Over the next 10 days – including yes, the very day of – we'll be sharing our time-tested hosting tips and recipes, as well as plenty from chefs, hospitality experts, celebrities (that's always fun, right?), hosts and home cooks we love. Our goal – sending you into Thanksgiving with a confident smile on your face, and seeing you emerge on the other side with your sanity intact.
Here are several Thanksgiving issues about which you could choose to freak out. Please don't. It will just make your guests uncomfortable, and if you have a dog, it will probably unnerve him or her.
Aaaacccckkkk! There will be a VEGETARIAN! In my home!
Your solution: if you invite a vegetarian to Thanksgiving dinner, have some non-meat items available for consumption. There are entire classes of food, the cooking of which does not involve the use of animal products of any kind. They're monumentally delicious and not actually poisonous to omnivores.
Roasted vegetables like Brussels sprouts, squash and sweet potatoes just need a little bit of olive, canola or nut oil and a pinch of Kosher salt to emphasize their natural deliciousness. Set aside a separate batch of stuffing bread (or dressing - depending upon where you live) to soften in vegetable broth or stock rather than poultry. Heck – make a gigantic winter vegetable salad or a big bowl of olive oil mashed potatoes and watch your gobbler-chomping guests get all jealous.
The sides are inevitably the best part of the Thanksgiving meal. It's infinitely more hospitable to have extras of these that everyone in attendance can eat, than to overload on the meat-based dishes and leave a guest sitting in the corner, gnawing on a dinner roll with their stomach rumbling. Again - been there and we would have rather just not been invited.
zOMG! Everyone wants to bring guests! What if I RUN OUT of FOOD?!?
First off - if a guest (or their guest) offers to bring a dish and you don't take them up on it, you kinda, sorta deserve this fret. As we've discussed before - you're a host, not a martyr, and people just really do want to help. Let them.
If they don't offer to bring anything or to help somehow - grrrrrrrr. That's not necessarily the person you'd like to have as a repeat visitor to your home, though there are always mitigating circumstance (lack of a kitchen or strapped finances, etc.). If you fear this may be the case, over-buy - but sensibly.
Sweet potatoes, baked or mashed potatoes, winter squash, canned biscuits and the makings for mac and cheese are fairly inexpensive, and they'll either keep for the next few weeks as you continue your holiday entertaining, or just be used in the course of everyday cooking. They're also filling and can seriously stretch a meal for just a little bit of money - just don't chop or pop them until you can determine if they'll be needed that day.
It also doesn't hurt to have a bag of apples on hand. They keep for ages, and if push comes to shove, can be halved or sliced and roasted or sauteed with butter, then sprinkled with cinnamon, brown sugar, cloves and nutmeg for a sweet side or supplementary dessert.
Oh and wine, booze or beer? That'll keep, and you'll be glad of it when the rest of the holiday entertaining season rolls around.
NOOOOOOO! Grandpa is going to start telling offensive jokes, Mom will criticize my choice in careers and clothing and Uncle Stu is bound to pass out naked on the lawn...again.
Yup. Probably. And there's probably nothing you can do to change them at this point; you can only control how you react.
Assign yourself a vital task that allows you to, like Martha Stewart, just focus on your salad and concentrate on your non-problematic family members and the other non-Thanksgiving 364 days of the year. Come armed with endless bits of trivia and celebrity gossip and change the topic to something crowd-pleasing and slightly less loaded - like Charlie Sheen's and/or Lindsay Lohan's most recent arrest, the cancellation of "Cathy," or the utterly darling thing the dog and/or cat is doing at the moment.
Or, go for broke and argue your point. Even if it means you're disinvited from next year's T-Day soiree really, if they're treating you this way, is that such a tremendous tragedy? They may be blood kin, but family is relative, and your closest friends probably won't critique your haircut or your signature Tofurky casserole...too much.
Sweet mother of poultry, the turkey isn't thawed all the way! WHYYYYYYYYY MEEEEEEE?!?!?
If you're reading this at any point in the week before Thanksgiving, you have no reason to panic. Sez the USDA's website:
Easy peasy, no? But hey - stuff happens to all of us. You may suddenly discover that Netflix on Demand is streaming all seven season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and lose all concept of reality for a while (again, speaking from personal experience). You may get distracted by a sick dog or the sniffles or work and suddenly wake up on Thanksgiving morning in a cold sweat, realizing that your meal bird is still in the deep freeze.
All is not lost - just slowed down a tad.
That same, handy USDA site suggests a cold water thaw.
Last ditch? The microwave - if you've got a bitty bird and a bodacious cooking chamber.
But just for a sec, let's imagine that the doomsday scenario should strike. The bird could be used to hammer in tent stakes, your guests were so underfed, they had to make a White Castle run - and they tripped over Uncle Stu where he'd tumbled down pantsless by the hydrangeas. Are these people, your friends and family, really going to love you any less?
They are, ideally, rooting for you and ready to pitch in at a moment's notice - even if you end up as the butt of most of their Thanksgiving jokes for the next decade or two. If they give you any lip, just sweetly, politely let 'em know that they're more than welcome to go right ahead and Tofurky themselves next year.
Tomorrow: a Thanksgiving Day feast for two and Thursday: Thanksgiving appetizers
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