thanksgiving dinner for 20 and 1 lame electric oven : totally doable

21 Nov

When my mom was visiting last week, I wish I had kept a tally of how many times I said to her, “You know you sound like a crazy person, right?” On the last day she was here, I would estimate over the course of a week I said it about 24 times. The last day, was the best example of her Baby-boomer craziness.

Mom: “I need to get some cash before I go to the airport.”
Me: “Ok, well we don’t have a Zions Bank, US Bank or Wells Fargo here, so you’re going to have to pay the transaction fee from the ATM.”

I should have known when I said those three letters: A-T-M, that we were in for an afternoon of panic-stricken negotiating on the best way to get cash.

It concluded with me using my ATM card at my bank because mom not only tried to convince me that her PIN was EXACTLY what she was telling me it was (48 hours later, back at home, she realizesd she had 2 of the 4 numbers right) but also that “People my age don’t use ATMs. They’re just unnecessary and a waste of time.”

I didn’t need to point out that a) ATMs are very much necessary, especially WHEN TRAVELING OUT OF STATE and you’ve run out of cash and b) that they are only a waste of time if you don’t know how to use them or don’t know your pin.


The only person in the world I know who could try to argue that ATMs are a waste of time and unnecessary. God forbid I try to explain to her that you can also deposit a check via an ATM without a human having to tell you “Thank you very much.”

As funny as she is, that kooky ol’ bird, I love my mom for how she can alleviate all my stresses when I tell her how nervous I am about preparing a dinner for 20 people with one oven: a lame-ass electric oven with impossible to tame fickle burners. It proves to me that she’s still got it, even if the world around her is changing faster than she’d like. This is the same woman who has an iPhone, and I don’t. Also the same woman who bought me a shirt that reads, “That’s what she said,” because she knows I say that sometimes.

At least she doesn’t wrap up cats for Christmas.

Here’s an example of my mom’s put-together strategy for those of you tackling the hosting duties for one of my favorite holidays of the year. For more helpful hints like this, you can sign up to receive her weekly newsletters, called Fabulous Food Fridays, by visiting

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!!

From Mama: “Once again, my advice to all of you who are tackling this holiday for the first, tenth or twentieth time, it’s all about organization.  And knowing your kitchen capabilities.  Don’t try new techniques of brining, frying or doing anything weird to that lovely turkey.  Oven roasting is the best I believe. It makes the house smell like Thanksgiving.  It’s not that difficult, really.    If you have one oven (and hopefully it’s a good-sized one), then you MUST do most of the cooking of the potatoes, vegetables and such ahead of time.  THEN REHEAT!”

If you’re serving dinner at 4pm on Thanksgiving, here’s a time-table of how to stay cool and calm in the kitchen.

Shop for everything Tuesday: Turkey, cranberries, veggies, etc.  Tuesday night, make the cranberry sauce. Keep it in the garage, fridge or anywhere where it stays cool. Also on Tuesday, label serving dishes with post-it notes with the names of each item to go into the dish. This way, you know what goes where without last-minute searching for platters. And if you need to run out and buy one on Wednesday, you have time to do.

Wednesday: make cheesecake, pumpkin pie, pecan pie and apple pie.  Also, make the stuffing without the milk added (stuffing recipe below).  The mashed potatoes and the brandied yam souffle up to the beating of the egg whites (recipe below) should also be made on Wednesday.  Put the mashed potatoes and the yam souffle in a two 9″ x 13″ baking dishes.  Keep cold, along with desserts.  I like to set the table Wednesday night too.

Thursday morning: While you watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, assemble the appetizer platter (cheeses, salami, olives) and made a quick lemon garlic shrimp dish. Chill the wines and Prosecco.

Thursday mid-morning: add the milk to the stuffing and stuff the bird at noon for entry into oven at 12:30pm, to be ready by 4 pm.  Extra stuffing should be placed in a baking dish.  Giblets should be taken out and simmering with vegetables for the stock to be used for basting the turkey.

You’re going to be basting the turkey every 30 minutes too, starting at 1pm if placed in oven at 12:20.

Thursday 1 pm: baste turkey
Thursday 1:30 pm: baste turkey

Thursday 2 pm: guests will arrive for appetizers, Cava and Prosecco. Baste turkey.
Thursday 2:30 pm: baste turkey
Thursday 3:00 pm: baste turkey. Beat egg whites for the yam souffle and fold into the mixture you made the night before.

Thursday 3:30 pm: place mashed potatoes and yam souffle on top shelf of oven. (Also place a baking sheet of cauliflower and butternut squash, tossed in olive oil with garlic, Italian seasoning and red onions in oven).  It all fits on top rack. Baste turkey.

Thursday 3:40 pm: sautéed the Brussels sprouts with pancetta (see recipe below).

Thursday 4:00 pm: remove turkey from oven; allow to rest for 20 minutes before slicing.  Add the extra pan of stuffing to oven to reheat. Make gravy with remaining stock and the pan drippings.

Thursday 4:30 pm: slice turkey, remove stuffing from bird and place in serving bowl.  Transfer Brussels sprouts to serving dish.  Serve everything buffet style or family style.

Thursday 4:45: all seated, wine poured and ready to dig in.   Done!  No last-minute craziness.  And with enough wine and appetizers to keep everyone happy for a while, it was all good.

