What can I do tonight to get ready the night before Thanksgiving?
The first thing you should do on Thanksgiving Eve is make two lists: one, a menu that enumerates every single thing you plan to serve, along with the appropriate sauces, dressings and garnishes; the other detailing every non-culinary task that needs to be done, from bringing the folding chairs in from the garage to arranging the flowers.
Post the menu in a prominent place, such as the refrigerator door, so you don't realize while clearing dessert that you forgot to serve the salad.
Using your menu as a guide, make a kitchen time line. The time line should note, at 30- minute intervals right up to serving time, when every dish needs to be prepared or finished, placed in the oven and removed from the oven. (If you find that certain dishes need to be in the oven at the same time, make sure they need the same temperature and that the oven is large enough to accommodate them all.)
Setting the table the night before usually has a calming effect on nervous hosts. Don't worry if you don't have enough matching pieces, but if you can alternate mismatched sets (e.g., one white napkin, one red napkin), it will look more deliberate.
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 instant-read thermometer - 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.)
Cook whatever you can the night before. Some dishes, such as casseroles, can be cooked in their entirety and reheated just before serving. Stuffing can be assembled the night before, vegetables can be prepped, cheese can be grated. Wash and dry lettuce and keep it wrapped in a dish towel in the fridge.
Oh, and start making ice.