Tuesday, November 19, 2013

A Thanksgiving Timeline

There are 470,892 Thanksgiving recipes out there, so instead of sharing the recipes I used when we hosted Friendsgiving this weekend, I thought I'd share my timeline in painstaking detail because that's what really amps people up. Thanksgiving is a meal where the main course takes up your oven for a lot of the day and there are 702 side dishes you also need to put into the oven. And it has to be on the table simultaneously, so it all comes down to timing. If you want any of the recipes, please leave me a comment or shoot me an email at lifeaccordingtosteph@gmail.com and I'll get them to you. My menu for eight adults and one child:

Raw yellow peppers with onion dip
Devilled eggs a la Debbie
Cheese and crackers
Butternut squash soup a la Angie

Mashed potatoes
Stuffing - in the bird and out of the bird
Spinach casserole
Sweet potato casserole
Green beans
Rolls & butter
Cranberry sauce (jelly)
gravy - with pan drippings
gravy - with pan drippings and giblets

Peanut Butter and chocolate buckeyes a la Jenny
Apple and pumpkin pie a la Amanda

Dinner was scheduled for Saturday at 6:00. Sorry if this bugs your eyes out, but here's my play by play:

2-3 p.m.: Grocery shopping: me at two stores and MFD at two stores.
3:30 - 4: Chop herbs for brine, prepare brine for the turkey, put turkey in the brine breast-side down and into the fridge. Name your turkey. Our turkey's name is Bernard.

4:15: Slice foccacia bread into bite sized pieces for stuffing. Allow to sit out for the rest of the night on a jelly roll pan.
4:30 - 6:00: Chop celery and onions for the stuffing, sage/rosemary/thyme for the stuffing, peppers for the app, onions for the spinach casserole, herbs for herbed butter. Store in separate tupperware containers. Remove a stick of butter from the fridge. Snap ends off of beans, store in a ziploc bag.
6:05: Become consumed with fear that my 15.23 pound turkey will not be enough, and put a 7 pound bone-in turkey breast in the oven. Baste every half hour.
7:00: Thaw and squeeze water from two packs of frozen chopped spinach. Store in tupperware.
8:20: Remove turkey breast, let rest for 20 minutes then remove to platter.
8:30: Make giblet gravy with the pan drippings (MFD).
8:45: MFD carves turkey breast. I cut up lemons, limes, oranges for drinks.
9:00 Make herbed butter with the herbs designated for it and the butter that's been softening for a few hours.
10:00:  Turn the turkey over onto its back in the brine, put the cubed bread into a gallon-sized ziploc.

8:00 a.m.: Turn turkey over so it's breast side down in brine again.
9:00: Prepare spinach casserole and bake.
9:15: Receive email mentioning butter, realize butter was left out of the casserole, haul ass into the kitchen and frantically add it.
9:30: Prepare sweet potato casserole.
9:40: Remove spinach casserole and allow to cool on counter, put sweet potato casserole into oven.
9:45: Saute onions and celery for out of the bird stuffing, assemble.
10:00: Remove turkey from brine, dry thoroughly with towels, put on a platter and refrigerate.
10:15: Remove sweet potato casserole from oven and allow to cool on counter, put stuffing into oven.
10:15: Realize I will need more bread for in the bird stuffing. Toast backup bag of pre-cubed bread in the oven for 20 minutes. Thank the universe audibly that you always overbuy and do not have to rush to the store. 
10:20: Realize I need more herbs, onions, and celery for in the bird stuffing. Chop then saute.
10:45: Remove stuffing from oven and allow to cool on counter.
11:00: Remove turkey from fridge and set on counter. Dry it again.
11:15: Put stuffing, spinach casserole, and sweet potato casserole in the fridge.
11:45: Prepare turkey with veggie oil, herbed butter, and stuffing.
12 noon: The bird goes in the oven. Baste at 45 minutes and every half hour after that, rotate pan hourly.
12:15 p.m.: Make onion dip and refrigerate.
12:20: Wipe down the kitchen, run the dishwasher, do the kitchen floor. Put towels used to dry out turkey and clean into the wash.
1:15: Consider painting nails but realize you need to wear oven mitts as gloves for the next five hours.
2:00: Set the table.
2:30: Set the drinks up, make extra pitcher of iced tea, put a stick of butter out in a glass dish, fill up salt & pepper shakers
3:15: Turkey smells done and according to the thermometer, it is done. Tent that bird with foil.
3:30: Peel and cut potatoes, store in pot of cold salted water on stove top. Open three cans of corn and put in a bowl, cover with saran and refrigerate.
3:45: Move bird to large platter. Make gravy with pan drippings.
4:00: MFD carves turkey (and eats it surreptitiously like a wild jackal), arranges it in a weird presentation, and covers tightly with foil.
4:10: Turn oven to 200 and put spinach casserole, stuffing, and sweet potato casserole in the oven, covered.
4:30: Raise heat to 350.
5:00: Boil water for potatoes. Start to get really hot after standing in front of oven for eleven hundred days.
5:15: Steam green beans for 6 minutes, put gravy in gravy boats, open cranberry sauce and refrigerate. I am now moving like a well-oiled machine. 
5:25: Put apps and cold drinks out, fill ice bucket, light candles.
5:30: Saute green beans in three batches.
5:30: Finish off mashed potatoes (MFD). I heat up giblet gravy from Friday night.
5:35: Pull sweet potatoes out of the oven, put turkey and mashed potatoes in (covered), reduce heat to 275.
5:45: Put rolls in basket and cover with a towel.
5:50: Remove everything from the oven, put marshmallows on top of the sweet potato casserole and broil. Put remaining food on the table. Keep a close eye on sweet potatoes. Microwave corn, green beans, and gravy. Go go Gadget arms.
5:58: Make sure everyone has drinks and all dishes have spoons. Ladle soup into bowls. Bark out orders. 
6:00: Grab cranberry sauce in a last chance power drive.
6:04: Sit down to eat. Boom. The meal is eaten in less time than it takes to peel the potatoes, which I only ever do on Thanksgiving. We eat them with skins the rest of the year. 

