Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Save me the drumstick


It just hit me that a week from tomorrow I'll be hosting my first Thanksgiving dinner.

Who the hell thought that was a good idea?

I've got the turkey ordered, my grandmother and mother-in-law are providing the desserts, and Mr. C and I have a vague notion of what sides we'll be serving. Oh, and the wine is taken care of thanks to my sister and her husband and their rotating cast of liquor distributors. I love having a sibling who owns a restaurant.

As long as we have wine who cares if the stuffing is undercooked and the carrots are burned? What' s a little salmonella between family, right? We'll be too drunk to notice that we're feeling a little peckish.

Peckish? Turkey? Heh.

Sorry, I make stupid jokes when I'm stressed out.

Yes, I'm stressed. I know everything will work out (it always does) but this feels like my first real grown-up dinner. Mr. C and I have held dinner parties for our friends but never for our families. I really do want everything to be perfect, but in a laid back, what this? it was nothing we just whipped this up, sort of way.

And the timing? The timing of all the food so that everything finishes cooking at the same time, now that freaks me out. How does one do that? Suggestions? Anyone? Is this thing on?

I know that when everyone arrives my grandmother will be fretting because we won't let her help (oh, believe me, we'll ask for suggestions to make her happy) and my mother in law will also try to help (Here, take the baby). Then my father and father in law will break open a bottle of wine and before long Dad will be making inappropriate jokes (Think dirty. Really dirty.) that will embarrass my church-going father in law. And the dogs will be begging for food and Chicky will be wound up by all the excitement...

Okay, I'm done. I needed to purge myself of that so I can get down to business.

To cook the stuffing in the bird or out of the bird. Now that is the question.

Anyone? Hello?

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I'm ramping up for the big gift giving holidays over at Dog Gone Blog. Today, gift ideas for the young dog lovers in your life. Tomorrow, outfitting your mod dog.

43 comments:

Jozet said...

YES! I can never time Thanksgiving dinner or breakfast. It seems we're always waiting on the turkey to really be done.

You'll do fine. I'm making dinner this year, too. Sweet potatoes at 1:oo and turkey somewhere around 5:30 is how it should work out. I force people to savor and pace themselves.

CPA Mom said...

Line up your recipes. Start with the one that takes the longest amount of time (turkey) and determine when you have to start it and when it will finish. Do the same with each recipe (count backwards from the turkey finish time). Easy peasy.


Stuffing outside the bird is recommended more now to ensure it is fully cooked (spread out in a dish as opposed to crammed up in the bird). Food safety. I think it tastes better too.

SUEB0B said...

NY Times has a stuffing in/stuffing out article today.

The great thing about T-day foods is that most of them hold pretty well and stay at an edible temp if you wrap them in foil - yams, potatoes, stuffing. As long as you time the veg right, you will look fabulous.

Mrs. Davis said...

I'm a stuffing out person. And I'm so anal retentive I write up a schedule and post it on the fridge.

I was talking to a friend today about Thanksgiving, and I was amazed at the number of people our age (people with kids and houses and lives) who have never cooked a turkey before. You'll do great.

margalit said...

Thanksgiving is actually an easy holiday to cook for. Most of the foods can be made up to several days in advance. I always start with cranberry sauces (I make two different ones), then the sweet potatos with marshmallows (don't heat up the sweeet potatos with the marshmallows till right before you eat) the next day. The roasted potatos can be cut and placed in ice water and then baked on the shelf under the turkey for about an hour.

Pies are always made days before. I usually make 2 or three types, pumpkin, pecan, and apple. It's easy to bake them all ahead of time, and they freeze well and just have to be reheated whilst you're eating.

The turkey and stuffing are the last things to cook, and once they are cooked, you have to leave the turkey out for about a half hour before slicing, so that's when you heat everything else up.

Have fun... I love cooking big dinners like this.

MotherBumper said...

I wish I had some advice or words of wisdom but I have gotten out of hosting any turkey-related (or equivalent) meals. I'm not sure how much longer that is going to last but I'm going to ride it as long as I can.

Sparky Duck said...

