Tuesday's Tip of the Day: Thanksgiving Prep List
When you think of Thanksgiving, you often think lots of shopping, prep work, dishes, But what about the friends and family that are gathering around the table sharing in conversation and a home-cooked meal? We often spend more time focusing our energy around the details of Thanksgiving instead of the moment where friends and family tightly nestle around the table. Last week we talked about how a shopping list can help ease stress, and this week I want to focus our energy around the importance of creating a plan and schedule. With a production list, you can easily create a timeframe and plan for each dish, when it should be prepared, put in the oven, removed from the oven and any other intricacy that may come with it. I am a huge planner and believe that when it comes to cooking, having a plan and roadmap from which to cook is absolutely essential and critical to a smooth and fun, yes FUN, Thanksgiving. So let’s talk about a production list, as we call it in the food industry:
1. What is a production list? A production list lays out each dish that will be coming from your kitchen. Whether it is the Parker House Rolls, stuffing, turkey, gravy, green beans, or even mulled wine, everything must come from those burners or ovens. It helps us find time to execute each dish in a timely and organized manner so dishes are coming out of the oven while others are going in. It creates a smooth flow and accounts for every single element of your meal.
2. When should I start the production list? The production list can be made for the entire week of Thanksgiving. This way, you can start working on items that can be done up to a few days before which saves you time and counter space on the day of. Items like purchasing ice, slicing lemons, making a vinaigrette, preparing the jello salad, picking rosemary, making the cranberry sauce, pie dough and shells, cornbread for the stuffing, can usually be made beforehand. Try to get as much done before as possible!
3. How do I begin? First, write down everything you will be making. Don’t forget the small details, like butter and jam for the rolls, wine, ice and lemon for your water, and whipping cream.
4. Then what? For each dish, even the minute, write down what needs to go into it from a production/labor standpoint. Mashed potatoes for example: Scrub potatoes, peel potatoes, cube potatoes, cook potatoes, mash potatoes, heat milk, add milk & butter, season, re-heat. Then next to each item, estimate how long it will take you to do that. For example, 15 minutes to peel all the potatoes, 20 minutes to cook the potatoes, etc. Create a timetable from 0 minutes to mealtime. This will also help you determine what time you need a few extra hands in the kitchen!
5. Ok, now what? Go back through your list and organize dishes by the amount of time that will be needed. For example, Turkey needs to come out of the fridge 1 hour before cooking, let’s say, and then needs two hours to cook and 45 minutes to rest. I also need to find 20 minutes to dress, season, truss and prepare the turkey. Use your mealtime as a starting place and count backwards to determine what time the turkey needs to come out of the oven so it has time to rest and is still hot before carving. Start with the items that will take the longest and go from there right to serving dessert. This way, what must be cold will be cold and what must be hot will be hot. In addition, you won’t get to the potatoes and realize they may not be cooked by the designated mealtime.
6. Stick to the schedule! This is your plan and roadmap. If you venture off the map, chances are you may get lost or find that a key element may have been forgotten. This is your lifeline all week so stick it up on the fridge, review it, stick to it and believe that it will get you to mealtime while actually enjoying the time huddled around the oven with your family and friends.
Having a plan, goal and schedule will no doubt make cooking and hosting Thanksgiving more enjoyable allowing more time to gather around the table together!
Cheers to starting a new tradition around the table together!
Founder and true believer in the power of bringing people around The Table Together!