Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Deborah gets ready for a big cooking day...
Just because Thanksgiving is at our doorstep there is no need to panic. The beauty of this cooking-centric holiday is that so much can be done ahead of time. I would like to say, this leaves you free to do other things, but I find it just leaves you free to do more cooking. Ahem.

If you are going to make pies it is worth getting the dough preparation out of the way early.  My pie crusts were made well in advance. The dough gets chilled in the fridge and after an hour can be rolled out and fitted into a pie tin, then frozen till ready to use. I put the fillings into the frozen crust and just throw it in the oven. Voila!

Brussels Sprouts with pecans and lemon zest
Brussels sprouts can be cooked in salted water till tender the night before serving. To finish them, in a large saute pan I toast some chopped pecans in olive oil, add a dash of dried coriander and the jest of a lemon and then throw the Brussels sprouts into the pan to rewarm them, tossing with the seasoned oil. Allow the sprouts to brown in spots and pour a little lemon juice over them at the end of cooking.

Cranberry Sauce is a definite do-ahead, even days in advance. I like to roast the cranberries with a quartered orange, spreading the fruit out on a flat baking sheet covered with a few tablespoons of sugar. The roasting gives an extra depth of flavor to this otherwise ordinary condiment. Roast in a 400 degree oven for about twenty minutes till the cranberries begin to brown a bit and start to pop open. I then transfer everything to a saucepan, add a little water, more sugar and a star anise, and simmer till the cranberries are total mush. Fish out the orange and the star anise before serving.

If you are planning on making a dish with leafy greens like Swiss chard, spinach, kale or escarole, the greens can be cooked a day in advance and then stored in the fridge till you are ready to finish the dish. I am going to make a gratin with these Swiss chard leaves that I cooked in salted boiling water for 10 minutes. I am going to prepare them using the recipe for escarole gratin in my last post.

In my family it is not Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes, a huge chore for the cook. Peel and quarter the potatoes the night before and store them covered in cold water in the fridge. The next day add some salt to the water and cook till tender. I like to put my potatoes through a food mill for a consistent texture. Lots of cream and butter make this a once a year treat for me.

Have fun this Thanksgiving, relax and enjoy. No one wants a stressed out cook. Simple is always good!

Many thanks and Happy Thanksgiving!


  1. We are way behind the game this year, and have not done anything in advance except for making the pie! Eep! (Also I just realized...we forgot to buy cranberries! double eep!) Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

  2. Thanks for the inspiration. So glad it's all over. Hope you had a great Thanksgiving. How could it not be great with you cooking!


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