After one fateful year, we became and out of the bird family. But, Mrs Duck comes from an in the bird clan, and she does the stuffing. If you clean the bird well enough, you will be fine, since so far we have been fine.

As for timing, set a time that you think you will be eating and tell everyone a half hour later. And start the bird early enough.

jen said...

madame chick.

throw caution to the wind and cram that bread in the bowels of the bird. peckish rocks.

love it. maybe i'll come over.

Amber said...

I'm one for an out-of-bird experience. The stuffing, that is. Something about the sog factor just doesn't cut it for me. Plus, we always put tasty stuff in the innards i.e. an apple, stick of butter.

My hubs and I also like to slather ours with olive oil and then toothpick bacon all over the exterior. Yes, bacon. Unbelievably tasty and oh-so worth the extra effort.

lara said...

yeah, i stress about hosting big holiday meals like this, and i probably still have a number of years before i have to actually do it. but every year, around thanksgiving and christmas, i have anxiety nightmares about ruining the turkey and ending up without a single family member speaking to me by the end of the evening. i'm doomed...

sweatpantsmom said...

For the first time in three years, I'm not hosting Thanksgiving. Hoooray for my brother, who volunteered. My family is huge, 30+ people, so I usually have to start preparing around the 4th of July.

But now - all I have to do is drink!

creative-type dad said...

The wife just informed me yesterday of this "Thankgiving next week". I'm still in denial about it.

Blog Antagonist said...

How nice for you!! Do you know I've never hosted a Thanksgiving dinner at my home? I've been married 14 years.

You see, my in laws cannot possibly leave their small town for Thanksgiving, because the universe might implode and I just can't have that on my conscience.

I've got a killer pumpkin cheesecake recipe if you want it. It will rock your world.

Good luck and don't stress out. You'll do a great job! And nobody really cares about the food..it's about being together.

Mamacita Tina said...

This will be year number 4 for us hosting, usually for 20+ family members. YIKES! I still feak out and feel I haven't a clue. Since we ask others to help brings sides and such, we make use of crock pots and insulated/travel casserole containers to help keep things warm. I'm hoping this year I can relax and enjoy it more.

K said...

We use the crockpot for stuffing - saves oven space.

LOL. I'm giving cooking advice.

HA.

Janet a.k.a. "Wonder Mom" said...

I don't cook. I don't host dinner parties. As a matter of fact, I am almost whacked, uh, I mean anti-social when it comes to this stuff. I envy your courage. I have none.

Good luck.

Heather said...

Just know it can never be as disastrous as my husband and I hosting dinner last year. Our families had never met. His parents are (bitterly) divorced, we were both sick as dogs, barely able to get out of bed, we were still unpacking things from having moved in less than 2 months before, and his mother (who hates me for "stealing" her son0 was staying overnight at our house.

It went swimmingly despite all the variables, even if before dessert he had to sneak out to buy us more decongestant, and I ran frantically to the mall to get something for his mother's birthday.

Stuffing out.

Waya said...

I only hosted one Thanksgiving dinner but there was only one friend attending. All of my family members were out of town for a wedding, I couldn't go b/c I just gave birth to my first son. We brined the turkey overnight (something we saw on "Good Eats") and it was delish!

I don't cook the stuffing inside the turkey, well it's Stove Top stuffing all the way baby!

Good luck and you'll do fine! If worse come to worse, there's always your sister's restaurant to go to right?!

radioactive girl said...

I have been having Thanksgiving at my house for 8 years now, and this year I FINALLY feel like I have it under control and am not totally stressing. Of course this will probably be the year that I make some huge mistake and kill everyone or something. Anyway, I always cook the stuffing outside of the bird. I am not up for any kind of risk taking in that department. Good luck, and remember to have some fun! It's a holiday with family!

gorillabuns said...

i don't cook thanksgiving, never have and praying i never will. i just stand back and comment on my husband's relative's weird tastes.

ali said...

i've never made my own thanksgiving. since i live in canada, we either go to my parents in the states...or we get together with other displaced americans and do a potluck thanskgiving. it's great!

Tuesday Girl said...

