Make-ahead recipes reduce stress for Thanksgiving host

Whether you are making Thanksgiving dinner for the first time or the 40th, it's easy to be overwhelmed by all the shopping, chopping and roasting.

But -many parts of the holiday meal can be made ahead, significantly reducing the stress level of the host.

Here are 10 items that can be made one or more days in advance, leaving plenty of time to roast the bird, make the gravy and enjoy your guests on Nov. 25.

1. Rolls -- Bread dough can be made, shaped and frozen up to two weeks. "A lot of doughs actually benefit from being frozen," says Romina Rasmussen, chef/owner of Les Madeleines Bakery in Salt Lake City. "If you're a new baker or have a tendency to over-mix, the freezer is your friend. Putting it in the freezer gives the dough time to relax."

2. Piecrust -- This is another dough that benefits from a little rest, Rasmussen said. Uncooked pastry dough, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, will keep one to two days in the refrigerator. It also can be frozen for up to three months.

3. Cranberry sauce -- Making relish from fresh berries takes just one pan and less than 30 minutes, and the sauce will keep in the refrigerator for several days.

4. Appetizers -- Dinner is the main event, but it's nice to have something for guests to munch on that doesn't require space in the oven. Spiced nuts can be made up to three weeks in advance. Dips like hummus and spinach dip can be made the day before and kept in the refrigerator until just before serving.

5. Soup -- Pureed vegetables soups, such as butternut squash or tomato, will keep for a day or two in the refrigerator. Soups also can be made in advance and placed in the freezer. Simply pour cooled soup into freezer-safe plastic bags or containers, leaving a little room at the top as the liquid will expand. Defrosting will be easier if you freeze in several smaller containers rather than one large one. Soups will keep up to three months. To thaw, place in the refrigerator overnight. Reheat in a pot or microwave.

6. Stuffing -- The day before the big feast, dry the bread, soften the onions and celery in butter and brown the sausage. Mix it together and keep in the refrigerator. Just before stuffing the bird, add a little bit of liquid to soften.

7. Mashed potatoes -- "On Thanksgiving morning, you shouldn't be peeling potatoes," Marguerite Henderson said. The Utah cookbook author and cooking instructor peels, cooks and mashes her potatoes the day before the holiday. She keeps them from turning brown by stirring in half-and-half, eggs and cheese. Just before serving, she bakes the dish, which "comes out like a souffle," she said.

8. Yams -- Steam, then bake and boil them a few days ahead of time. Then just reheat them on the day of the show.

9. Gelatin salad -- This is a no-brainer because gelatin must sit overnight to set. But as long as the dish is well covered, the gelatin salad can be made two to three days ahead.

10. Turkey stock -- "Delicious natural pan gravy is easy to make, but not really that simple," explains chef/owner Frank Brigtsen, of Brigtsen's Restaurant, New Orleans. "Careful timing, good technique and a homemade stock are essential." Brigtsen said his mother's Thanksgiving ritual includes making the turkey stock two to three days before the holiday.

(Sources: Marguerite Henderson, Romina Rasmussen, Christina Miller, "Thanksgiving Entertaining," by Williams-Sonoma, and "Thanksgiving 101," by Rick Rodgers.)


1 pound firm white sandwich bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, about 10 cups (see Note)

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 large onion, chopped

3 medium celery ribs with leaves, chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1 pound pork sausage

1 cup chopped dried apples, about 3 ounces.

2 to 3 cups homemade turkey stock, canned reduced-sodium chicken broth or whole milk

2 teaspoons poultry seasoning


Fresh ground pepper

To dry bread cubes, let them stand at room temperature overnight. Or bake them in a 350-degree oven, stirring occasionally until dry, 20 to 30 minutes. Do not toast. The bread will crisp as it cools.

In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion, celery and parsley. Cook, stirring often until the onion is golden, about 10 minutes.

Scrape the vegetables and butter into a bowl with the bread cubes.

In the same skillet over medium heat, brown pork until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Use a spoon to break up the meat as it cooks. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Add cooked sausage and apples to bread mixture. Toss so bread is coated evenly. At this point stuffing can be covered and refrigerated until ready to use.

Just before stuffing the bird, add enough stock or milk to just moisten the stuffing. But don't make it soggy. Add poultry seasoning, salt and pepper.

Stuff turkey.

Or place stuffing in a buttered baking dish, drizzle with additional stock. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for about 35 minutes in a 350-degree oven.

Note: 1 (15-ounce) bag cubed seasoned


can be used as a substitute,

Servings -- 10 cups

-- "Thanksgiving 101," by Rick Rodgers


1 (12- to 14-pound) turkey


Ground pepper

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Heat oven to 500 degrees. Remove giblets from turkey. Rinse and pat dry. Place turkey on a V-shaped rack set inside a large, deep roasting pan. Using your hands, rub turkey all over with softened butter. Slide your fingers underneath the breast skin and rub breast meat with butter. Wash hands well.

