Yesterday I taught a Thanksgiving workshop at Tante Marie’s. The theme of the day was “no stress”, eliminating the chaos of last minute cooking by preparing as much as possible in advance. This tends to be how I cook anyways but, for Thanksgiving it’s even more critical. Fifteen students cooked two full menus, including one stunning turkey, and made it all in under three hours. Sure, there was a dishwasher and fifteen sets of hands but I think everyone realized the value of picking recipes that have elements that can be done in advance. This is how chefs cook in restaurants, prepping early in the day so when you order your food it’s really a matter of cooking. No reason you shouldn’t be cooking the same way at home.
I wanted to share a couple of the stand out recipes that really do work with some advance prep. I realize Thanksgiving can be one of those holidays where it’s tough to change up the menu so I always suggest starting with the side dishes or the dessert. Veggies and sweets are easy places to deviate from the norm, and these ideas are sure to please even those lovers of your old school green bean casserole.
The first is this Spicy Braised Escarole, adapted from Andrew Carmellini in Food & Wine. The crunchy breadcrumbs can be made the day before and the escarole itself takes under 20 minutes to cook. If you want you can even cook it about 75% of the way through a few hours ahead and quickly reheat it just before dinner. I’ve made it with both sopressata and bacon and both version are wonderful. If you go for sopressata, have it cut quite thick (1/4-inch) so you can dice it into nice sized pieces. This is a great weeknight veg too.
The other is an alternative to the typical pumpkin pie. This version, Butter Pecan Toffee Pumpkin Pie, was a home run yesterday. Rather than using the crust from the original recipe (which I’m sure works just fine), I use the crust from this recipe instead. Either way, pie crust loves the freezer! Make yours well in advance, press it into your pie pan, wrap it tightly, and throw it in the freezer. No need to thaw it before baking-in fact the colder it is the better the texture.
Looking forward to hearing about your Thanksgiving inspiration this season.