Preparing for a Dinner Party

As most of your know this weekend is Thanksgiving in Canada.  And if you’re like me and hosting your first turkey dinner, all by yourself, you might want a little advice as to how to keep things under control, and prepare for the worst.

Unfortunately as I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise for my guests as to what I am cooking, I will hold off on posting recipes until next week – that way you can have them for Christmas (or American Thanksgiving).  
I’m just going to dive right in here; if you haven’t done any planning yet, well, you’re screwed. Sorry to say, I think you should probably just cut your losses and cancel. I have been stressing over my dinner for at least a week but I’m pretty sure I over-plan.  My folder – yup, I actually have a “Thanksgiving 2012” folder – was filled over 2 weeks ago. 
Anyways, first things first; pick your recipes.  Considering it’s Thanksgiving I hope you are aware that you will be making a turkey. If you are one of those families that doesn’t believe in turkey (I’m sorry), then get a ham. And DON’T – for the love of God – don’t make a turduckin (chicken stuffed inside a duck, stuffed inside a turkey).  Unless you are Paula Deen, turduckin’s do not belong anywhere near this Thanksgiving folder you are making yourself. And even if you are Paula Deen, I’d have to ask why, oh why? 
Now if you’re squeamish about poultry, you’ve got about 72 hours to get over yourself.  A turkey needs tender care. A lot of rubbing, hands going up places you didn’t think possible – you get pretty intimate with this beautiful bird.  Don’t give it a name. It’s not your pet. You will eat it. 
As for the rest of the recipes – you’re pretty free to do whatever you like.  There has to be stuffing – traditional bread stuffing, sausage stuffing, cornbread… whatever you want to make – as long as it’s tasty – and for goodness sake get over the idea of stuffing the turkey – you will have terribly dry meat and potentially botulism stuffing. YUM!  
I typically have a couple veggie dishes – there must be mashed potatoes – and GRAVY. I cannot stress this enough. Do NOT make prepackaged gravy. You’re wasting flavour.  I mean you develop a huge amount in the bottom of your roasting pan, and then you throw it away? What’s wrong with you people! Just kidding. Don’t worry, if you have that planned for this weekend – I will ensure you move away from it by Christmas.  Gravy is simple, simple, simple to make and people appreciate the little effort you put into making it from scratch.  Promise. 
Next step; write a grocery list.  Cross reference your recipes with your pantry, and fridge – see what you already have on hand – if you don’t have it…. put it on the list. I think you get how to make a grocery list – but little helpful tidbits – know your grocery store. How you walk through it, where things are in it; that’s how your grocery list should be conceived.  You’re less likely to miss things and if you’re one of these people who do not like grocery shopping, you’ll know when you’re halfway through! 
Do NOT wait until last minute to go grocery shopping.  I went last night (my dinner is on Friday), and the franticity has already stung the air. A lot of pushing and shoving – yelling and screaming – it’s really a terrifying site to see.  If you’re already nervous about grocery shopping, I would ask someone else to go – you won’t step foot inside one of those again, ever. 
Also, most turkeys are frozen – unless you want to pay double for your bird.  To ensure you don’t give people E.Coli, Salmonella, or any one of those yummy bacteria, you want to properly defrost your turkey.  You’ll need at least a full day to do that.  If you’re unaware of the proper way, here it is.  All this being said, if you’re dinner is on Sunday (as most are), Friday night is the optimal time to stock your fridge and pantry with all the necessities.  
Make a supplies list.  Let’s face it, the tools required for such a hefty feast are not readily available for people who are new to dinner parties.  Roasting pans themselves go for minimum $200.00 – and that’s with my discount! You can be the person that gets the disposable tin pans from the grocery store, but if you’re roasting a 20lb bird, you’re going to burn yourself with scalding hot juices (just saying).  My advice, make a list – check to see if you have some of the things you need, and if you don’t get on your phone/computer/Facebook, and request the use of someone else’s tool.  Parents are usually pretty good for those types of things.  The worst though, is getting to a point in a recipe where you need that dish, and you don’t have it – resulting in a ruined side dish or worse off, a turkey on the floor. 
Guest list.  I realize there isn’t going to be a cover for your party, and the bouncer at the door is probably your significant other who may or may not invite the whole world to come crash in his drunken stupor, but this list is more so for headcount.  Yes, it is Thanksgiving and the theory is “the more the merrier” but if you don’t have the appropriate amount of turkey, people are going to go home very angry and dissatisfied. You may even have a pumpkin pie in your face…. although it’s tasty – it stains. Believe me. 
The last thing that I do when prepping for a dinner party is write a timeline.  There are A LOT of things that can be done the night before.  And I can’t tell you how important it is to get those things out of the way. The fact of the matter is, you can try and do everything besides the turkey and stuffing the night before, but after the turkey comes out of the oven, you literally want to throw yourself into the oven to escape the pressure and stress that ensues.  
Just prepare, do all you can, enlist some friends to help, whatever you need.  You want this to be a memorable night – and not because of an outburst of frustration – because you enjoyed a fabulous meal, with your closest friends and family, filled with laughter.  Have fun! And don’t burn the house down! 🙂
Oh. One final thing. Make sure you have wine. Copious, copious amounts of wine.  The cook is supposed to have a purple mouth prior to guests arriving. 🙂
Happy Hosting, Friends! **Gobble Gobble**
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