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My Thanksgiving Game Plan

Thanksgiving is ten days away, but my freezer is practically full with rolls, sweets, cookies, appetizers and many other assorted foods that can be make ahead of time. Lisa, Lenny, Leo & Lucy are staying for over a week - that is a lot of cooking. I am getting organized so Turkey Day will be a breeze and allow me time for several glasses of bubbly. My busiest day in the kitchen will be the day before Thanksgiving.

The Menu:

Salmon Rilletes

Relish Tray
Ponzi Pinot Noir
Grilled Herbed Turkey
Mashed Potatoes
Maple-Glazed Delicata Squash
Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad
Buttermilk Cloverleaf Rolls
Cranberry Sauce
Pumpkin Pie
Apple Pie
Chocolate-Pecan Shortbread Bars

Yeah, we were never one of those marshmallow-topped sweet potato families.

APPETIZER: The salmon rillettes is already prepared, pressed into a vacuum-sealed bag and frozen. After a quick thaw, I will mold the spread into a pretty crock, pour a layer of melted butter over, garnish with chives and serve. When anyone asks if they can bring something to dinner, I ask them to bring a bottle of Veuve Clicquot, which is more polite thanthis rude situation. My Mom's Candlewick relish tray will be filled with the usual suspects - olives, pickles, crudités.

For the first time EVER, DT is planning to grill the butterflied turkey - outside, over his fancy gas BBQ! I can't wait for the result of this test and I think Denny's coffee shop is open 24-hours in case of failure. This experiment also frees-up an oven. Yes! The bird will be dry-salt-brined - with Kosher salt, pepper and fresh herbs - for two days prior. Hopefully, I won't have too many glasses of the bubbly and forget to photograph this epic moment in family history.

VEGETARIANS: Your nephew just called and said he is bringing his girlfriend for Thanksgiving... and, hey, it's no big deal, Auntie... but she is vegetarian/vegan. Never fails on a holiday featuring a massive bird. I was vegetarian for twelve years, so completely understand.

No problem. Just make Warm Potato Salad with Arugula and omit the Parmesan cheese if she is vegan. This recipe is on our usual rotation, and you can make it with cubed butternut squash if you get uber inspired. The potatoes and onions can be roasted the day before, the dressing whirled and the potato/onion mixture will only need a simple reheating before tossing with the arugula. Garnish with pepitas for a festive touch. Biggest problem will be keeping the carnivores away from this delicious dish. You can also be super generous and use vegetable stock in some (or all) of the stuffing. Or whip-up a little Roasted Carrot & Ginger Soup, which also can be made ahead and quickly reheated before serving.

SIDES: There are several recipes for make-ahead mashed potatoes, but this is one thing I make just before serving. They can hold on the stove for quite a while. I just smash with an old-fashioned hand-held masher with copious amounts of butter and cream. It's Thanksgiving. Since there will be no roasting turkey drippings, I am buying gravy from our hippy gourmet grocer. It is divine... and I don't have to make gravy. We are also not a family that stuffs their turkey... which, this year, would be a serious problem. I am using my homemade chicken stock, celery, onion, sage and store-bought bread cubes - baked in a massive casserole. The dressing will be prepared Wednesday. The Brussels Sprouts will be shredded and the dressing will also be prepared Wednesday. Last minute toss (in a salad bowl my parents received as a wedding gift). Delicata half-moons will be coated in pure maple syrup, melted butter, a little olive oil, Kosher salt and roasted. Cranberry sauce is also made ahead. I use the recipe from the bag, but substitute orange juice for water and garnish with orange zest. Lenny's Grandma always makes cloverleaf rolls for him on Thanksgiving, so I made (and froze) a dozen for our table.

DESSERTS: I will make pie pastry and freeze it for several days before filling/baking the pumpkin and apple pies.

The pumpkin pie filling is very traditional, with just a splash of Jack Daniels Tennessee whiskey. The apples are grown at the bottom of the hill. The shortbread bars are already in the freezer.

Since the kids will be here for a week, there are a few more things in the freezer - chocolate chip cookies (no nuts) for Leo and turkey-sage sausage, potato, spinach and Parmesan breakfast gallettes:

This is my Thanksgiving game plan. What are you serving? Do you make things ahead, or go full-on attack mode Thursday morning? Or do you go to a restaurant? What are your family traditions?

Until my next update, I remain, your organized correspondent.