This year will be our 11th Thanksgiving that we have hosted, and it’s always my favorite holiday. It’s a chance to fill our home with all the good fragrances of making a meal, it’s a time to share laughter and stories over glasses of wine, and it’s a time to relax. Although if you’re hosting, you might not always feel the “Relaxing” part, so here are a few of my top tricks to ensuring that you can sit back and chill a bit, as well as make the most delicious and incredible meal.
BRINE YOUR TURKEY. If you’re always worried about over cooking the turkey, take the extra set of brining your bird the night before. I make the brine 2 days ahead of time so that it has proper time to cool and soak the bird on Thanksgiving eve. The result it juicy and moist and absolutely delicious.
PRESET YOUR TABLE. This is actually a little hard for us, as we live in a small, Chicago bungalow, but I LOVE presetting the table. Our home is always open to the Thanksgiving orphans, and this makes the dining room a little tight. But we love that intimacy and it’s great not having to worry about is and risking the food becoming cold.
PREP YOUR SERVING PIECES. Two days before I pull out all our serving pieces to make sure they’re clean, not too dusty and I label each one so I know what side dish will be placed in them.
MAKE AS MANY DISHES AS YOU CAN IN ADVANCE. The Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving our home smells incredible as we make most of our side dishes. Once the bird is out of the setting on Thanksgiving day, we pop all the sides into the oven to warm up.
WINE CHILLERS. If you’re in the Midwest like me, chances are the temperatures outside will be close to cellar temperature. We placed a few bottles of red and white in the backyard to begin a nice chill on Thanksgiving morning, so they’re perfect for when guests arrive.
GARLAND CENTERPIECES. If you didn’t have time to order a centerpiece, snip a few branches from your yard, or grab some magnolia branches from your local florist. Loosely scatter then down the center of your table, and add in halved oranges, artichokes and grapes for a simple and elegant bit of decor.
ENTERTAIN THE GUESTS. We like to have a few little ice breakers ready for when everyone arrives. My family is always in attendance, but on those years we have a few extra people, we like to have a few decks of cards, and in the past I had a little autumnal scavenger hunt for the younger kids. One year we also instated a rule that anytime someone said “Turkey” we all had to cheer!
ENJOY THE MOMENT. Make sure to stop for a second and take in the fact that you are with your friends and loved ones because it’s a day all about gratitude. Nothing will be perfect if you’re not living in the moment. So if the turkey is a little dry, add some extra gravy (because who doesn’t love that?!) or if someone accidentally spills a bottle of prosecco on the pumpkin pie (Hi, Dad!), make sure you laugh and count that one as one of the top 10 Thanksgiving Bloopers.