14-16 lb. natural and fresh turkey, washed out and giblets removed and reserved
1 stick butter, softened
1 cup chopped fresh sage leaves
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper

Riesling Onion Gravy
2 large onions, thinly sliced
1 cup Riesling wine
2 cup turkey stock
1 cup turkey stock + 1/2 cup flour (slurry)
salt and pepper to taste

Roasting The Turkey: Place turkey on work surface; with breast side up, and lift the skin of the turkey above the breast meat.  In a bowl, combine the softened butter, sage, salt and pepper.  Use half the butter mixture to spread under the skin of the breast.  Use your hand to evenly spread out the butter.  Rub the remaining butter mixture over the breast and legs of bird.  Place turkey on a rack of a large roasting pan, or directly in the pan.

Place the roasting pan on bottom shelf of a preheated 325 oven.   Cook the bird:  12-15 minutes per lb. unstuffed,  15-18  minutes per lb. if stuffed.  The temperature of the turkey should read 160 when taken out of oven.  Test the meat at the thickest part of the bird, in the breast near the thigh.  Do not over cook; allow the bird to rest about 20 minutes while making the gravy.

For the Riesling Onion Gravy: Put the onions in with the turkey pan 1 hour before the turkey is done.  Roast the onions as you roast the turkey.  After removing the turkey for slicing, add the wine to pan and deglaze.  Use the pan drippings to make the gravy. Place the pan with onions, wine, and stock over heat.  Whisk in enough of the slurry to make the gravy the consistency desired. Strain through a sieve and serve with the turkey.

Giblets and neck from turkey
2 carrots cut in half
2 ribs celery, cut in half
1 large yellow onion (find one with dark outer skin) cut in half, leave the outer skin on
2 bay leaves
1 T. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
Water to cover

Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Lower heat to a simmer, cover and cook for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.  After the first 30 minutes of roasting, baste the turkey with 1 cup of the broth, and continue to baste every 30 minutes until turkey is done.  The last few bastings you might want to use some of the broth that has collected on the bottom of the roasting pan (the rich buttery taste of the rub will enhance the roast).  Remove turkey from oven when internal temperature reaches 165.  Allow the bird to rest 20 minutes before slicing so all the juices return into the meat.

Makes enough for 12-14 lb. bird, serving 8-10.
1 pound sliced white bread (sandwich bread works best, like Wonder white sandwich bread)
1 stick butter
1 large onion, diced
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
1-tablespoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
Kosher salt to taste
1 pound bulk Italian sausage (I like the spicy, but use whatever works for you)
1 quart whole milk

Cut the bread into 1” cubes; bake on baking sheet in 200 oven for 10-15 minutes until dry, but not toasted.  Or leave out overnight to dry on baking sheet. Set aside in a large bowl.  In large saucepan, heat the butter and sauté the onion until soft, about 10 minutes on low, stirring often.  Add dried oregano, fennel seeds and ground pepper. Cook for 3-4 minutes on low heat; add bread to onion mixture, cook for 5-8 minutes until coated with butter and golden brown. Transfer to a bowl.  Add sausage to saucepan, cook and crumble until no longer pink.  Toss the sausage with the bread and onion mixture. Refrigerate until ready to use.  (Do this the night before.) When ready to stuff the turkey, add enough whole milk to the mixture to soften, but not make it soggy.  Stuff cavities of bird loosely and put remaining stuffing in baking dish.  Bake extra stuffing at 350 for 30 minutes covered with foil.

2 T. olive oil
1/4 cup diced red onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 pound pancetta, diced – comes diced in packages or have butcher slice pancetta thickness of bacon and do it yourself
1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts – shaved or quartered
1/2 cup water, white wine or chicken broth
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

In a large skillet, heat oil and saute the onion until soft, about 2 minutes.  Add garlic and pancetta; cook on low for 3-4 minutes until pancetta is golden. Add sprouts, broth, salt and pepper.  Toss.  Cover and steam for 7-10 minutes, tossing often.  Taste for seasoning.  Serves 6-8.

3 pounds yams, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 stick butter (2 ounces)
1/4 cup brown sugar
zest and juice of 1 orange
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup brandy, rum or bourbon
4 egg whites

Boil the yams in water until tender then drain. Place in mixing bowl of mixer fit with paddle. Beat until smooth, about 1 minute on medium speed. Add the butter, brown sugar, zest and juice of the orange, 4 egg yolks, salt, nutmeg and brandy. Beat another 2 minutes on medium speed. (Can be made ahead up to this point, then refrigerated.)

In a separate bowl, beat egg white until stiff peaks form. Fold the beaten egg whites into the yam mixture. Do not overmix. Pour into a buttered 2-quart souffle dish or decorative 3-inch deep baking dish. Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until puffed and golden, or you can bake along with the turkey at 325 as the instructions above direct.

2 Responses to “thanksgiving dinner for 20 and 1 lame electric oven : totally doable”

  1. Kelli November 22, 2011 at 11:30 pm #

    Let the cooking begin! Thank you for the recipes. You make it sound just so darn easy! I do admit the wine helps, a lot! Do you have any fabulous pie recipes you would like to share? Do ya? Do ya?

    • Lupe Hickey November 16, 2012 at 10:50 am #

      You always make me laugh. You and I share a fantastic mother (not perfect but super great) that has enriched our lives in ways we can only begin to appreciate. I am going to make your yam souffle with southern comfort because that is all I drink.
      Happy Thansgiving! XOXO

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