Before I say another thing remember that you do not have to do it all yourself. Heidi’s Events & Catering can help, with the food or just the rentals and staff. Do what you love and leave the rest to the professionals.
Every year I have the family, some friends and whomever they happen to be dating that year over for Thanksgiving. There is usually around 30 -35 people. I don’t take advantage of the team of experts I have working for me, though I have been tempted. I truly do it all myself and love it. Organizing yourself makes all the difference in the world and really reduces the stress that can accompany the holiday, so I thought I would share my methods.
I set a family-style table in the backyard. Two feet for each person. You can rent 6′ or 8’ banquet tables and place them end to end. I like to put them side by side so the table is 60” wide. This provides plenty of room to place the platters and bowls of food. I overlap the lines and use a runner to hide the center seam. The centerpiece is a collection of fall items placed down the center. I don’t use candles because we eat before dark. Pumpkins, gords, pine cones, random vases with flowers, dried leaves, garland what ever you like. I always make place cards and seat couples apart so they talk to someone they may not normally talk to. I even set the kids away from their parents so an aunt or grandparent can deal with them and the parents can enjoy their meal. My Uncle started a family tradition years ago with Jeagermister after dinner as a digestivo so we always set the table with a cordial glass for the end. Most of us gag it down but it makes him happy. I collect all the tableware weeks before. The glasses, the flatware, the plates and linens. I pull it all out to make sure its all clean and polished and ready to set on the tables. I iron the napkins and table linens and set them aside (all these Items can be rented if you don’t have them). Don’t be afraid to mix and match. The morning of Thanksgiving, after I put the turkeys in the oven, I pour myself a mimosa, turn on some opera and go out and set the table. Its usually around 7:00 a.m. I love this time alone to make the table beautiful for my family.
In the center of the table sits the photos of our family and friends that are no longer with us.
The Serving Pieces:
Having the right dishes for each item you are preparing and utensil to serve it with is important. I use plain, white, crystal and glass, wood and pewter. I like the food to showcase itself. As soon as I have my menu planned I match it with the serving pieces. For my large group, I plan two of each item to go on the table. I pull them all out and set them on a couple of tables with the serving utensil sitting right on it. Then I put a post-a-note on each item stating what goes on it. If I don’t have the dish or utensil I put the post it on the table reminding myself I need to get something for the item. In addition to the menu items there are the bowls for the cranberry, the olives and pickles with little forks, the bread baskets, butter plates, salt and pepper for every 8 to 10 guests, and water pitchers.
When the time comes to fill the platters with the food, my family knows what to put in what, and what to serve it with. One of each is placed at each end of the table. The water glasses get filled with ice just as we are seated and then each can choose sparkling or flat water on their own.
Plan what you like to cook, buy what you don’t. Make one new dish and stay to the tried and true favorites. Thanksgiving is not the day to try that new stuffing recipe; try it the week before, first… I like variety so we have a nice assortment. Remember everyone won’t take everything so you don’t need to make enough of all items for everyone.
In general a plate of food weighs a pound an a half. Total portion with should equal 2 pounds per guest allowing for leftovers. When dinner is over I always have disposable container so whoever wants to take something home can. We don’t have any more hors d’ oeuvres, just before dinner, cocktails or wine.
I plan the menu far enough ahead so I can make my shopping list and start two weeks prior. I purchase all the staples, dry goods, and wine the first week and the fresh food at least three days before thanksgiving. I don’t like to have so much to deal with in one trip. Also, the bill doesn’t feel so bad when its broken up.
I have a day job so I bring home the fresh food on Sunday or Monday. Tuesday night I peel and cut all the produce that has to be cooked. I don’t prepare the salad until Thanksgiving morning.
Wednesday night I prep the meats and bake the breads and pies. I also make the cranberry sauce and prepare any garnishes. I cook things like the bacon for the green beans. Thursday morning I put in the turkeys, set the table then when the time is right I start to cook the vegetables, boil potatoes and put things in the oven that need to be baked, like the yams, stuffing, corn soufflé. Don’t plan rolls that have to be browned or to many dishes to fit in your oven. Utilize appliances like crockpots for green beans. I like the turkey to come out at least an hour before serving so it can be presented to my guest as they arrive and then set out on the table, carved and ready to eat.
As always I am happy to help you with any questions, rentals, or advice to make your Thanksgiving a smashing success… Oh and in my home the men do the dishes afterward while the ladies sit and visit with our after dinner drinks. All’s fair in love and family!