A Savvy Week: Thanksgiving 2013

Alternate title: How to prep Thanksgiving dinner so that you can serve an elaborate Thanksgiving meal and still get a long break in the middle of the day.

I am so READY for Thanksgiving. I’ve made my menu, using my own handy flowchart, and my grocery list is ready to go. Plus, Heather is coming to spend a very Savvy Thanksgiving with Dan and I! And, um, I may have gone a little overboard with my menu. I mean, three vegetable side dishes for three people?  We might have some leftovers. But that’s okay! I love this holiday because it means I get to cook for people I love, and having lots of leftovers is an awesome bonus. If I’m going to spend so much time cooking, I might as well get a few meals out of it, right?

So here we go.  An awesome Thanksgiving menu, perfect for 5-8 people (or, ehrm, 3…), and how to cook ahead so that you can relax and enjoy the day. You even get a 2 1/2 hour break in the middle of the day to sit down with your guests, a glass of wine, and some snacks!

Savvy Thanksgiving


Turkey photo from Tim Morris/Bon Appetit.

A Savvy Week: Thanksgiving 2013

To Drink: Double batch of Rosy cheek in the morning, wine with dinner.
While I’m Cooking: Mexican hot chocolate roasted pecans. And Savory pumpkin dip (from Gimme Some Oven).
Main: Roast heritage turkey with bacon-herb and cider gravy (from Bon Appetit)
Stuffing: Spicy chorizo cornbread sage dressing (from Boulder Locavore).
Make-Ahead Side: Ginger-glazed carrots.
Make Day-Of Side: Pan-roasted Brussels sprouts with pecans and Romano cheese.
Another Make-Ahead Side, Because I Like to Overcook for Thanksgiving: Mashed root vegetables with bacon vinaigrette (from Bon Appetit).
The Potatoes: Caramelized onion mashed potatoes (from Daily Garnish). Because, caramelized onions.
The Bread: Pumpkin yeast bread (from King Arthur Flour).
The Gravy: Turkey gravy using this tutorial from How Sweet It Is, but using apple cider instead of water.
The Cranberries: Mom’s wineberry salad.
The Dessert:  Caramel apple & pumpkin pie (from Zoe Bakes).

On Sunday:

Make the Mexican hot chocolate roasted pecans. Allow them to cool completely before storing in an airtight jar.  Try not to eat them all before Thursday!

While the pecans cook, caramelize the onions for the mashed potatoes. Cover and refrigerate, once they are cooled.

On Monday:

Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat. Using tongs or a slotted spatula, transfer the cooked bacon to a paper towel-lined plate, and carefully pour the bacon fat into a glass jar.

Make the bacon, dijon and herb butter for the turkey. Cover and refrigerate the extra bacon and the bacon fat separately.

On Tuesday:

Make the wineberry salad. While you are waiting for the Jell-o to soft set, beat the whipping cream with a little sugar (between a teaspoon and a tablespoon) until it forms whipped cream, which you can fold in to the wineberry salad. The cranberries can be refrigerated, covered, until Thursday!

Butter and season the turkey as instructed.  Cover and refrigerate.

Prepare the pie dough. This is my favorite recipe.

On Wednesday:

Bake some cornbread for the dressing. I plan on using this recipe from i am baker.  Measure out four cups of cornbread, and set them aside for tomorrow.  You can eat the rest tonight with dinner!

Make the ginger-glazed carrots.  Refrigerate the carrots until tomorrow.

Make the root vegetable mash.  Use some of yesterday’s bacon fat (just a teaspoon or two) to sauté the onion.

Bake the pie.  Cover and chill until tomorrow.

On Thursday:

First thing in the morning, make a double batch of rosy cheek.  It will make for delicious sipping while you cook, with or without the alcohol (and without the alcohol, it is kid-friendly as well!).

Five hours before the planned dinner time (five and a half if you are a slow veggie chopper):   Preheat the oven and prep the turkey.  Start cooking the turkey, basting it with the drippings every 30 minutes or so.

