It’s always fun to see friends and family at Thanksgiving and have a big get together, but sometimes the meal prep can be overwhelming! I’m here to help with a few tricks and tips to give you a head start on your holiday feast.
First, plan your menu in advance. This way you’ll be able to shop for ingredients, pick out cooking dishes, and delegate tasks before it is the last minute. Write out your menu and a game plan. And for those looking to REALLY get ahead, try making a few dishes in advance, then finish them off on the big day.
Check out my blog from last year on Turkey Sins
I like to get a head start on the gravy, because you can never have enough gravy! Purchase some turkey legs, make a stock, and then make my recipe for my Old-Fashioned Turkey Mushroom Gravy THAT MAKES A LOT. Then on Thanksgiving day you can just finish it off the turkey roasting pan. All those pan drippings will add great flavor! Stuffing can also be made up to two days in advance and refrigerated until its ready to bake.
And how about an alternative to pumpkin pie? Try making my d’lish individual Pumpkin Panna Cottas topped with some Ale Spiked Salted Caramel. I like to serve them in mini martini glasses so everyone can have a taste! Make these ahead for an easy d’lish crowd pleaser.
Mini Pumpkin Panna Cottas with Ale Spiked Caramel
For those looking to plan a signature cocktail for the get together, make a batch of my Holiday Cheers for a Crowd. Fresh citrus juices, vodka, and cranberry combine for an easy to make ahead party cocktail – cheers!
So de-stress the big feast and get cooking in advance! Gobble Gobble! –Kathy
Old-Fashioned Turkey Mushroom Gravy THAT MAKES A LOT!
You can make this a few days ahead and then re-heat in your turkey roasting pan for extra turkey flavor goodness! Read through the entire recipe before starting.
Makes 10 cups, or about 20 generous 1/2-cup servings
12 Tbsps. (1 1/2 sticks) butter
1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary – or 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
8 ounces (4 cups) thinly sliced mushrooms, or chopped wild mushrooms (optional)
1 cup flour
10 cups Rich Turkey Stock (recipe follows)
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. white pepper
Melt the butter in a large, heavy saucepan. Add the rosemary and mushrooms and sauté over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes. Add the flour and stir vigorously until combined and smooth. Cook for about 1 minute. Add the stock all at once and whisk vigorously so as to eliminate any lumps. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the gravy is nicely thickened. Season with salt and white pepper.
You can make the gravy a couple of days ahead to save yourself some precious holiday time!
Then right before serving- and while your turkey is set aside to rest – ready your turkey roasting pan full of turkey goodness: remove excess fat from your turkey roasting pan. Place the pan over a burner – add a big splash of white wine, champagne, potato cooking water, chicken broth or water. Using a metal spatula – scrape up all the goodies in the bottom of the pan… this is the turkey goodness. Then add your prepared Turkey Mushroom gravy – whisk well and heat till hot. Serve up and enjoy – you’ll have lots of gravy for all!
Rich Turkey Stock
Makes about 10 cups
2 large turkey legs or thighs, about 2 pounds total
1 yellow onion, unpeeled, coarsely chopped
1 large or 2 medium carrots, cut into large chunks
Up to 2 cups mushroom stems, optional
4 stalks celery, cut into chunks
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup white wine
12 cups water
Preheat an oven to 400°F.
Roast the turkey pieces in a baking pan for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the skin is golden brown. Place them in an 8-quart pot and add the vegetables and seasonings. Deglaze the roasting pan with the wine, scraping the pan well to loosen browned bits, and add to the pot. Add the water.
Place the pot over medium-high heat and bring to a rapid simmer. Reduce the heat to low and lightly simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Strain the stock and skim off any fat. Discard the vegetables. (Most of the flavor will have cooked out of the turkey; however, the meat can be removed from the bones and saved for another use.)