Generously season turkey inside and out with salt and pepper. Place turkey in preheated oven and immediately lower temperature to 325 degrees. After 1 hour, baste top of turkey. Baste every 30 minutes until done. After two hours, cover top of turkey loosely with aluminum foil.

Check the temperature of the turkey after 2-1/2 hours. Cook until the turkey reaches 160 to 165 degrees near the deepest part of the thigh and juices run clear, not pink. This takes about 3 to 3-1/2 hours for a 12-14-pound turkey.

Remove turkey from oven. Transfer the turkey and V-shaped rack to a separate pan. Cover loosely with aluminum foil for 20 to 30 minutes before carving.

Servings -- 10-12

-- Frank Brigtsen, Brigtsen's Restaurant, New Orleans


8 russet potatoes, peeled, cut into chunks

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon white pepper

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 cups half-and-half

2 whole eggs

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook potatoes in boiling water until tender. Drain potatoes and place them back in the pot, and heat for one minute, so excess water evaporates. Place potatoes in a large mixing bowl with butter, salt, pepper, nutmeg and half-and-half. Mash with a potato masher or the wire whip of a large mixer. (Don't use a food processor.)

Place in a greased baking dish and cover with plastic wrap. (Don't use foil. It can turn the potatoes brown.) Place in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day, heat oven to 400 degrees. Place uncovered potato dish in the oven and bake until puffed and heated through, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Servings -- 8

-- "Savor the Memories," by Marguerite Henderson


3 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 large egg white

2 teaspoons grated orange zest

2 cups walnut halves

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly butter the foil. In a small bowl, combine sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, salt and pepper. In a medium bowl, whisk egg white until frothy. Add sugar mixture and whisk to blend. Whisk in orange zest. Add walnuts and stir until thoroughly coated. Spread walnuts in prepared pan in an even layer.

Bake until golden, about 30 minutes. During baking, stir every 10 minutes to prevent sticking. Remove from oven and transfer to a bowl. Cool.

Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

Servings -- 10 to 12

-- "Thanksgiving Entertaining," by Williams-Sonoma


3 pounds turkey wings

3 pounds turkey necks

2 cups diced carrots

2 cup diced celery

4 cups diced yellow onions

24 cups cold water

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place wings and necks in a roasting pan. Add carrots, celery and onions. Bake 2 hours.

Place roasting pan on top of the stove over medium high heat. Add 4 cups cold water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 10 to 15 minutes. Scrape bottom and sides of pan with a metal spatula to deglaze pan.

In a large stock pot, add roasted turkey wings, necks and pan drippings. Add remaining 20 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 1-1/2 hours. Strain mixture. Keep broth in an airtight container until ready to use.

Remove meat from wings and necks. Add to gravy or save for another use.

Servings -- 24 cups

-- Frank Brigtsen, Brigtsen's Restaurant, New Orleans


1 (12-ounce) bag fresh cranberries

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

1 apple, cored and diced into 1/2-inch pieces

1 pear, cored and diced into 1/2-inch pieces

Zest and juice from 1 orange

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 tablespoons orange liqueur, optional

In a medium saucepan, bring cranberries, water and sugar to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer. Add apple, pear, orange zest, orange juice and spices. Simmer for 10 minutes until cranberries pop. Remove from heat and cool at room temperature. Place in a bowl and cover until ready to serve. Stir in the orange liqueur, if using, just before serving. Can be made several days in advance.

Servings -- 6 to 8

-- "Savor the Memories," by Marguerite Henderson


1 cup lukewarm water

1 egg

2 tablespoons butter

3-1/4 cups flour

1-1/2 teaspoons salt

1/4 cup sugar

3 teaspoons yeast

Place ingredients in the container of a 1-1/2-pound bread maker in the order listed. Mix using

dough cycle.

When cycle is complete, divide dough into 12 balls of equal size. Place in a greased pan. Cover with a towel and place in a draft-free place. Let rise until double, about 1 hour.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Uncover and bake rolls 15 minutes or until golden brown on top.

Note: Dough can be made one day in advance and kept in the refrigerator overnight, covered with plastic wrap. Or shape dough into balls and freeze for up to two weeks.

Servings: 1 dozen

-- Jill Green, a cook from Fruit Heights, Utah


4 cups yams, cooked and mashed (fresh or canned)

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter, melted

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla


1 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup flour

1/3 cup butter

1 cup chopped pecans

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine yams, sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla and spread in a 9-inch-by-13-inch pan. For the topping, combine the brown sugar and flour, then stir in the butter and pecans. Crumble the nut mixture over the yams. Bake 30 to 35 minutes until heated through.

Note: Casserole can be assembled up to two days ahead. Cover with aluminum foil and keep refrigerated until ready to bake.

Servings -- 8

-- Christina Miller, owner of Christina's Cakes

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