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The dish on Long Island's restaurant and food scene

Cooks: What to do on Thanksgiving Eve

A Thanksgiving meal for friends and family is

A Thanksgiving meal for friends and family is prepared by chef Matt Connors at his parents' home in Bay Shore. Here, the roast turkey, stuffed with an onion, lies on a platter garnished with sage and parsley fresh cut from his garden. (November 10, 2010) (Credit: Michael Gross)

Reader, if you are eating Thanksgiving dinner in a restaurant, I envy you. This item is not for you. But if you are cooking Thanksgiving—as I am—I offer you this last-minute advice.

If you do not already own an oven thermometer and an instant-read meat thermometer, stop reading right now, go to the nearest Bed Bath & Beyond, and buy these two indispensable items.

Find out your local supermarket’s holiday schedule. Most supermarkets are open on Thanksgiving; call to find out how late. Ditto your liquor store, deli, gourmet shop, florist or anyone else you might need in a pinch. Put white wine and beer in the refrigerator.

Check on the progress of your turkey. If you are cooking a fresh turkey, it should be already procured and in your refrigerator. A frozen turkey should be in the last stages of defrosting. If yours is not, place it (still in its plastic wrapper) breast-side down in cold water to cover, and change the water every 30 minutes.

Review your menu and make a game plan for the next 24 hours. Determine what can be done tonight (toasting nuts, chopping vegetables, washing salad greens) and tomorrow morning (making salad dressing, baking pie) and what must wait until the last minute (dressing the salad). Then, working backward from your desired mealtime, make a timeline. Here’s a sample timeline. (Scroll down to the bottom.)

Set the table. First, it will give you a sense of having completed one big task, thereby instilling a measure of calm. Second, it will reveal any unanticipated holes in your service—broken wineglasses, chipped plates—while there’s still time to get fill-ins.

Go through your menu and take out and set aside all the serving pieces you will need. In each platter or bowl, place the appropriate spoons, forks or tongs. If you have a lot of courses, you may want to label each piece with the dish it is destined to contain.

Now, turning your attention from dining room to kitchen: Go through the menu again, and this time take out and set aside all the pots, pans and tools you will need. Some of them—the baster, the gravy separator—you may not have seen for a while. (And, if they are irretrievably misplaced, most Long Island Bed Bath & Beyond stores are open until 9:30 tonight.)

Finally, I leave you with 3 Turkey Tips

• Let your turkey come to room temperature before you put it in the oven. This means taking it out of the refrigerator at least hour (or, for a big bird, two hours) before you plan to cook. Relax, this is not a health risk.

• Let your turkey rest at least 30 minutes before carving it, 45 minutes to an hour is better. If you tent it with foil, it will stay very warm for 90 minutes.

• Watch this turkey-carving video.

Happy Thanksgiving!
 

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