When planning a holiday menu, it is important to consider time and property as much as taste. What works in the oven or stove on the big day, and what can you do beforehand? Whether you cook for one, two, or a few people, start with a little planning and strategy, and your daily tasks will be minimal.
Inspired by a West African soup, Yewande Komolafe’s pumpkin soup features the aroma of peanut butter, the luster of ginger, and the heat of fresh chili, all united with creamy coconut milk.
Do it in advance: Make it a few days in advance to enjoy as a simple Thanksgiving brunch while the main meal comes together, or serve small portions as a warm appetizer.
This five-star recipe brings fresh, firm flavor to the Thanksgiving table and has enough texture to keep it overnight in the refrigerator.
Do it in advance: Combine the vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl so you can shake them before serving. Stirring sliced celery, apple, and celery root with just enough vinaigrette to form a light coating that prevents them from oxidizing. Put both items in the refrigerator overnight, then collect them before the big meal.
recipe: Celery salad with apple and blue cheese
Kale can easily beat a night in the fridge without wilting into oblivion, and the salad helps make up for a (delicious!) sea of starches on the table. Use any leftovers to make turkey sandwiches, turkey soup, or grilled cheese.
Do it in advance: prepare the vegetables and dressing a day or two in advance, and put them in the refrigerator separately overnight. Collect it right before serving.
recipe: Lemon, garlic and kale salad
When it comes to carbs, some families swear by store-bought family simplicity, while those with avid bakers have fresh bread. These rolls are from Erin Jeanne McDowell Bridge who swears: Everything topping the bread makes it unique enough to justify the effort. (Just think of all the sandwich combinations you can make with your leftovers.)
Do it: Bake it a day or two in advance. To reheat, simply wrap the rolls in a damp paper towel and microwave in batches for 15 seconds until steamy.
recipe: Everything Parker House Rolls
There are many strong opinions about whether or not mashed potatoes can be made in advance — and conflicting methods on how to store them — but nearly 2,000 readers have given this recipe five stars. Melissa Clark mashes up a generous amount of sour cream and butter, folds into a baking dish and refrigerates until meal time. Her trick to keeping it moist when reheating? Top – and protect – creamy potatoes with a crisp crust of cheesy breadcrumbs before baking.
Do this in advance: Cook the potatoes, assemble the casserole, wrap them tightly and store them in the refrigerator a day or two before Thanksgiving.
This visual masterpiece from Susan Spungen is as practical as it is stunning. Serve any leftovers for lunch, or pair them with a zingy green salad for dinner.
Do it in advance: You can assemble it a day in advance, put it in the fridge overnight, and bake it right before serving.
recipe: Mushroom bread pudding
The roasted carrots in this sparkling dish from Sue Li do particularly well for enhanced cooking because they are just as hot or at room temperature.
Do this in advance: grill the carrots a day or two beforehand, warm them up, then quickly put them in a hot oven, heat them in the microwave or remove them from the refrigerator and bring them to room temperature. Top with chives, roasted nuts, ginger and vinegar just before serving.
Millie Peartree’s green bean casserole takes inspiration from the classic three-ingredient dish, but elevates the flavor by adding roasted mushrooms and Parmesan-based cream, with Cajun seasoning and nutmeg. This is not a crisp vegetable dish. It will be smooth and creamy, and the first layer will provide all the crunch you crave.
Do it in advance: Reduce the roasting time to a few minutes, make your own sauce and store it separately in the refrigerator up to a day beforehand. Gently reheat in a saucepan together, put in a baking dish, top with breadcrumbs with cheese and fried onions and let it bubbles.
recipe: green bean casserole
These roasted root vegetables from Sean Sherman’s collection of 10 Essential Native American recipes are sweetened with sage and sweetened with aloe vera.
