Every year, millions of Americans come together to celebrate Thanksgiving with family, friends and food. Young and old alike gather around the dinner table with delicious, decadent food and gratitude for life’s blessings and successes. Although it’s a wonderful American tradition, it can bring a lot of anxiety for the hosts or hostesses that must shop, cook, prepare and clean a massive family feast. But don’t fret, we have several culinary arts tips and tricks to keep your Thanksgiving smooth, organized and focused on what really matters – spending time with family and friends.
What is Thanksgiving without turkey? This traditional focal point of the Thanksgiving feast is central to your tablescape. Get the family involved in preparing the turkey. Kids can help with brining the bird the day before. The day of, they can help cover the turkey with butter or oil, and any herbs and spices you want to add. Adults need to watch it in the oven and baste as needed, if you choose to do so. Culinary training says to always use a good meat thermometer. You’ll know it’s ready when the thermometer reads 165 degrees F.
Thanksgiving Tip: Cook your turkey on top of cut up vegetables. Layer large chunks of carrots, celery and onions in the bottom of the roasting pan. It allows hot air to circulate around the whole bird to increase crispiness. And the cooked veggies can be used for the gravy. Also, have chicken stock on hand in case your turkey turns out a little dry. Adding chicken stock will always revive a dry turkey.
Mashed Potato Casserole
Who doesn’t love mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving? Blast your potatoes with flavor by making a delicious casserole out of them. You’ll need an adult to cut and cook the potatoes, but once they are cooked, you can make it a family affair by letting kids add in all the creamy and delicious extras. Cheddar cheese, sour cream, heavy cream, bacon, and chives are all excellent add-in ideas.
Thanksgiving Tip: Make this side dish the day before, and on Thanksgiving pop it into the oven or microwave to heat it up. This can also be kept warm in a crock pot the day of to free up your hands and oven for other dishes.
Put your culinary schools education to use by preparing this classic dessert. A pumpkin pie is a traditional dessert that can get the whole family involved. While adults prepare and roll out the crust, children can gather and mix the ingredients, then add in all the spices. Kids will love to watch the ingredients come together and see how it creates a delicious dessert.
Thanksgiving Tip: To keep foods warm, utilize insulated spaces such as the microwave or a cooler. Both will keep your hot sides hot while you finish up with other recipes. You can stack covered containers on top of each other in a cooler to keep warm for 30 minutes or so. Coolers can also be used to keep foods cold by packing it with ice.
Bread is a classic staple at the Thanksgiving table. Kids can easily get involved by rolling out each individual ball of dough, and then topping it with any flavorings you choose – like butter, herbs or parmesan. Kids will love watching their masterpieces rise in the oven while they bake.
Thanksgiving Tip: The best thing about dinner rolls is the dough can be made ahead of time and frozen. Just pop the dough balls in the freezer. The day of Thanksgiving, you can put them directly into the oven without thawing and they taste as fresh as if you had made the dough on Thanksgiving day! Learn more about culinary arts through our baking and pastry degrees online.
Apple Pie Tartlets
An easy and delicious recipe to serve as a last minute dessert on Thanksgiving are yummy apple pie tartlets. The dough is fun for all ages to roll out and cut into triangles. Or, in a pinch, use store bought crescent rolls. Sprinkle a scrumptious mixture of spices and sugar on to the dough and top it off with granny smith apple slices. Roll them up and pop them in the oven. These apple pie bites are sure to be a crowd-pleaser.
Thanksgiving Tip: Keep yourself organized by creating a prep list for the few days leading up to Thanksgiving. You can plan multiple shopping trips in advance, and purchase the nonperishable items starting at the beginning of the month. Then a couple of days before, plan your cooking strategy. Prepare whatever recipes you can a day or two before Thanksgiving. Items such as pies or gratins can be made in advance. Decide which recipes will take the longest to make, and prioritize your time accordingly, allowing a little extra time for each recipe.
After everyone has enjoyed the glorious Thanksgiving spread, now comes time to clean up. It can be tricky trying to serve dessert and clear the dishes at the same time. A great way to transition between feast and treats is to serve coffee and desserts in another area. While the coffee is brewing, have your guests help move dirty dishes to the kitchen sink. Once the table is cleared, coffee and dessert can be served.
For more information about Stratford University’s Hospitality and Culinary Arts program, visit us at www.stratford.edu/culinary-arts-and-hospitality.