Considering this is my first year even attempting to pull off a Thanksgiving dinner, some would consider this post the quintessential case of blind leading the blind.
Those people, however, have never met the Type A, slightly OCD researcher who is yours truly.
I’ve done extensive research both online and with my favorite family cooks, covering everything from perfect soul food recipes to the recommended cookware to prepare it in.
Consider this list a holiday gift from me to you!
Everything you’ll need to know for Thanksgiving dinner
Gather great recipes.
This is perhaps the most important part of any Thanksgiving meal for a novice cook. So many of my grandmothers, aunties and line sisters are “a sprinkle and a dash” kind of cooks, but the way my cooking skills are set up, I need real measurements.
So I called a few relatives, had them walk me through what they do. I then found web recipes that came close to theirs.
I will attempt my very own Popeyes turkey, collard greens, candied yams, dressing and baked macaroni and cheese.
Notice my meal didn’t include any fancy made-from-scratch cranberry sauces or desserts? That’s because I’m a realist.
I’m doing this meal alone. I know I won’t be able to do everything. So I planned for canned cranberry sauce, stocked Patti’s Good Life Sweet Potato Pie and assigned my husband to get any other dessert he may want.
The Popeyes turkey is promised to be an easy approach to that oh-so-popular but often under-whelming Thanksgiving bird. My mom got us one when I was maybe in high school, and I’ve asked for it every year since. It’s seriously that good, and you can’t beat the ease.
Just stop by your local Popeyes and pick it up. It will be frozen solid, so give yourself a few days to thaw it out. Follow the package directions, and voila!
Take advantage of modern conveniences.
Translation: Order, order, order! Sure, you’ll probably have to get your fresh veggies from the store, but a can of condensed milk, not as much. I’m an Instacart aficionado, but there’s also Amazon Prime, Amazon Fresh and Target’s same-day shipping trial.
Plan a schedule.
I despise standing over a stove, so when my mom described the layering and slow-cooking involved with making collard greens, I just knew there had to be a crockpot version of her instructions. Surely enough, there is!
That allows me the ability to start the greens the night before Thanksgiving, cook them on low and have one cooking task all done by the morning. I’ll also be making my dressing the day before and unthawing my turkey starting Monday.
That leaves macaroni and cheese, sweet potatoes and warming the turkey for Thanksgiving day.
Enjoy the roller-coaster!
Please understand, that you are not perfect, and that’s OK. Take some time to laugh at yourself if you burn the sweet potatoes or bug your favorite relatives for more detailed instructions.
All of those flops and successes are what make any first-time task memorable. Enjoy it and enjoy the people who make cooking worthwhile for you.