Do this in advance: The vegetables can be cooked through step 2, then refrigerated and refrigerated a day or two in advance. To reheat, place on a baking sheet, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and roast gently at 400° until warm, about 15 minutes, then continue with step 3, brushing and cooking until glossy.
recipe: Roast turnip and winter squash with glaze glaze
By baking these potatoes in a griddle, Melissa Clark not only enlarges the surface area of the gratin to enhance browning and caramelization, she deliberately saves you time on the front and back end: it will cook–and heat up–faster than thicker dishes.
Do it in advance: You can assemble the gratin for up to four hours before baking. Store it, loosely covered, in the refrigerator. Gratin can also be baked four hours in advance, kept uncovered at room temperature, and then reheated in a 450-degree oven until the surface is glossy.
recipe: Sweet Potato Gratin
This sweet potato casserole, adapted from Chef Jimmy Snead by Marian Burroughs, takes time but a minimal amount of effort.
Do it: Bake the sweet potatoes and mash up a few days in advance, then refrigerate. On Thanksgiving, remember to pull them out of the fridge about an hour before to check out the chill, then top with sweetened pecans and bake. If your cravings veer away from sticky sweets, top the finished casserole with marshmallows and leave for a few minutes until they melt and turn into a caramel.
recipe: sweet potato casserole
Samin Nosrat describes Panade as “the French country chef’s answer to stuffing.” Although many fillings can lose their structure when prepared in advance, her recipe is based on firm, stale bread, caramelized onions, and layers of melted Gruyère.
DO IT: Unlike your usual fillings, they can be refrigerated for up to three days and reheated for undisputedly delicious results.
Get a head start on homemade beef broth by preparing this simple base of butter, onion, flour, and broth ahead of time.
Make sure to go ahead: You can make this recipe up to five days in advance. Then, while it’s reheating, whisk it into the skillet of the turkey for added flavor. A sprinkle of fresh herbs never hurts.
recipe: Make forward broth
Prepared in advance, this crisp treat will require some serious space in the fridge, but earn it by making a statement at the table. Save leftovers for your next cheese board, or put jelly slices into sandwiches.
Do it in advance: Make the mold and refrigerate it several days in advance. Place the cooled centerpiece in a bowl of warm water to release it from the mould, transfer the jelly to a serving plate and slice it on the table.
Recipe: Cranberry Orange Jelly
This cranberry relish from Mark Bateman requires no cooking. In a food processor, blend the cranberries, orange pieces, and nuts with some honey until they break into small pieces and your sauce is set.
Do it in advance: Refrigerating it for a few days helps the flavors incorporate. (Most cranberry sauces keep well refrigerated for a few days.) You can flavor them with fresh ginger and orange zest—or tame them with warm spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, or five spices—just before serving.
recipe: Cranberry orange flavor
Inspired by – You guessed it! Sweet Potato Casserole, Jerrelle Guy makes a compelling case that the best way to enjoy this classic dish is in pie form.
Do it in advance: Make your base of crunchy ground pecans and custard-roasted sweet potatoes and refrigerate up to two days in advance. Come dessert time, top with marshmallows and leave for a few minutes until golden in spots.
recipe: Sweet Potato Pie
Spiced like apple pie and pressed around a cream cheese filling, these mini fall fall cakes from Samantha Seneviratne are an absolute treat.
Do it in advance: You can make them a day in advance and set them aside at room temperature before serving, but beware: They are very light snacks, and cream cheese may help justify having them for breakfast.
recipe: Apple juice pancakes
Flavored with cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg, these handmade pies from Genevieve Co are topped with buttered walnut crumbs. It’s a delicious, high-quality dessert for aspiring chefs with big daily plans.
Do it in advance: Although these plates are best when you take them out of the oven on the day they bake, they can be sliced and refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 1 month beforehand.
recipe: apple pie plates
Yossi Arifi’s recipe takes some time, but the payoff is just as amazing.
Going Ahead: Cake can be prepared, assembled, and refrigerated in advance 2 days in advance. Bring it to room temperature before serving, or slice it and roll up the cooled pieces to share, the frothy froth will make it strong enough to pass on to friends, family, and neighbors.
The Recipe: Pumpkin Layer Cake with Butter Caramel