Shortly after the turkey goes into the oven, make the Brussels sprouts. If you don’t need the pan for something else, just leave the sprouts in their pan for reheating later. Otherwise, you can move them to a mixing bowl to free up the pan and stove space.

To save yourself some juggling later, start making the dressing. Just cook the corn, onion, celery, garlic and chorizo for now – stop after step four.  Refrigerate.

Four hours before the planned dinner time: Start making the pumpkin bread. Knead the dough and let it rise, then shape the bread and let it rise again.

Mix up the pumpkin dip.  Put out the dip with a plate of crackers and a bowl of the roasted pecans for people to snack on during the dinner prep.  Hey, you even have time to sit down with a glass of wine and some snacks before you need to get back to the kitchen!

One and a half hours before the planned dinner time: Take the chorizo base for the dressing out of the refrigerator to allow it to come to room temperature.

Start boiling the potatoes for the mashed potatoes.

One hour and fifteen minutes before the planned dinner time: Rather than baking at the stated 375F, the rolls can be baked at 350F for a longer time, about 30-35 minutes.  Slide the bread into the oven now, so that the bread will be done around the same time as the meat.

One hour before the planned dinner time: Prep the rest of the dressing so that it will be ready to go into the oven in fifteen minutes.

Forty five minutes before the planned dinner time: Take the turkey and bread out of the oven, and allow it to rest for at least 30 minutes.

Slide the vegetable mash into the 350F oven to rewarm.  This should take the full 45 minutes.

Put the dressing into the oven.  Cook at 350F for 30 minutes covered by foil, then 10-15 minutes uncovered.

Whisk the butter, milk and salt into the potatoes, and stir in the caramelized onions.

While the mash and dressing cook and the turkey rests, prep the gravy.  In place of water, use 2 cups of apple cider and 1 cup of turkey stock.

Thirty minutes before dinner time: Reheat the carrots and Brussels sprouts over medium-low heat, just until warmed through.

Fifteen minutes before dinner time:Carve the turkey, and start bringing the finished dishes out to the dining area.

After dinner: Serve the pie chilled or at room temperature.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Grocery List

18-19 pound turkey, heritage if you can find it
4 medium Russet potatoes
4 medium red potatoes
4-5 pounds mixed root vegetables (such as parsnips, kohlrabi, celery root, turnips, rutabagas)
5 cups trimmed and halved Brussels sprouts
1 large white onion
6 medium yellow onions
1 medium red onion
1 large bunch celery
2 pounds carrots
8 apples
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
3 green onions
2 cloves garlic
2-3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
3 bay leaves
1/3 cup fresh thyme
1/3 cup fresh sage
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
2 lemons (for juice + grated peel)
2 1/2 cups unsweetened apple cider
1 cup turkey stock
1 cup chicken stock
20-22 ounces bacon
1 pound chorizo
7 eggs
1 cup whipping cream
8 cups whole milk (I’ve also used a mix of two thirds 2% milk and one third half-and-half)
2 1/3 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
8 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded Romano cheese
4 cups unsalted butter
4 tablespoons shortening
4 cups pumpkin puree
5 cups unsalted raw pecans
1/2 cup roasted and salted macadamia nuts
9 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup cranberry juice cocktail
1 3-ounce package of raspberry Jell-O
1 8-ounce can whole berry cranberry sauce
12 ounces white chocolate
2 tablespoons yellow mustard seeds
2 tablespoons whole pink peppercorns
Crackers for serving the pumpkin dip
3/4 cup sangria or other sweet red wine
Wine for drinking with dinner

Groceries You Probably Already Have

2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon (dark) brown sugar
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch cayenne pepper
Plenty of sea salt
Plenty of freshly ground black pepper

Have a Happy, Savvy Thanksgiving!


  1. says

    Love this practical schedule and grocery list! I’m jealous of two things: 1) all the vegetable sides (and the Mexican hot chocolate pecans…WHAT!?) and 2) That you get to spend a very special holiday with Heather!