You can see by the Thanksgiving image we posted here that we are not messing around, here. It’s 2020: Take every ounce of stress out of the holiday you can.
What if this was the year you didn’t order a huge, raw bird months in advance? What if you abandoned your spreadsheets, the cooler for brining the 20-pounder, the stress? Life can be easier. We reached out to our genius Test Kitchen Director Belle English, whose family (marvelously) starts T Day with a lasagna every year. That sort of make-ahead, family-style thinking is what we’re talkin’ about, here. Read on for Belle’s best headache-eliminating, time-saving tips for a wonderfully memorable Thanksgiving you’ll actually enjoy.
So we don’t mean to toot our own horn, here, but you can literally buy everything you need this year on Williams-Sonoma.com.”The world is so stressful right now,” says Belle. “Thanksgiving doesn’t need to be part of that.” Knock T Day off the list of things that stress you out and do a deep dive into our pre-prepared items. Whether you’re tucking into a feast for 12 right down to the pie, getting one of our gorgeous free-range Willie birds (which can even arrive pre-cooked), or snagging one of Belle’s favorite sides, there’s a pre-order, pre-made, ready-to-roll item for you that has been obsessively tested by our kitchen cook snobs. (We say that with love!)
OK, so you don’t want to order a hulking turkey off the internet. We understand. But we’re gonna drive this point home: Consider cutting corners this year. It has been a bear. That doesn’t mean sacrificing flavor; Belle is crazy for our ultimate macaroni and cheese because of all the little touches the test kitchen cooks added. It’s got caramelized onions, which take ages to execute correctly. Plus applewood-smoked bacon and semolina pasta. There’s both a Tillamook cheddar-spiked sauce and a dusting of Parmesan. (We even sell an Instant Pot version, if that’s more your speed.) People are nuts for our gravy starter for a reason; as Belle explains, it means you don’t have to wait for the bird to come out of the oven. And the brioche stuffing is unbelievable. But wait: There are hundreds more time-savers, too. And it’s just a smart move to avoid the grocery store as much as you can this year.
Be honest: Do you need to have a turkey this year? Yes, there are some amazing ones out there, and maybe you’ve perfected your recipe, but it requires a lot of planning ahead. “My biggest tip for a smaller Thanksgiving is to figure out the bird first,” says Belle. “I would point to two of my favorite alternative turkey recipes.” One is these turkey meatballs by Joshua McFadden, which are “a really delicious, easy alternative to the traditional bird. They’re easy to transport and braised in gravy.”
The second? Ina Garten’s genius recipe! It’s a rolled turkey breast roulade full of onions, herbs, prosciutto and garlic. “Take the stress out of the big bird moment,” says Belle. Now is also the time to consider two chickens, Cornish hens and the like, things with “a cook time that is a fraction of the turkey.”
4. Par-Cook the Vegetables in Advance
You’ve got to have vegetables. Either go the raw salad route, consider hard-to-wilt Brussels sprouts leaves in a yummy raw preparation, or follow this killer tip from Belle: Roast the veggies 75 percent of the way that morning. You can roast something like Brussels sprouts 50 to 75 pecent of the way and then finish them just before serving. She does squash the same way. It’s an excellent timesaver during crunch season.
Shrimp cocktail. Crudités. Keep any starters super-simple, says Belle. Everyone will be grateful for it. “Keep it on the lighter side. Make room for the feast ahead.”
“The great thing about pies is that they keep really well so you can definitely do them a couple days ahead of time,” says Belle. This pear-cardamom cake sure is elegant, or you could order pies online, but you could also just not. These ooey-gooey pumpkin bars are one of our most popular products, she points out.
In Belle’s home, where they (amazingly) take a three-hour nap after Thanksgiving, she’d simply set out some high-quality brittles or chocolates in lieu of dessert. “Sometimes at the end of a big dinner party I’ll set out some really high-quality dark chocolate. It’s all you really need; we have some high-quality brittles. You don’t always need a big moment.”
What a theme for Thanksgiving 2020! We couldn’t agree more.