Gather round, my friends. 
(If you fit with all the food)
Can tables collapse?
My advice:
1. Buy what you can. For me that's rolls and cranberry sauce. If you make rolls, make them ahead and freeze them.
2. Do not concoct a pie in the sky menu that you're not going to be able to execute. Keep it simple. Let people fill the holes in your menu. Write down or know a schedule in your head.
3. Do whatever you can before hand - chopping veggies is a big one. Setting out dishes you'll be using is too.
4. Ensure your turkey has ample time to thaw if you buy frozen. And dry that bird like it's the only thing keeping the world from catching on fire.
5. Make dishes ahead and reheat.
6. Have another pair of hands or two for the last 40 minutes and make someone else carve the turkey. MFD took care of the potatoes and Debbie helped with dishes and putting food out.
7. Wash and clean as you go, and get rid of as many dishes as you can before anyone arrives.
8. Have an empty dishwasher ready to be filled. You do not want to face clean up with a loaded and full or loaded and clean dishwasher.
9. Purchase Dollar Store tupperware so people can take leftovers home and not steal your precious tupperware.
10. Have fun - it's not supposed to be so stressful that YOU don't enjoy the day.

We didn't need the turkey breast except for leftovers - I like to have enough to send people home with food. We all want Thanksgiving leftovers, don't we?

Are you hosting Thanksgiving? Going somewhere and making a dish? Give me the scoop.

 photo smdpicmonkey_zpsdb8c311e.jpg


  1. The timing is always what stresses me out! This year was the best timed ever for me. Looks like you got everything down! I also like your advice.

  2. I write out a timeline before I start cooking and baking. It makes things easier and I feel great when I'm ahead of schedule :)

    Everything looks fantastic. The presentation is amazing! Love this holiday

  3. I love MFD's turkey presentation! LMAO

  4. we already celebrated thanksgiving in october (canadians do it weird) and we stuffed our faces at my MIL's place!

    Vodka and Soda

  5. This is exactly why Chris and I travel to our family's houses for Thanksgiving. Fuck that shit! I have a hard enough time "timing" my regular dinner meals. The thought of timing a full hard core Thanksgiving meal is making me break out in hives. I help at my mom's and MIL houses when I can, and I help clean up. But seriously...not doing it all myself!

    PS - No kitchen is complete without hovering dogs with wet noses drooling on the floor to create more of an obstacle while you cook!

  6. This post made me dizzy! Timing is my weakest link when it comes to preparing a meal for many people. Although, once I turned the oven off, but we don't talk about that.

    I'm so impressed, you can come to my house and host Friendsgiving any time! Congrats on a beautiful nigt!. I'm digging his turkey setup. Very fancy.

  7. This is so much work and it makes me tired but again, you are a rockstar in all things housefrau. So are you doing this again next week for the family? My extended family does a potluck and as my aunts have covered all the basics for years and have a routine down, the "kids" like me are welcome to bring whatever they want. Andrew picks because he cooks, so it could be anything from butternut squash soup to pie to french potatoes. I just do as I'm told in the kitchen.

  8. I want that dinner
    (but I'd rather not make it)
    Will you send me some?

  9. I want that dinner
    (but I'd rather not make it)
    Will you send me some?

  10. AMAZING! I always unnecessarily freak out about not having enough, go buy more and then realize I now have way too much. For my Friendsgiving I make green bean casserole and stuffing (but the box kind, EEK!)

  11. We are hosting Thanksgiving. We've been hosting the past three years. This year we will have 13 people which is the most we've ever had. I don't have a dishwasher so I'm going with "fancy" throw away plates. Everyone that is coming is bringing a dish so it's more like a potluck and I fill in the holes with whatever we need and the drinks of course.
    Well done on the timing! I loved MFD's turkey presentation!

    1. Al - my mom ALWAYS uses Chinette. She has a ton of people. If I had no dishwasher, I'd be using them too!

    2. Good to know - I'm going to pick some up today on my lunch! Thanks for the tip!

  12. I always go to my Aunt's house so I didn't realize the whole process of getting it all done, but WOW!! That is a well oiled machine of getting it all really! Awesome job!

