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Thanksgiving Game Plan

Posted on October 31, 2012 by Webdev

For many, the preparation and production of Thanksgiving dinner can be a stressful and frenzied operation (especially the last few hours before the meal is served!). The meal is complicated by a menu that usually includes many side dishes, salads, gravy, condiments and servings of large portions that are a little more cumbersome to prepare than usual. Add to the equation, the dynamics of visiting relatives, a house full of people that require a bull horn to get them to sit at the table and the stress of trying to get the food to the table at least semi warm…and well, that’s Thanksgiving (at least from the cook’s perspective!).

And then we have the gluten-free issue! At our house there is never really a gluten-free issue because we, and everyone who dines with us, always eats gluten-free.

This year we would like to offer a Thanksgiving dinner plan that will help you keep the stress to a minimum, get everything to the table hot, and on time, and even allow you a little time to freshen up before the feast begins.

Before we begin we’d like to start with a few tips that may end up be your saving grace as you prepare and produce your feast:

  • Write out your menu so you can see it all together (try to include some easy dishes or ones that can be made well-ahead of time)
  • Read through all your recipes so you know what to expect
  • Make your grocery list
  • Make your game plan (this includes a fairly detailed game plan starting with several days ahead)
  • PREP as much as you can ahead of time
  • Set the table the night before
  • Plan your serving dishes out at least a day ahead of time (mark with sticky notes what goes on or in each dish)
  • Always remember that you are your worst critic — if something doesn’t work out perfectly, most likely you will be the only one to notice.
  • Don’t feel obligated to do everything yourself. Don’t be afraid to give out jobs that won’t affect the outcome of the dish, such as peeling or mashing potatoes or ladeling soup bowls.

So let’s begin! Now, obviously you may want to make some substitutions, but this is a lovely menu that would easily serve 12.

Thanksgiving Menu

Serves 12

Mini Beef Filets with Horseradish Crème Fraiche

Smoked Salmon Cheesecake

Pumpkin Soup with Gruyere

Mixed Greens with Spiced Pears, Nuts & Gorgonzola

Roast Turkey with Prosciutto Hazelnut Butter

GF Bread, Bacon, Spinach & Pecan Stuffing

Mashed Potatoes

Green Beans with Roasted Garlic & Hazelnut Butter

Cranberry Sauce

Apple Cranberry Pie

Maple Sugar Pumpkin Pie with Rum Cream

There are many recipes within this menu that can be prepared well ahead of time. Go through your menu, as we have done here and prepare your grocery list. Always double check your list to make sure you haven’t forgotten something….there is nothing worse than getting halfway through a recipe and realizing you forgot something!


Pantry Items Herbs
Extra VirginOlive Oil Thyme
Vegetable Oil Dill
Kosher Salt Chives
Black Peppercorns (Freshly Ground Black Pepper) Italian Parsley (for garnishes)
White Wine Vinegar Basil (for garnishes)
Red Wine Vinegar Tarragon
Honey Rosemary
Cumin Condiments
Corriander Horseradish
Cayenne Pepper
Ground Ginger Nuts
Ground Cloves 2-1/4 cups Hazelnuts
Nutmeg 1 c slivered Almonds
Bay Leaves 2 cups pecans
1-1/2 c sugar + 1 teaspoon
allspice Dairy & Eggs
cinnamon 2 lb unsalted butter
arrowroot 6 TB Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese
2 TB shortening 6-8 oz. Gorgonzola Cheese
2 c pumpkin puree 3/4 lb. Gruyere Cheese
3/4 c maple sugar 1/2 c Havarti Cheese
3 TB powdered sugar 5-1/2 cups cream
2 TB buttermilk
Produce 1-1/2 lb cream cheese
5 onions dozen eggs
1 bell pepper
1 green bell pepper Meat & Poultry
1 5-6 lb. pumpkin 1 lb. beef tenderloin filet
2 oranges 8 oz. smoked salmon
1 lemon 9 oz. prosciutto
4 Bosc Pears 16-18 lb. turkey with neck, heart & gizzards
1 lb gourmet greens 1 lb. sliced bacon
1 red onion
2 heads of garlic Misc.
3 green onions 16 c GF Chicken Stock
3 shallots gf French Bread Baguette
9 oz. fresh spinach Dry white wine
3 celery ribs 1-1/2 c GF flour
9large Russet potatoes 2 boxes Van’s gf frozen waffles
3 TB orange juice
2 lbs. green beans 2 TB Rum
2 12oz bags cranberries (fresh)
6 lg Golden Delicious Apples

Next step is to prepare your game plan. This process begins by reading through each recipe and identifying what can be prepared ahead of time. I usually go through each recipe and write out what can be done 1, 2 days or even a week ahead of time.

