THANKSGIVING IS COMING

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Simplify your Thanksgiving Holiday by planning ahead with helpful hints from Chef Terence Janericco.

THANKSGIVING IS COMING


 


PLAN A CALL A CATERER


 


If you can find a caterer, remember there may be a surcharge and that the waiters are giving up their holiday to create yours.  Treat them generously.  If the waiters come in with attitude take them aside and explain that this is a cheerful holiday and they agreed to work so get over it.


 


PLAN B GO TO A RESTAURANT


 


If there are no more than 6 or 8 a restaurant can be the answer, but if you are an army with children of all ages, this can be difficult at best.  And it will lack that family feel.


 


PLAN C ORDER TAKE OUT


 


Considering how bad most take out food is this could send a strong message of how you feel about your family and the holiday.  If that were my choice, I think I would make myself a toasted cheese sandwich, a cup of tea and curl up with a good book. 


 


PLAN D TAKE CHARGE


 


PLAN, IF FOUR LETTER WORDS UPSET YOU; STRATEGIZE; ORGANIZE. 


Take control of the event and to make it work for you and everyone else.  It will not happen just because the calendar says it is Thanksgiving.  You need to do some serious work here.  If you do the preliminary work this can be fun for you and lot more comfortable for the people around you.  Here is a possible check list.


 


DETERMINE THE TIME AND MAKE UP A GUEST LIST.


You need to know what time to invite the guests so you can greet them and sans undue  pressure.  Make it clear to your partner that cooperation here is vital.  If there is a need to see a game, learn when it is so you are not serving dinner in the middle of it or having the meal interrupted while they go to see the game.  You can point out that is what Tivo is for. 


 


MAKE A LIST OF EVERYONE WHO WILL AND WHO MIGHT COME TO DINNER. 


Do not forget to ask your sister Abigail if her daughter Zeta is bringing her boyfriend Ignatius and make it clear if his roommate Mike is welcome or not.  When you issue the invitation in writing, very nice, via phone, good, or email, acceptable if a little cold, make it clear that you need a response no later than a week before the event. Explain you will be setting up for a set number.  If they walk in with extra guests it will embarrass them and more importantly the unexpected guest.  Plan for more, you can reduce the numbers later, but setting extra places at the last minute makes guests feel truly unwanted.


 


MAKE A SEATING PLAN


You need 24 inches of table for each guest.  You can squeeze a little bit, but chair seats are not flexible.  If necessary rent one or more tables and chairs—do it early.  Someone is going to have to pick up the rentals and return them.  It is best to seat everyone at one table.  Children under 8 love the feeling of being with adults.  It makes them feel grown up.  If you must have a separate table, please do not isolate the grandparents with the teenagers.  If there are more than 10 guests place cards can save confusion.  Provide a seating plan for guests to read before going to the table. Otherwise the soup chills while they argue about who is to sit where.


 


COUNT THE SILVER AND CHINA AND DETERMINE IF YOU NEED TO RENT OR MAKE A TRIP TO THE STORE TO FILL IN YOUR COLLECTION.


 Polish the silver and wash the rarely used glassware and china.  This is also the time to make up your menu, it does not have to be set in stone, (There is more about this below.) just enough so you can select the serving platters and dishes. Label them now so you know what is going to be used for what and if there are separate tables remember you may need two sets unless you are serving the meal as a buffet.  Check the table linens and launder and iron as needed. This is a special occasion put your best look forward.  It is a holiday, treat it like one.


 


ORDER THE CENTERPIECE, OR SET UP A SAMPLE SO YOU KNOW HOW IT WILL FIT THE TABLE.


 If it is too large there is no room for the food.  If it is on a buffet, make it tall to view from a standing position, if in the center of the dining room table make it low enough so all but the smallest of children can see over it.  Place the candles so people can see each other without bobbing to get a line of sight. 


 


Set the table at least the day before to give your self time to look carefully at your creation and so you do not have to worry about it on the day.


 


 


MENU


 


TAKE CHARGE.  YOU SELECT THE MENU. 


If someone offers to help you can tell them what you would like them to bring.  I hope for your sake everyone is finished with that awful green bean, mushroom soup mixture.  Less is more.  Go light on the hors d’oeuvre.  A dip and a spread work nicely.  You can prepare them ahead; they take minutes to set up on your preselected serving platter, so people can help themselves.  Limit the number of vegetables, say fennel, broccoli and mushrooms.  Carrots celery and cucumber certainly show a lack of imagination.  Do not plan on hot or heavy hors d’oeuvre.  The kitchen is going to be busy with the meal and the meal is substantial.  Stop worrying about green.  The broccoli on the vegetable platter is enough.  You can start with a salad, but I would prefer a soup that could be made well ahead and just heated. 


 


CONTROL YOUR “HELPERS”.


If guests just insist on helping, then let them serve the soup or pass the hors d’oeuvre. If you want help, be sure to have a specific job to keep your helpers busy.  This is not the time for you to try to concentrate on their problem.  Thos conversations should be saved until you can concentrate on them.  Not when you are working and that is what you are doing. 


 


Instruct people to serve two plates one in each hand.  When clearing the same rule applies.  Stacking silver and plates leads to chipped plates and silver sliding across the floor.  If the dishes can go into the dishwasher, do it now.  If not, select an area of the kitchen (or garage if necessary) where the “helpers” can carefully scrape the plates and stack them neatly with a container for the silver and another for any uneaten food.  This leaves the sink clear for you when you need it.  If they just dump stuff into the sink, they are not helping. Do the same with dirty pots and pans.


 


Of course Turkey is center plate here.  If you or someone else can carve that is great.  The carver should have a separate platter for the sliced meat.  When it is half filled pass it. If no one is very good at this, carve the turkey in the kitchen where you have sharp knives—we hope–and space to work with no one watching over your shoulder.  Place the carved meat onto a platter and pass the platter. 


 


The number of side dishes is up to you.  Remember guests will want a taste of everything so take it easy, your plates are just so big and dessert is coming.  If someone thinks a certain dish is their tradition, let them make it and bring it. I catered a dinner some years ago for 50 and we had to serve 5 dishes that different people said they had to have for their Thanksgiving.  Three of them were not even touched.  The other two were tasted by a couple of guests.


 


Let all of those helpers clean up. You deserve a chance to sit down and put your feet up. A little snooze would not be out of line. 


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