yukon golds) for fluffy and smooth mash as well as easier flavor absorption.
- Salt the water as the potato cooks for good and perfect seasoning.
- Begin cooking the potato in cold (not hot) water, salt and heat to boiling before reducing to a simmer – this checks uneven cooking.
- Drain the potato well after cooking then mash; this gives the original potato (not water) taste.
- Add the flavoring at room temperature– melt in the butter, mash in the warm milk; this makes for easy absorption and won’t cool the potato down.
- Do not mash in the potato too vigorously (g., with a food processor) or for too long. Gentle mashing gives light and fluffy spuds
- Hold the prepared potato in a slow-cooker on ‘warm’ setting. Fluff the potatoes up again just before serving.
Cook’s Tip: Potatoes don’t take kindly to sitting around for long
Tips For Preparing Candied Yam:
- Wash, peel and slice yam into thick circles.
- Melt butter over medium heat.
- Add sugar; stir and blend well. Stir in whipping cream then cinnamon, nutmeg, maple and vanilla extract.
- Taste and pour mixture over yam.
- Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes.
- Remove foil, bake for another 20-25 minutes.
Cook’s Tip: Slow-cooking the yam in the mixture; letting them bask in the syrup sweetens them through.
Tips For Preparing Cranberry Sauce:
- Sort the cranberries. Pick out and discard any with stem, Rinse and drain.
- Combine the cranberries with citrus fruits and granulated sugar into a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir well.
- Cover and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes, at which point the mixture looks loose and liquidy with a deep purple color.
- As it cools, it clumps and thickens up.
- Can be served chilled or at room temperature.
Cook’s Tip: After cooking, you may add water to get the sauciness and thinness you desire.
Tips For Preparing Green Bean Casserole:
- Salt some water in a pot, add the green beans.
- Cook for approximately 6 minutes, drain and plunge immediately into ice water to stop further cooking.
- Melt the butter for cooking over medium heat until foaming subsides.
- Cook the mushroom for about 6 minutes until it’s released water evaporates.
- Add flavor, broth, and cream; reduce heat and simmer until sauce thickens.
- Season with salt and pepper, then add green beans to sauce. Stir until evenly coated.
Cook’s Tip: Allow the green beans casserole to thaw 1-3 days before the Thanksgiving Dinner.
Heat the casserole in a 425° oven for 10 minutes. Add the topping, bake for 1-20 minutes/until top turns golden brown and the sauce is bubbly on the edges.
Tips For Making Gravy:
- Measure ¼ cup of turkey fat drippings from roasting bowl into the bowl for making gravy. (Be accurate because too little fat makes the gravy lumpy)
- Cover over medium heat while stirring continuously.
- Stir until mixture is smooth and bubbly. Stir in the liquid.
- Heat to boiling as you stir constantly.
Cook’s Tip: Straining the pan’s drippings before adding them produces a smooth gravy.
Tips For Making Pumpkin Pie:
- Canned pumpkin is 100% canned pumpkin, nothing else added.
- Canned pumpkin pie mix contains pumpkin puree along with traditional pumpkin pie spices and sugar – just add milk and
- For a glistening effect, brush top and edge of pie crust with milk and sprinkle with sugar before baking.
- For a golden brown effect, brush top and edge of pie crust with a beaten egg yolk mixed with one teaspoonful milk before baking.
- Mashed cooked fresh pumpkin do not substitute canned pumpkin puree in baking recipes calling for homemade mashed pumpkin as they can have higher moisture content than canned pumpkin puree.
- Pumpkin desserts do not have to come in the form of a pie.
On Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, stores across the country make huge sales; people wait in lines even for hours to buy cheap products usually for use as Christmas gifts.
The Thanksgiving holiday concludes on Cyber Monday when stores move their sales to the internet.
Whether you live in America or not, as this year’s Thanksgiving comes up, remember to give thanks for everything you have.