2-3 weeks before:

  • Order your turkey. We prefer organic natural, free-range turkeys and order them from our butcher. They are more expensive, but as your turkey will be the star of your meal, we feel it is well worth it. If you can’t get an organic, free-range turkey, be sure the turkey you select has no added solutions or flavorings, as these may contain gluten.

1 week before:

  • Make gf chicken stock (note: this is not in your grocery list above — you may already have the ingredients on hand: chicken backs or parts, celery, onion, carrots, garlic, Italian parsley, thyme, peppercorns and water.) Freeze until ready to use.
  • Plan your table settings. Make sure you have a tablecloth, centerpiece (at least planned), serving dishes, etc.

3 days ahead:

  • Grocery shop
  • Make crème fraiche.
  • Make cranberry sauce
  • If needed start defrosting turkey

2 days ahead:

  • Make Smoked Salmon Cheesecake
  • Roast Garlic
  • Make Hazelnut Butter for Green Beans

1 day ahead:

  • Make Horseradish Crème Fraiche (for Mini Beef Filets with Horseradish Crème Fraiche appetizer)
  • Make Gf French Bread Baguettes
  • Make Pumpkin Soup with Gruyere
  • Make Prosciutto Hazelnut Butter for Turkey
  • Toast waffles for stuffing
  • Make Apple Cranberry Pie (make crusts for both pies at the same time)
  • Make Maple Sugar Pumpkin Pie (prepare Rum Cream on the day of)
  • Set the table

Morning of:

  • Prep Salad (Make dressing, slices onion, crisp greens, prepare pears)
  • Remove turkey from refrigerator and clean
  • Peel potatoes and cover with water
  • Prep green beans
  • Prep vegetables and other ingredients for stuffing

5 hours before serving:

  • Prep turkey with Prosciutto Hazelnut Butter

4 hours before main course serving:

  • Get turkey in the oven
  • Remove the cranberry sauce from the refrigerator and let come to room temperature
  • Remove the prepared Horseradish Crème Fraiche from the refrigerator and let come to room temperature
  • Blanch green beans
  • Make Rum Cream for Maple Sugar Pumpkin Pie

2-1/2 hours before main course serving:

  • Freshen up
  • Have a glass of wine and relax

1-1/2 hour before main course serving: Serve appetizers.

  • Slice prepared baguettes and toast under broiler (watch carefully so they don’t accidentally burn)
  • Sear beef filet — let rest 5 minutes and slice. Prepare and serve Mini Beef Filets with Horseradish Crème Fraiche.
  • Serve Smoked Salmon Cheesecake with toasted baguette slices.

1 hour before main course serving:

  • Start re-heating pumpkin soup
  • Assemble stuffing – prepare for baking.
  • Start boiling potatoes – for mashed potatoes

1/2 hour before main course serving: Serve Starter

  • Remove turkey from oven (providing it’s done), cover loosely with foil and let rest.
  • Place stuffing in oven
  • Make gravy
  • Mash potatoes
  • Seat guests and serve Pumpkin Soup with Gruyere

15 minutes before: Serve Salad

  • Toss & serve salad
  • Carve Turkey
  • Finish Green Beans


  • Serve main course of Turkey, Mashed Potatoes, Stuffing, Green Beans & Cranberry SauceDessert
  • Slice and serve pies

This is a very large meal. You could easily condense it and simplify things by only offering one appetizer and one dessert. By breaking your game plan down, as we did above, it may at first seem like a lot, but most of the steps are simple ones that don’t take too much time - but will save you tons of time and stress in the long run.

Remember, don’t feel funny about enlisting people to help out – have someone carve the turkey, mash the potatoes or help serve. Again, the key to a successful dinner is prior preparation. If you prep as much as possible ahead of time you will find that the actual dinner preparation is not that difficult.

We hope you have a fabulous Thanksgiving Dinner.



Posted in: Recipes & Cooking

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