They say you should always cook the stuffing out of the turkey but I still do it in, it is more moist.

If you cook it out of the bird, add some chicken stock so it doesn't dry out.

sunshine scribe said...

Our thanksgiving was last month. We always host that holiday and my brother takes christmas. Fortunately for me hubby takes care of turkey and stuffing and I do the sides. He cooks it in the turkey AND out because he makes this really popular receipie with apples and sausage and cooking it just in the turkey doesn't yeild enough for the family of carnivores. Course I've never tasted it but it smells yummy.

Kate said...

I can say that thank God I am not the one in the family with the biggest house, because my SIL always hosts the holidays. They like, a McMansion. I just bring the mashed potatoes, 2 pies and the wine. You know, the important stuff.

Dana said...

You're in trouble. I hosted my first Thanksgiving last year and I was so frantic about screwing it up that instead I did the opposite. Everything was perfect and now? NOW!! Now they want me to host AGAIN. I could cry. I don't wanna do it again!

Good luck! Oh and stuffing? Out of the bird! OUT OF THE BIRD. (My granny taught me that). Trust me. If you're gonna put anything in the bird, it should be baby carrots. They soften up and taste delicious.

Oh, and make sure to remove the parts inside! You want me to come over and help?

Lawyer Mama said...

"The timing of all the food so that everything finishes cooking at the same time..."

I have MIL cook everything! LOL! Seriously, when people come to my house for Thanksgiving I don't actually cook. Good luck!

julia said...

Do the schedule thing - it will save your sanity.

See if you can borrow a turkey roaster so you can save your oven for your sides.

Do lots of things that can be pre-cooked and then heated in the oven. Mashed potatoes are good for this.

Crock pots are a beautiful thing. Beg, borrow and steal as many as you need. Don't overload your circuits, though!

Stuffing OUT of the bird, according to Alton Brown. And me. :D

PunditMom said...

Good luck, Mrs. C. I'm right there with you. Not my first Thanksgiving where I'm cooking, but it has been MMMAAANNNYY years, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Stuffing? Not for this girl who grew up in Pa. of German extraction. We have "filling" -- think big bowl of mashed potatoes mixed with buttery croutons and onions, then bake! Top w/ gobs of gravy! Mmmmmmm!!

Mama of 2 said...

Mrs. Chicky...not to worry I have been doing Thanksgiving dinner for over 12 years now...and never poisoned a single soul. I am sure you will do just fine.

As for the stuffing...I personally do mine out of the bird. Something about it cooking inside the cavity where all the gross stuff has been never did appeal to me.

Good luck and I can't wait to hear all about it.

ewe are here said...

Can't help you with food timing on this one I'm afraid. My only advice? Keep a glass of wine handy for yourself at all times and keep reminding yourself that everything doesn't have to be perfect. Having your family together celebrating is what counts.

Ooh, ooh. Maybe I do have some advice: book a carpet cleaner for the day after the big event. My friend used to do this after all her huge get togethers; it ensured that there was no stress about red wine, turkey grease, etc. hitting the floor.

Cheers!

Rock the Cradle said...

Luckily I'm off the hook this year.

I distinctly remember my first turkey though. I diligently pulled the neck out of the cavity before roasting it and was puzzled by a peculiar lump on the other end of the bird when it was done.

I'd forgotten to check the other cavity. Doh. Tasty roasted giblets. Who knew that's where they kept 'em?

That particular bird I didn't stuff, though never again...I'm definitely a stuff the bird, screw the fates kind o' woman. Plus, both the stuffing and the bird taste better for stewing in the others juices...sage & onion...YUM!

I've had stuffed turkey twice every year for almost 35 years, and have never had a problem. Just make sure you don't leave it in the bird after dinner (if there's any left, which never was the case).

kfk said...

We've fried our turkey for the last 8 years so I've never had to worry about the stuffing issue. And it isn't my favorite dish anyway, especially when I have mashed potatoes and gravy sitting in front of me.

Velma said...

