A Little Time

Who doesn’t need a little extra time at Thanksgiving? The trick is getting as much done before actual turkey day.

You can make the cranberry sauce up to two weeks ahead. Even with my super quick no-cook relish below, having it done well ahead of the meal will make you feel like you’ve got everything under control.

Desserts not only can, but should, be made ahead. Pies, cakes and mousses all need to cool. To save extra time, think about store-bought crust for your pumpkin pie. Crusts aren’t hard to make, but if you only do it once a year — or less — it can be a big stressor. Store-bought pie crusts are much better than they used to be.

Finally, you can cook the turkey a day ahead. I know that sounds downright heretical, but it’s true. I don’t know anyone who carves the turkey table side or who even presents the bird before taking it back in the kitchen to carve it. For years, I cooked three small turkeys to feed a large crowd (I think they cook more evenly than big birds). I always cooked one the day before. Slice it, cool it, arrange it in a shallow baking dish and drizzle it with some pan juices. Pop it back in a 325 to 350 degree oven about 30 minutes before you want to serve it and no one will know the difference.

Here are a few more tips:

  • Plan ahead. Gather your recipes, check your cupboards and make your grocery list.
  • Shop at off times if you can. The Sunday before Thanksgiving is always a popular time to shop, as is the day before which means big crowds. Most grocery stores have extended hours, so try to go early in the morning or late at night to beat the crowds.
  • Dry out the bread. You can cut up the bread and cornbread for stuffing and leave it out on the counter as early as Monday. Dry bread is what you want for stuffing.
  • Chop aromatics — onions, celery, herbs — for stuffing the day before and keep it in the refrigerator.
  • Set the table the day before. It’s one less thing you have to worry about, and it gives the appearance of you being ready for the big meal (even if you’re not).
  • Run the dishwasher early in the day on Thanksgiving, even if it’s not full. An empty dishwasher ready for dirty dishes throughout the day will keep the kitchen mess under control — a timesaver in clean up.

Here is my recipe for cranberry relish and a great recipe for pumpkin pie that’s delicious even with a store-bought crust.


Makes about 3 cups

This refreshing relish is the perfect foil to all of the rich flavors of Thanksgiving. It will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

1 package (12 ounces) fresh cranberries, picked over

1 orange (including peel), scrubbed, cut into eight

3/4 cup sugar

Combine all ingredients in food processor and grind to desired consistency.


Makes 8 servings

Whether using a homemade or store-bought crust, “blind baking” it, or baking it before filling it, guarantees a crisp crust.

1 pie crust, store-bought or homemade

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

11/4 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin (not pie filling)

3 large eggs

1 cup whipping cream

Slightly sweetened whipped cream for serving (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to a 12-inch round. Fit into a deep-dish pie pan. Crimp edges to make a high-standing crust. Prick all over with the tines of a fork.

Line dough with foil. Fill with dried beans or pie weights. Bake until set, about 10 minutes. Remove foil and beans. Bake until pale golden, about 10 minutes longer. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

To make filling: Whisk all ingredients until well blended. Pour into crust. Bake until filling is just set in the center, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Cool completely. Store in the refrigerator. Serve with slightly sweetened whipped cream, if desired.


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