Recipe by Kathy Casey Food Studios® – www.KathyCasey.com
Pumpkin Panna Cotta with Ale Caramel & Sea Salt
You can make the panna cotta up to 5 days in advance—just keep tightly wrapped with plastic. The caramel sauce can also be prepared up to a week beforehand, making it the perfect dessert for a busy holiday schedule.
Makes 8 regular (4-oz) servings or 16 mini (2-oz) servings
1 packet Knox unflavored gelatin
2 Tbsps. water
1 cup cream
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup mascarpone
1 cup pumpkin puree (pure pumpkin, not pre-seasoned pie filling)
1 1/2 tsp.vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 cup Holiday Ale Caramel Sauce (recipe follows)
Sea salt for sprinkling (sea salt)
In a small, microwave-safe bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water. Soak until the gelatin is soft, then microwave on high power for only about 2 seconds, or until the gelatin is melted but not foaming up.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream, sugar, sour cream, mascarpone, pumpkin, vanilla, and spices. Add the gelatin and whisk together well.
Place the mixing bowl over a pan of simmering water, being sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Cook the mixture, whisking constantly, until smooth and hot (150 to 160 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer).
Remove from the heat and divide the mixture evenly among 8 regular or 16 mini martini glasses (or 8 custard or 16 espresso cups). Cover with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic does not touch the panna cotta. Refrigerate for a minimum of 12 hours to set.
To serve: Drizzle each panna cotta with ale caramel sauce (1 tablespoon for the minis or 2 for the larger portions), and then sprinkle lightly with sea salt.
Chef’s note: If making the ale caramel sauce is too much for your schedule, then substitute with a speed scratch sea salt caramel sauce; mix 1/2 cup purchased high-quality caramel sauce with 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, depending upon how salty you like it.
Holiday Ale Caramel Sauce
If made ahead, cool completely and store refrigerated. Bring to room temperature to serve. The recipe makes more than you’ll need for the panna cotta; extra sauce can be drizzled on ice cream, pound cake or other desserts.
Makes 2 cups
1 (12-ounce) bottle pumpkin ale or other seasonal beer, such as Pike Brewing Co. Auld Acquaintance Hoppy Holiday Ale
1 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsps. salted butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
In a medium-large saucepan, bring the ale to a low boil. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until reduced to 1/2 cup. Remove from heat, add the brown sugar and stir to dissolve.
Bring mixture to a boil and cook without stirring (stir or swirl the pan only if necessary to prevent boiling over) for about 10 to 15 minutes, until thick and syrupy (about 230 degrees F on a candy thermometer).
Remove from heat and slowly whisk in the cream and butter (it may splatter!), and then cook for 5 to 6 minutes more, until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. If serving right away, cool until just warm; it will thicken up more as it cools. Keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Recipe by Kathy Casey Food Studios® – www.KathyCasey.com
Holiday Cheers for a Crowd
Who wants to be tied to the bar during their party? Making a pre-mix for your signature holiday cocktail gives you more time to mingle with your guests and enjoy the festivities! Try shaking in fresh rosemary to add an herbal note.
Makes 1 drink
1/2 cup (4 ounces) Cocktail Pre-Mix (recipe follows)
Garnish: small sprig of rosemary and fresh or frozen cranberry
Measure the pre-mix into a cocktail shaker and fill with ice. Cap and shake vigorously. Strain into a large martini glass. Garnish with rosemary and float cranberry in drink.
Mixture can be made up to 4 days in advance and kept refrigerated.
Makes 4 cups – enough for about 8 drinks
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups vodka
1 cup white cranberry juice
3/4 cup fresh grapefruit juice
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Combine sugar and water in a small sauce pan over medium-high heat. Bring to a quick simmer and remove from heat. (Do not reduce.) Cool to room temperature.
Combine cooled sugar mixture and remaining ingredients in a pretty glass bottle. Refrigerate until ready to use.
*Non-Alcoholic Version: instead of the vodka increase the cranberry juice to 1 1/2 cups and the grapefruit juice to 1 3/4 cups.
Recipe by Kathy Casey Liquid Kitchen® – www.LiquidKitchen.com