  13. to say that i am impressed would be an understatement! Bernard looks amazing!

  14. Superb! One of my favorite dinners, especially because it represents being thankful. Beautiful bird presentation. You and Mike Doyle are a great team! Nothing better than being with your loved ones and sharing a beautiful meal.
    Agree on the mashed potatoes- peeling is for special occasions only. This blog is a keeper as a reference.
    We have so many things to be thankful for. A warm and friendly home filled with loved ones is the best.
    Love your MOMMA

  15. I would comment on how hard you seemed to work...but now I can think of nothing but mashed potatoes. I must have some.

  16. The last two times I did a big holiday meal I started the oven on fire. Forget the timing...I'll just be happy if I don't have windows open and fans ushering the smoke out this year.

  17. So the secret is to make things early and then reheat them. I will have to remember that. I am a fan of naming the turkey and Bernard is a fantastic name.

    I like the turkey presentation. Very artistic. Also, would you believe that I have never had sweet potatoes with marshmallows on them? I guess they are just not a thing in western PA.

  18. wow, this is impressive. i luckily just get to kind of watch all the madness happen but one of these days im going to need a timeline!

  19. The other day I thought having a Friendsgiving would be awesome, then I saw this post and I still think it would be awesome but now only if someone else hostesses and does all this work. Whew!

    We are doing our Thanksgiving the weekend after thanksgiving at my sisters house. All girls Thanksgiving day since Tyson will be at work, I can't complain about getting some girl time.

  20. Sorry bout ya Bernard! At least Steph picked you, you got lucky. Even though I'll never do this, I read it word for word. I'm so impressed, I want to be just like you when I grow up. Which will never happen, so catered holidays it is!
    Love that you made extra turkey. You would just casually throw that in there like no big deal. So if I read the rest right, there were only 2 minor snafus with the butter and with the extra bread which you had already bought? Damn. You're good. And MFD's turkey presentation made me giggle.
    And probably a million other comments I forgot, but now I'm just hungry and can't focus.

  21. You...are superwoman. I have yet to play host for any kind of big dinner like that, I'm not sure I even want to...haha.

  22. Holy cow! I am winging it this year- its my first year cooking Thanksgiving dinner but its only for me, my sister and brother so it will be a good practice round :)

  23. We've never named our turkey but I think we'll add that this year. If we deep fry the turkey, we have two because they have to be smaller to fit in the fryer. Thankfully Aaron does all the cooking so I just follow orders (which is usually "get out of the kitchen").

    So, the big question is, did you save the potato water? Hahahaha

  24. Are you organized or what! amazing!

  25. Awesome! I love that MFD even helped out, and of course the taste testers! I also love that you hand did so much of it - not just boxed or canned. Good for you! I hope you aren't cooking on Turkey day! You deserve a break!

  26. I love this! Who shares their timeline?! Awesome, awesome, awesome. Also I am starved and shouldn't read this when hungry.

  27. Awesome! We bought a Showtime rotisserie oven several years ago, and its a big help for Thanksgiving, It will hold a turkey up to 15 lbs, It's a pain to clean sometimes, but worth it because the oven is free for side dishes etc.

  28. Bahahahaha... I love how everything is down to the minute! Also, I thought you were cool and wanted to be your friend before but now I want to even more because I like food and I want to come to Friendsgiving.

  29. That list is awesome! I'm cooking a smaller dinner for my husband and myself and this will be really helpful. My husband has to work all day, albeit from home, but he'll be chained to the computer. So we can't really have anyone over and I don't want to leave him by himself. Plus, now we'll have more leftovers!

    Good day!

  30. Holy mother!!!! I am booking a flight tomorrow and I will see you next week! DROOLING! I swear you are magical...where did you come from???

  31. Holy cow... look at all the work you did!! Do you want to come prepare Thanksgiving for me?! This all looks SOOO good! Especially the sweet potato casserole... YUM!

  32. First of all, your timeline totally makes me bow down to anyone making Thanksgiving dinner (in a family full of competitive cooks, I've never had to). And second, yum. It all looks amazing. I'd love to know what's in the spinach casserole, I love spinach.

  33. I love this timeline! I completely agree that everyone shares what they make but not the timeline, and it's so hard to get everything together and ready at one time. This year, my mom bought a turkey roaster just for that reason. Everything you made looks incredible and I love the photo with the dogs! So cute and exactly how my house is.

  34. Like your idea of the Dollar store tupperware. We save up what I call 'white trash tupperware', which are empty containers of margarine, sour cream, cottage cheese, chicken salad, etc., and take it with us to Thanksgiving (along with the matching lids) for everyone to take their left-overs home. If we get an over abundance of containers, they'll go to the recycling center. We got lucky this year and only need to bring devilled eggs, pickle roll-ups, Sister Schubert's yeast rolls and chocolate chip fudge brownies. I feel like I want to starve myself in anticipation of Thursday, but on Tuesday, my brother is taking me to BD's Mongolian BBQ, so I know I'll eat like Ghengis Khan after pillaging a village. Moo.


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