I second the advice about checking ALL the entrances - I, too, have roasted a bag of giblets. Stuffing definitely outside the bird, crockpots are AWESOME for sides, and now I'm thinking about toothpicking bacon all over the next turkey I cook. It won't be next week, however, because we are going to my in-laws for the holiday, and everyone will come here for Christmas.

(It feels weird to type the word "Christmas" when it was 68 degrees outside today. I need some cold weather, dammit!)

Christina said...

Wish I could be useful here and give you some great advice, but sadly I am no cook. Thanksgiving this year is being catered for us, because I am that useless of a cook, and the rest of my family is too tired to deal with cooking.

Kristin said...

Hugh cooks because he likes to eat and I am a sucky cook... however, I do know that we cook the stuffing outside the bird!

carrie said...

Thanksgiving dinner is the easiest to prepare, you'll do fine! And ditto about the stuffing, keep it seperate, especially if some of your guests like all the "gizzards" and whatnot in their stuffing, they can have their own little dish of what they call heaven and the normal people can avoid eating organs if they choose!

Enjoy yourself!

Carrie

Elizabeth said...

These are great comments! I'm hosting Thanksgiving this year, and the only thing I'm making from scratch is the turkey. I bought trays of mashed potatoes at Sam's Club, and I'm doing Stove Top stuffing. Everything else I've got other people bringing. I have no idea how to actually cook the turkey, but I'm sure I'll find a website somewhere to help. There's always the Butterball Turkey Helpline!

Pendullum said...

Stuffing in....One less thing to worry about really, it keeps the bird moist and with all the dripping from he turkey... YUM...
Have a wonderful thanksgiving... and remember to pour yourself a glass of wine and to be thankful for your great ggroup gathered under your roof...
It is truly a gift to host it...
Have a glass of wine...
and enjoy...
As it will be absolutley wonderful...

something blue said...

Even when I don't host, I get suckered into bringing over a turkey and dressing. Oh yah, I'm the only one in our family with small children, but I don't mind cooking a turkey for ten people and delivering it across city. Hell I'll even bring pie. No I'm not bitter at all.

You can do it Chicky! I know you can!

Damselfly said...

Peckish, hee! hee!

Everything will turn out fine. I was nervous doing my first TDay, too. But really, it's just people who love (cough, forgive) you, and get them to pitch in and help. Everyone can have a job. Just try to relax and enjoy it, and it will be great.

(Said the person who is sad not to be making her famous homemade yeast rolls this year because she has a newborn....)

liv said...

Okey dokey, admittedly, I'm tuning into this topic a bit late, but honestly, put the stuffing in. Here way down south, most folks I know cram the bird with a combination of white, wheat and cornbread stuffing. Then, the same concoction is also baked in a pan which means that it is dressing.

Then, you can truly taste how much BETTER the stuff in the bird was. Plus, there's limited space in the "cavity," and it's highly likely that your guests will require more than what you shoved up the carcass.

I think a lot about stuffing. A lot.

Ruth Dynamite said...

Holy crow! (I mean, turkey!) There are a lot of good ideas in these comments. Hope you've got your menu planned and have it all under control. If not, delegate. Put those guests to work! Enjoy the chaos of it and have a wonderful holiday!

Ericka said...

also wandering in a bit late...

stuffing: in and out. we've always done both. it's the same stuffing, but if we got a bird big enough to hold the necessary amount of stuffing, we'd be eating turkey FOREVER. 30+ years, never had a problem.

timeline: just remember to have the turkey thawed and ready to go. if not, you CAN run it through the dishwasher a couple of times, but that still takes a couple of hours. do NOT put it in the dryer. the noise is incredible, and your dryer will never work right again. or so i'm told. *ahem*

we always do a veggie tray, deviled eggs, nut bread, and other assorted goodies. then, if it takes a bit longer than expected for everything to end up on the table, it's all good - there's still stuff to nosh on.

also, remember that you have people who love you in your home. don't be afraid to use them. really. that's why they're there. and then you can blame them if something goes wrong.

most important ingredient: a healthy sense of humor. whatever you screw up, they'll still be laughing about 20 years from now. it's okay, you'll have your chance at revenge. and booze doesn't hurt at all.

happy thanksgiving!