One of the best things about Thanksgiving is how homey and personal the holiday feels. And one of the most exhausting things about Thanksgiving is the amount of work you have to put in to make the holiday feel that way. From laying out the fall-themed tablescape to finding the right recipes, planning the cooking schedule, brining the turkey, and baking pies from scratch, it’s quite the production. And that is even that you are asking the guests to present themselves with a plate.
So this year, I suggest you cut some strategic corners. No one will know the difference, and the whole process will take a lot less time. In addition, you will really enjoy. So here are some easy hacks and ideas that won’t sacrifice one iota of the warm experience.
Fake a homemade pie: Pick up a pretty, shiny ceramic dish like Le Creuset’s Heritage Pie Dish ($56 at lecreuset.com) and then pick up a good-quality pie from your favorite bakery. Take the cake out of the tin it came in and carefully and triumphantly place it on the ceramic plate. Et viola: now you have an Instagram-worthy dessert. Pop it in the oven halfway through dinner just to warm it up and get ready for raves.
Take Care of Mashed Potatoes: Is there a more essential Thanksgiving staple than this dish? But there’s almost no reason to make them from scratch; just buy some pre-made at the deli counter at your local grocery store and then take them to the next level by heating, just before serving, in a pot with a few drops of heavy cream, a couple teaspoons of butter, and a few tablespoons of Black Truffle Oil ( $24.99 at truff.com). And just like that, you’ve saved yourself several hours of work and created a new favorite that will be in demand year after year. And if someone asks? You did it.
Same goes for cranberry sauce: You don’t need to spend time standing in front of the stove, stirring cranberries in a pot until the pectin in them breaks down and forms a jelly or sauce. Just take a can off the shelf, place it in a saucepan, and add a tablespoon or two of orange juice and the zest of one orange. For added flavor, I like to add a half teaspoon of ground cinnamon. If you like it more like a chutney than a smooth sauce, mix in a quarter cup each chopped dried apricots and toasted walnuts, and stir until well blended. Now all you have to do is pour it into a beautiful bowl, something like Baccarat’s Volute Crystal Bowl ($95 at saksfifthavenue.com).
Put someone else in charge of the music: Got a cousin who can’t cook, but knows Spotify? Give them this job. In the age of easy to create and share playlists, this is one solution to embrace. Just give it a little direction towards things most people will want to kick back and listen to (ie, no death metal I guess).
Keep the centerpiece simple: This year, use two or three large decorative pumpkins in the center of the table surrounded by a few smaller ones scattered around. They’re easier on the eyes than regular flower arrangements, naturally celebrate the season, and require far less effort than any handmade papier-mâché turkey. And if you don’t feel like buying them year after year, opt for a pair of beautiful, shiny versions, like the Glass Sculptural Pumpkin ($34.95 to $69.95 at williams-sonoma.com).
Reduce the size of the bird: Try roasting a large turkey breast instead of a whole bird. This will result in much less cleanup and will still fill your home with that roast turkey aroma. There’s no messy carving or greasy casing to deal with afterwards. If you are going to have a large group, get two breasts. It is also easier to cut and there is much less waste. However, the taste is just as delicious and there will be so many smiles at the table.