5 Tips for Hosting a Successful Thanksgiving Dinner
Are you hosting a dinner party for the holidays or for Thanksgiving dinner? It can be quite intimidating if it isn’t something you do regularly. Because of marriage or family dynamics, you may be thrust into the role of host you weren’t anticipating. So here are some helpful tips for feeding a crew.
Plan & Prepare
I’m a big believer in planning and then planning again. Get a firm commitment from those who will be attending your dinner. Make a menu of the dishes you plan to feed to your guests (and always plan for leftovers). There’s nothing more embarrassing than running out of food or drink. Then, make a list of all the ingredients that you will need for each dish. You can shop for non-perishable items about a week before your event. The days leading up to Thanksgiving are crazy in grocery stores – you only want to be shopping for essentials during this time.
When planning your menu, think about what you’re able to prepare ahead of time. For example, I’ll be serving a butternut squash soup. I could prepare the entire soup ahead of time and reheat on the stove the day of Thanksgiving. Or, I could roast the squash and puree it so it’s ready for final touches on Thanksgiving. Also, cranberry sauce can be prepared the day before and taken out of the fridge for Thanksgiving guests. You don’t want to be overwhelmed by everything there is to do on the day itself.
Do a Dry Run
This is not the time to try out a new dish. I’ve had dishes go drastically wrong. Ovens vary, cooking times vary. Taking 15 minutes longer on the stove than the recipe said could throw your entire timing off. After all, you only have so many burners. If you haven’t tested a recipe by two weeks prior to Thanksgiving, scrap it. You can always put it on next year’s menu.
Accept a Little Help When Necessary
Do you have a guest who offered to bring wine or dessert? There’s no shame in taking them up on it. Really. While I can cook some outstanding dishes, I’m not a terrific baker by any means. So, if you have a guest with kitchen talent that you can benefit from – go for it. Just make sure to give them a shout-out during dinner. Does your favorite restaurant make some superb stuffing or a sweet potato dish that knocks your socks off? Pick this item up and share it with your guests. There is no rule you have to make everything you serve from scratch.
Don’t Forget Décor
You don’t have to be Martha Stewart, but do think about what dishes, linens, glasses, decanters, and silverware you plan to use. As you start to think about this, you’ll know if you need to borrow any of these supplies from a friend. Does your tablecloth need ironing? What kind of tablescape will you have? Also allow enough time to make sure your walkway is cleared of leaves and that you have time to tidy up a bit before guests arrive.
When in Doubt – Eat Out!
If all of the above just seems like, well, too much work – make a reservation! You can still be a fantastic host by coordinating a reservation at your favorite restaurant. Feel free to mix up the menu too; you don’t have to limit yourself to the traditional turkey and gravy. Eating out at a restaurant can also help you more easily accomodate a variety of dietary needs (vegetarian, gluten free, etc.). Leave the cooking to the experts, so that you can focus on your guests’ experience.
Hopefully, these tips will allow a new host to be poised and pulled together during the Thanksgiving holiday or any holiday event you’re hosting. By following my guidelines and planning ahead, you’ll free up time to spend enjoying your guests’ company instead of slaving away in the kitchen. Happy hosting!
Written for Urbanspoon by Malika Harricharan from The Atlanta Restaurant Blog