Okay, guys. It’s Game Time.
We’re in the Thanksgiving Countdown. It’s time to get serious about how we’re going to play this.
The most important step is done. You’ve got your free-range, non-GMO turkey already ordered and you’ve already determined how you’re going to cook that luscious bird. (Right? If not, click here.)
Time to start figuring out the rest of the details—the side dishes and extra touches that make Thanksgiving such a unique, American holiday.
First up: STUFFING and GRAVY.
Some people don’t like stuffing or gravy. I mean, I don’t know any of those people personally, but I hear they exist. Mostly I feel sad for those (possibly imaginary?) people because they are seriously missing out. Stuffing and gravy are amazing for several reasons. One reason is that, when it comes to stuffing, it’s typically something you only have around the holidays, which makes it a little special. Another reason is that stuffing and gravy are incredibly versatile.
For example, there are an almost limitless number of ways to make stuffing. (Seriously, try Googling “stuffing recipe” and you get over 710 million results! My life goal is to try every one.) And while pretty much every kind of stuffing and gravy is guaranteed to be some variation on DELICIOUS, there are some tips and tricks you can try to make this year’s your best yet.
Gravy is blissfully simple to make—nearly as simple as opening a jar of the store-bought stuff! A general recipe is 1 tablespoon of fat (either butter or turkey fat from the pan) combined with 1 ½ tablespoons of flour to make a roux that can be added to one cup of liquid (stock, broth, wine, water, whatever sounds good to you).
Most important tip: Don’t run out of gravy. A good estimate is about 1/3 cup per person. So if you have eight people coming for dinner, you would multiply those base calculations by eight and end up with the proportions needed to provide each person 1/3 cup of gravy (4 tablespoons flour, 2 ½ tablespoons of fat, and 2 2/3 cups of liquid).
If doing that math and whipping up gravy during the last minute hustle and bustle of getting the meal on the table makes you nervous, we’ve got you covered. Try this Make-Ahead Mushroom Gravy from Fine Cooking, which can be made up to three days ahead.
A classic stuffing ingredient is “day old bread.” But the goal of this is actually not stale bread—what you really need for stuffing is dry bread. Instead of trying to let your bread go just-stale-enough, try lightly toasting your bread cubes in the oven before putting your stuffing together.
And, of course, keep an eye on temperature if you are choosing to cook your stuffing inside the bird. Before you deem your meal ready to be eaten, verify that the internal temperature of the stuffing has reached 165 degrees or higher. If your turkey is definitely done, but the stuffing isn’t quite there yet, you can remove the stuffing and continue cooking it outside the bird.
If you prefer to cook your stuffing separately from the get-go, it’ll be just as delicious. This is technically called “dressing,” but the only difference between “stuffing” and “dressing” is that dressing is cooked in a separate pan rather than within the turkey cavity. This “Simple is Best” Dressing recipe from Epicurious is one of our favorites.
Some “Need to Know” Items as We Enter the Homestretch
Planning is key! The more you plan ahead, the smoother your holiday will go. Here are some tips to help you get that delicious dinner on the table.
- Calibrate your instant-read thermometer a few days before the Big Day. Insert your thermometer into a pot of boiling water. If it doesn’t read 212 degrees, adjust the nut located below the face of the thermometer until the reading is accurate.
- You know we love it. It’s one of the most important ingredients in so many dishes and a necessary part of our diet. Don’t be shy with that salt this Thanksgiving—it takes more salt than you think it does to properly season a dish.
- When planning your menu, keep the availability of oven space in mind. That turkey takes up a lot of room! Consider using recipes that call for different preparations, like one oven-based recipe, one stovetop, one make-ahead, and one cold recipe, to maximize your cooking space and make sure everything is ready to eat at the same time.
- Once you have your menu planned, take the time to come up with a game plan. Map out the time needed for each dish, when you need to start prepping it, and when it goes into the oven (or onto the stovetop). This will help you maximize your efficiency and will be a quick and easy way to identify how people can help with meal prep when they offer.
Post-Thanksgiving Turkey Stock
When you think of Thanksgiving leftovers, you’re probably thinking of turkey sandwiches and mashed potatoes. If so, you may be forgetting one of the best leftovers from the meal–the turkey’s bones, neck, heart, and gizzard! These items can result in some delicious turkey stock. Use it to make soup right after Thanksgiving or freeze it in covered airtight containers for future use. Turkey stock can be used interchangeably with chicken stock in most recipes.
However you choose to celebrate this Thanksgiving, we wish you a wonderful, delicious, stress-free day!