So it’s 2 (or 3 if you want to allow yourself some extra time) days before Thanksgiving Day and 1 day before you’re going to start prepping for your Thanksgiving Dinner Party. What to do now? This is the time where you want to go over everything to make sure the cooking part of your party is stress free and your dinner comes out perfect!
Here’s a list of what I check for before the real fun begins!
Check #1: Recipe & Gathering- I go over all my recipes that I will be using. I print them out, then I gather the ingredients together and put them aside each in a separate pile or cardboard box. The ingredients that need to remain refrigerated, I also gather and put in plastic bags. I then label each box or bag with a printed recipe, stapled or taped to the front. This allows me to just reach for a box and bag when I’m ready to begin making that specific dish.
Check #2: Missing Ingredients – If I’ve missed any ingredients during check #1, I write them down on a notepad to get at my local grocery or food store later that day.
Check #3: Checking Pots & Pans- I check all my pots and pans to make sure they are the right size for the amount of food I will be cooking in them. I also make sure all of them are cleaned (if I haven’t used them in a while…dust does collect, even in cupboards and the pantry) so I don’t have to clean any the day of cooking. I then set them aside and write on a piece of scrap paper what I am using the pot or pan for. The scrap paper goes into the specific pan/pot so there is no confusion when the cooking starts. This is especially helpful if I am having guests over to help cook. Everything is written out and labeled so there are no questions. If I have requested any guest to bring over a pot or pan (if I don’t have enough), I email (text or call) them to make sure they remember to bring it on Thanksgiving Day.
Check #4: Serving Plates, Dishes, Glassware, Cloth Napkins, and Cutlery- Again, I go through my entire cupboard to make sure I have enough serving plate and dishes for all the dishes I will be cooking for Thanksgiving. I also label them, make sure they are clean, then set them aside with a sticky note for which dish I will be placing in them. A cardboard box works nicely to stack and keep them clean. You can set it on the floor without worrying about them taking up counter space. If I have requested any guests to bring a serving plate or dish, I also email (text or call) to make sure they remember to bring in on Thanksgiving Day.
With the dishes, glassware, cloth napkins, and cutlery that my guests will be using for the actual eating of the dinner, I also make sure they are clean and set them aside. Again, you can put them in a cardboard box so you’re counter spaces is clear. I mark the box “Dinner Set” so when I’m ready to set the dinner table, I can (or whomever is helping with this task) just pull the items out of the box and begin.
I also make sure I have a stack of plastic cups, plates, forks, and napkins for guests to use during the day when they are munching on the hors d’oeuvres. You can recycle them and there is no washing to worry about (other than those you’ll need to do while the food is cooking from the pots and pans). You can buy relatively inexpensive and festive designs at your local party, craft, or grocery store. Or if you have some left over from you last summer gathering and your party is more informal, you can utilized these as well.
Check #5: Decorations/Centerpiece- I always advise clients to have a centerpiece on their dining table for dinner parties. This creates a focal point for your table-scape and also makes the party more festive. You can either have an Autumn floral display, a medium size pumpkin with smaller gourds surrounding the pumpkin, a holiday wreath of Autumn leaves with pine cones and candles, or whatever your imagination desires. Have fun with it! Use your creativity and put some of your personality in it. Not only will it make a statement, but it’ll lend your party some fun and festive atmosphere! Once you decide what to do, you can head to your local craft store and nursery. Craft stores are relatively inexpensive and most also have a silk flower section if you’re not into real flowers. They will create something wonderful for you based on what you like. It looks just like the real thing and can be saved for another holiday party. If you’re looking for real flowers, most grocery and food stores have a floral department that have pre-designed bouquets. You can order ahead and pick them up on Thanksgiving Eve, when you go out to get the baked goods you pre-ordered at your favorite bakery. If you live in NYC like I do, almost every bodega or your corner deli’s will have fresh flowers that you can buy daily. Also relatively inexpensive, it’s a cheaper alternative if you don’t want to splurge with your favorite florist.
Check #6: Take-home treats for Guests- When throwing a dinner party, I always like to have a little something for guests to take home as a reminder of what a wonderful time and dinner they had with me (or my clients)! Much like restaurants giving you a small box of candy sweet jellies, Bon Bons, truffles, or macaroons and hotels leaving warm chocolate chips cookies or gourmet chocolates on your pillow at night, I like my guests to have a happy feeling when parting at the end of the evening. It’s a sweet reminder of the food experience they just had…able to be savored at a later date. I usually like to make these small treats myself and box or bag them up in elegant or themed wrappers with satin ribbons. But if you’re pressed for time, picking up a few of your favorite truffles or bite size cookies at the bakery or food store works just as well. When your guests leave with their leftover bags, stick one of your treats in their bag…and don’t forget to attach a Thank You Note. If specific guests have helped with the cooking, brought over a cooked dish, or supplied you with a pot, pan, or serving dish to use, write a personalized thank you to these guests. Not only will they appreciate it, but you’re giving a special “Thank You” on the holiday where it’s warranted most! Generic Thank You notes are also fine.
*NOTE: Check back on Friday, November 19th 2010 to read “Prepping Your Food For Your Thanksgiving Dinner Party” and to get some of my “Favorite Thanksgiving Recipes” for your perfect dinner party!
“Eating is Believing!”