Thanksgiving: Too many dishes, not enough oven?

October 27, 2011

Last Year's Turkey

Before I get into some recipes, I thought I’d chat about a few tips for preparing a delicious and more importantly, a relaxing Thanksgiving feast:

Because unless you have found yourself equipped with double ovens, fundamentally, Thanksgiving day can be a bit of a circus. One oven leaves you juggling when to roast, when to bake, and when to take a break. And with most Turkeys taking at least four hours to cook, this becomes a big problem. So what do you do? Most likely you cook in advance or stress yourself out to the point of exhaustion. Your guests may blame it on the tryptophan but you know you’re passed out from a crazy day. But over the last few years I have discovered two amazing ideas that can help alleviate this double oven envy.

One: You know that gas grill you have covered and put away for the winter…meet your second oven. You’d be surprised how well a gas grill can maintain a temperature and by placing your Turkey in a roasting pan over INDIRECT heat, you can rest easily knowing you’ve got yourself a good cooking bird. It sounds easy enough but there are a few watch outs. Make sure you buy a temperature gauge of your own. While some of the gauges on the grills are decent, most are not. Nothing worse than cooking a big turkey at 350 only to find out the real temp was 450 or even worse…250. Second, the indirect heat part is really important. Depending on the grill, you can probably get away with using only one burner to maintain the temperature. Regardless, you will want to rotate that roasting pan every 45 minutes or so and baste well, just like you would in the oven. Lastly, make sure you have a new propane tank. While it might not ruin your summer cookout when the gas runs out while cooking some burger patties, running out of gas in this case will surely ruin your Thanksgiving. And yes, you can try this on a charcoal grill but it takes quite a bit of experience to maintain a temp over a long period of time.

Two: This one is more about the menu planning. For years I grew up eating all of the Thanksgiving standards and definitely enjoyed most of them. But two years ago, when I had my first real Thanksgiving menu to plan, I realized something fundamentally upsetting about my past experiences. Everything on the plate was hot! Warm, filling Thanksgiving sides, while delicious, make for pallet lethargy. Try incorporating some cold sides into the mix. How about a potato and string bean salad tossed with a dijon vinaigrette or roasted and chilled beets/carrots tossed in a balsamic dressing and paired with goat cheese? Don’t be afraid to introduce some cold dishes to the meal! You will kill two birds with one stone: fewer items needing the oven, and a proverbial kick in your pallet’s ass!

Nora's First Thanksgiving

Not so related, but I can’t believe it’s already time for my niece’s second Thanksgiving. I’m a bit bummed I won’t see her first real go at the turkey and fixins as I will be out on LI with Em’s family but I’m sure I’ll get to see some great pics. Before I know it, she’ll be cooking along side of me!


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