Hosting Thanksgiving dinner can be a daunting experience, but it needn’t be if you plan carefully.
The first thing to do is decide how many guests you’ll invite so you can determine the size turkey you’ll need and get it ordered. In years past, I’ve always tried to find the largest one available, 24 pounds if possible, so that I would have plenty of leftovers to make soup and sandwiches.
This year I’ve ordered a “fresh organic” heritage turkey from B&D Poultry Farms, here in Fauquier County. Actually I ordered two. The first one is for Thanksgiving Day and the second one for a test run.
Last week we had the test run. I invited friends over to be taste testers and preview the dinner. I worried the entire time I was cooking the turkey, but it turned out perfectly, moist and tender.
When hosting a dinner party, timing is everything. It’s easier and less stressful if you get as much done in the days leading up to your dinner as possible. Many friends tell me that I make it look so easy, and it’s only because I plan and make lists.
Whether you’re planning a formal or informal Thanksgiving dinner, start getting ready the weekend before. Check to see if you have all of the serving dishes you’ll need, whether any need to be polished and set the table. Check to see if you need candles for the table and that all the linens are clean. Do a little bit each day.
The dishes that are served cold can be made the day or night before. The vegetables can be cleaned and cut according to directions and stored in the refrigerator until it’s time to cook them. And in some cases, dishes can be cooked the night before and just reheated right before dinner in a microwave, if you have one.
Determining how much time you’ll need for your turkey is critical. Total the hours you’ll need; bringing it to room temperature, cooking it and then letting it rest.
While the turkey cooks, you can work on other dishes. I can’t stress enough how important it is to read and re-read the directions for each of the recipes you’ll be using, so you can have everything ready at the same time.
Shrimp cocktail, while not local, can be served as an hors d’ouevre. It is light, easy and doesn’t allow your guests to fill up before dinner. You can buy the shrimp already cooked and peeled; all you’ll need to do is thaw them and make a cocktail sauce. While your guests enjoy the “cocktail hour,” you can be doing the last minute items, such as making the gravy, sautéing the Brussels sprouts and opening the wine to let it “breathe.”
I know very little about wine, so I asked the three local wine stores for recommendations on what to serve with Thanksgiving dinner.
The Town Duck’s recommendation for red wines:
Domaine du Prieure Pinot Noir from the Burgundy region of France, $17
Rubus Zinfandel, Lodi, California - $13
The Grapevine’s recommendation for white wines:
2010 Zocker, Gruner Veltliner, Paragon Vineyard, Edna Valley, California $20
2009 Talbot, Kali-Hart Chardonnay, Monterrey California $20 (we had this one with our trial dinner and it was quite good.)
The Galloping Grape's recommendion for wines from Fauquier County, a red and a white:
For the fruits and vegetables I would recommend going to any one of the farmers markets or local farm stores. If you don’t like to bake or make desserts, I recommend our local bakeries, Great Harvest and Red Truck Bakery of Warrenton, and The Farmers Wife in Remington, which also has herbs and wild rice.
You can find it in Fauquier!
Archwood Green Barns
Buckland Farm Market
Great Harvest Bread
Lee Highway Nursery
Red Truck Bakery
The Farmer’s Wife
Warrenton Farmers Market