I think I'm going to get to host the family holiday again this year. Last year I undercooked the turkey and didn't make gravy.
I've been thinking that maybe I should try both again before the big day.
But how silly is that? Should I just try to make gravy, or find a make-ahead gravy so I have it as backup?
Or would roasting a small chicken help me at all? It seems like it wouldn't.
I've never worried about roasts before--my experience with them is that there's not that much technique to it, except for not overcooking it. They've always come out fine.
But the turkey was weirder--and I had more conflicting advice, and chose the wrong one. Plus I didn't know how much it weighed bcs the butcher didn't tell me and I didn't realize until I was home and had no way to measure it.
And, any general tips for how to handle the big meal, multiple stuff, etc., would be welcome. I've already realized that I need to prep all the plates, platters, linens, etc., at least 2 days before so it's not in the way.
And of course, some foods can be done a day or more ahead.
Timing is everything. Here's my timeline:
Monday: Go shopping. Get everything you think you need. If you're making your own breadcrumbs/bread cubes for the dressing, make them today so they have time to dry out. If you've bought fresh herbs, take them out of their little plastic boxes and put them into a glass of water. Put a baggie over it loosely and pop it in the fridge. If your bird is frozen, put it in the fridge. Make sure it's on something because it will probably drip.
Tuesday: Realize you forgot something. Curse. Go shopping and get it. Prepare the dishes that you'll serve cold (cranberry sauce, Jello mold). Clean up. Woo hoo! You're pretty much done! Double check on your quantities of vegetables, seasonings, and wine. Make the desserts if you are making your own.
Wednesday: Pour yourself a mimosa. It's going to be a long day.
1. Make the dressing/stuffing up until the point where you would stuff the bird or put it into the oven. Just put it into a casserole dish and toss it in the refrigerator. It'll be fine. You can actually do this with most of the casserole-type dishes, I'd guess.
2. Calculate how long you'll need to cook the bird so you know when to put it into the oven. Add at least half an hour to allow for dressing it and resting it. Remember that if you stuff the bird, it'll take longer to cook.
3. Set up your mise en place for tomorrow. You can blanch some of the veggies. Save the carrot water if you're making your own gravy. (If you're having candied carrots, you can peel them, cut them up, and cook them until they are about two minutes short of done. Then, just make the butter-sugar mixture and add the carrots. Finish cooking them then.)
4. Make the relish trays. If you cover them with damp paper towel and then wrap them in plastic, they'll be fine. Cheese and crackers can wait until tomorrow.
5. Set the table. Make sure the relevant beverages are in the refrigerator.
Thursday: Rally the troops and get going.
1. Dress the turkey and put it in the oven at the appropriate time. The meat thermometer is a great idea. Stick it into the thickest part of the bird's thigh.
2. If you want to make your own gravy, toss the giblets (except the liver) and parson's nose into a saucepan of water with a slice of onion, a few peppercorns, a stalk of celery. Let it simmer on a back burner while you do everything else. Keep the heat low and don't let it boil dry.
3. About half an hour before you want to eat, put the casseroles in the oven.
4. Make somebody peel the potatoes and cut them into chunks, then put them into a pot of cold salted water. You can set it aside until you're ready to make the potatoes. Alternatively, save yourself some trouble and just do baked potatoes. They can go in the microwave if you get really pressed for time.
5. Take the turkey out of the oven, put it on the serving platter, then make the gravy. I bring all of the pan juices to a boil, then whisk in a mixture of flour and cold water (about 1:2 ratio). It will thicken. You may need to add more depending on how much you got from the pan juices. No worries. Turn the heat down to medium low. Then, thin using the broth you made from the giblets. (Taste it and strain it first.) I'd use a mix of that and the water that the carrots/potatoes were boiled in. When it gets to be the consistency you want, check the seasonings. If it seems lackluster, add a small blob of Marmite.
6. Five minute warning while you bring all of the casseroles out to the table/sideboard.
Boom. You're done.