When it comes to cooking a feast, it comes down to understanding which dishes you can make ahead of time and which are best prepared on your dinner day. To help you cook an unforgettable meal without breaking a sweat, we spoke with experts to find out what they tend to prepare ahead of time versus what they leave until Thanksgiving Day to tackle.
Before the day
Even if you ain’t gonna do a lot of real things cooking Before your guests arrive, you can do the vast majority of your preparation or, as chefs say, your setting up, long before their presence is felt. Executive chef John Melfi of Modena in Washington, DC, says it’s the biggest key to cooking for groups. “Cutting all the veg in advance, starting a turkey broth to puff up your sauce, and cutting bread to make breadcrumbs are all things you can do a day or two ahead of time to save time and money. efforts for Thanksgiving, ”he says.
Anything else you can get a head start on? Salad, like this fall recipe from Fred Scarpulla, chef at frozen food brand Amy’s Kitchen. “I’m going to make my lettuce, my pecan candies, make some cranberries or pomegranate and make my dressing the night before,” he says. “You can also prepare vegetables, like cauliflower or Brussels sprouts, and then roast them the same day so that they are just out of the oven. “
As they leave turkey roasting for Thanksgiving Day, several chefs have told us they prefer to do the hard work of brining their birds by letting them sit in a salt bath for at least a day or so. two in advance. “The process adds flavor and helps keep the turkey moist during the cooking process, just be sure to dry the skin well before cooking for maximum crispness,” says chef Rachel Diener of Heirloom, a restaurant demi -James Beard finalist located in Lewes, Deleware. “I recommend brining for 8 to 18 hours depending on the size of the bird.”
Cranberry sauce or chutney
For executive chef Jay Rohlfing of Perennial in Baltimore, Maryland, dishes that you can easily reheat are great for early preparation, including cranberry sauce. “I like to make my cranberry chutney a few days before serving it because it gets better with age,” he says.
If you always have a casserole dish on hand, rest assured that this is an essential side dish that can be prepared ahead of time. The key is to reheat these baked offerings so that they always taste fresh, and to do this, pastry chef Rachel King of Kaneh Co. in California recommends an oven at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.
While dessert is usually the last thing served on Thanksgiving, it can be one of the first things you cook in the days leading up to your dinner, says chef Kevin Tien of DC’s famous Moon Rabbit restaurant, which bakes a pie. with purple sweet potatoes, made with Japanese sweet potatoes that give a unique coloring to baked goods.
While Chef Melfi will brine his turkey ahead of time, he recommends cooking it the same day to retain moisture and tenderness.
“You lose flavor and consistency when you reheat them, and the sides make all the difference for a delicious meal,” says Chef Melfi.
If there’s one dish that all the chefs have agreed should be made on the same day, this is it. “Whipped potatoes need to be cooked and kept warm,” explains Chef Rohlfing. “Preparing ahead and reheating can overload the potato starch and risk breaking the butter and cream emulsion.”
Sauce, offal and stuffing
Since you’re not going to be cooking your turkey until the big day, this means that any other dish made with that turkey or its juices should also wait until then.
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