2020 Note: This post was originally published last year — we know you likely won’t be hosting this year, but believe good food, delish drinks, and great company make a holiday wonderful regardless of the party size. Jeff’s ordering in a Thanksgiving meal kit from his favorite chef, and Jen’s added a few make-ahead / less-involved things to her family menu this year: this salad and these easy-peasy dinner rolls.
Let’s be honest: when it comes to Thanksgiving prep, hosting, and beyond, you’re probably either a Monica or a Rachel. (Because before the Enneagram, there was “Which Friends character Are You?”)
Monica — Your copy of Bon Appetit’s Thanksgiving issue is sitting dogeared + wine-stained on the counter, and hors d’oeuvre planning has kept you up at night for two weeks. Thanksgiving is like the Superbowl of entertaining.
Rachel — Sure, you like mashed potatoes and pie like the rest of the world, but you’ve got a wishlist to manage and Thanksgiving is more like a somewhat enjoyable pit stop on the way to Black Friday… the Superbowl of shopping. You cannot, we repeat, CANNOT be trusted to make a trifle, but you WILL bring a bottle (or five) of wine.
Fortunately, no matter which camp you’re in, we’ve got you covered. Our biggest sale of the year begins Monday, but today, we’ve got your (very) official TONIC Thanksgiving primer… our best tips, tricks, and recipes to make next Thursday one of your favorite, most delicious (and least stressful) entertaining memories yet.
TIPS & TRICKS
Set the table beforehand. There’s no reason you can’t have it set a day or even two early, and it’ll make you happy (and feel SO prepared) every time you look over and see it’s all ready to go. If you’ve got time, placecards are a nice extra touch, and Home Depot drop cloths make inexpensive linen-esque table cloths (wash and dry ’em beforehand).
Defrost your turkey. Fun fact: a rookie mistake for many first-time Thanksgiving hosts is that they underestimate how long a turkey takes to thaw and end up with a giant frozen brick of a bird on Thanksgiving morning (Editor’s note: TRUE STORY). As a rule of thumb, we start thawing three days before T-Day to ensure we get the turkey to the table on time.
Pre-select and label serveware. We’ve all done that, “Where is that ONE GIANT platter and I AM THIRTY TWO, why don’t I own a SERVING FORK?” dance as the turkey cools on the counter. Lay out + label the serving stuff in advance and save yourself the stress.
Opt-out of something. Not everything has to be homemade. Pick a few things to make, a few things to buy (or skip!), and put your focus where it counts. (Jen’s opting out of her baking nemesis, homemade pie crusts, and Jeff swears by Costco pumpkin pie.)
Put people to work. Thanksgiving involves an absurd amount of prep. Plan in advance for what you can have early arrivals or family members do (or bring!), and put them to work in the kitchen along with you… that’s good, quality time! (Give ’em a cocktail — we’ll get to that in a second — and they’ll even be happy peeling potatoes.)
LIGHT HORS D’OEUVRE
The Best Deviled Eggs Ever
These tiny, portable boats of delicious can be prepped in advance and then topped right before your guests arrive (the crispy shallot gremolata is 👌🏼). Plus, they pair VERY well with a cocktail. Tonic tips: You can buy pre-peeled eggs in most grocery stores now (LIFE-CHANGING!). Add a splash of champagne vinegar to the filling for an extra special zing. Get The Recipe
The perfect pre-dinner cocktail to hand your guests before you ask them to peel those potatoes… Festive, surprising, and with only three ingredients, a HUGE win. Tonic tip: Angostura bitters are a major ingredient here, so measure the full amount; they cut the sweetness. Get the Recipe
HEAVY HORS D’OEUVRE
Jean-Georges’ Squash and Ricotta Toast
Rich + tart caramelized onions, roasted squash and a deep swath of ricotta on country bread, topped with a fresh mint chiffonade… it’s everything you want from an appetizer, and really, from Autumn eating in general. Tonic tips: Toast the bread well, don’t leave out the mint, and serve the finished recipe on a wooden platter. Get The Recipe
Kale and Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad
Amidst all the rich holiday fare, the crunch of a great salad is practically a lifeline. This one’s not sweet (where most Thanksgiving salads tend to go wrong), but we swear it’ll disappear from the buffet in no time. Tonic tip: Any kale will do if you don’t find Tuscan, and we’ve halved the Pecorino with no unfortunate results. Get The Recipe
Cajun Grilled Turkey
Everyone’s got their turkey method, but Jen’s oven broke mid-way through Friendsgiving prep a few years ago and she’s grilled the turkey ever since. Because hello, OVEN SPACE and a moist, flavorful bird ready in just a few hours (!). Tonic tip: Jen brines her bird, injects with Tony Chachere’s cajun seasoning + butter, then seasons the outside with olive oil and more Tony’s… but you can use any seasoning or rub and it’ll work wonders. Get the Method
Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake
What’s like one million bajillion times better than pumpkin pie? Bourbon pumpkin cheesecake. (Are you shocked that our fave Thanksgiving dessert involves bourbon?) No fussy pie crust, can be made in advance, and absolutely mouthwateringly delicious? Boom, done. Tonic tip: If there’s time, we’ve made a bourbon vanilla salted caramel sauce for the top… Get the Recipe
The Bourbon Bomber
Even if you burn the turkey, your gravy doesn’t set, the mashed potatoes are lumpy, and Uncle Bob refuses to turn off his spigot of unwelcome political commentary, Thanksgiving will still be a success so long as this cocktail’s on the table. It may look ingredient intensive, but it’s big batch friendly (click HERE for the batch recipe), and we’ve never found a better crowd pleaser. Tonic Tip : The bitters and rosemary make the cocktail, so don’t skip the garnish. Get the Recipe
Don’t feel like going to that much effort? Make the Bourbon-Apple-Ginger, our favorite semi-lazy fall drink: 2 parts apple cider, 2 parts ginger beer (we like Bundaberg or Goslings) to 1 part bourbon, garnish with bitters, rosemary and an apple slice. Boom, bam, baby. ✨
Any favorite no-fail Thanksgiving recipes we MUST include on our menu? Comment below so we can add your faves to our table!
Oh, and let us know if you’re #TeamMonica or #TeamRachel, too! We did a little poll around TONIC HQ and Jeff and Jeff are definitely #TeamMonica, whereas Christina is 100% #TeamRachel.