As a cook, of course I love Thanksgiving, but that doesn't mean I'm immune to the stress the holiday can bring. There is so much pressure, now more than ever, to create the perfect Thanksgiving. But I think we should relax more, stress less, and really enjoy our time with friends and family.
I've devised a strategy to make it a reality. It all comes down to planning and "cheating" where it makes sense, and the cornerstone of it all is this: Make. Buy. Bring.
Make the things you really enjoy, like a great sweet potato side dish, amazing stuffing, or a favorite family recipe.
Buy the items that stress you out, with the number one item being the turkey. Just go to a gourmet store like Agatha & Valentine, buy it already cooked and have it delivered. I'm sure you're a great cook, but why torture yourself with preparing a turkey when it's quite likely the professionals will make one even tastier.
Finally, ask guests to bring an item like dessert, however, be specific or you will end up with 10 apple pies.
The Right Tools
Having the right tools is critical. There are two appliances that I recommend to make Thanksgiving joyful, not a drudge.
A Cuisinart Quick Prep stick hand blender is great for making sauces, soups and mixing gravy.
Another really helpful appliance is an induction cooktop. You can use it to keep a soup warm for hours on a low temperature without the risk of burning or the concern the kitchen will get too hot. They are light and easily portable, so just rent one for the holidays.
Give People Something To Do
There's always one guest who insists on helping whether you want them to or not. Find an easy task and be ready to hand it over when they offer; it could be something as simple (and helpful) as slicing the bread and putting it in a lovely basket.
Set The Stage Early
Set the table two to three days ahead of time if you can, because you are going to be so busy the night before. Make it beautiful because it is the first thing people see when they come in and they will photograph and remember it. So be creative and have fun, really embellish it. Then simply set out flowers the night before.
Don't Forget a Food Plan B
Always have one basic dish prepared for that finicky guest, the one person who doesn't eat meat, or turkey, is a vegan or brings a small child. I find a simple pasta dish with vegetables works well; just keep it in the refrigerator until needed.
Have extra hand towels and toilet paper and light candles in your bathroom so you don't have to think about it or run to refill during the meal.
Similarly, be prepared for that inevitable spill. Have your paper towels and cleaners ready for red wine, white wine, gravy, etc.
Breathe - And Enjoy!
Stop and take a breath before guests arrive. I always have fifteen minutes of meditation to get calm and centered.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!