For many years now, I have been primarily responsible for most of the holiday meals in our family.Over the course of these many meals, I have gotten quite good at cooking for a crowd. It takes a lot of planning and a lot of multi-tasking, but I absolutely love feeding a big group. It gives me a chance to make some large-scale dishes I don’t get to pull out too often, and then, there are the leftovers. Glorious, glorious leftovers.
This year all of the dishes are going to be original or adapted recipes, which I will be rolling out over the course of this week and through the end of the month. That’s right, until the end of November, we are going all food, all the time. Get ready for some gluttony. Read on for the complete menu for this year, and some of my tips for how to prep for the biggest meal of the year in a way that keeps your sanity intact.
- Grill-Roasted Applejack Molasses Showstopper Turkey
- Cornbread Stuffing with Kale, Bacon & Pecans
- Roasted Garlic Smashed Potatoes
- Butternut Squash & Apples with Bacon & Crispy Sage
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Mushrooms & Mustard
- Cranberry Orange Horseradish Relish
- Applejack-Spiked Cranberry Sauce
- Rustic Apple, Pear & Quince Crostata with Ginger & Gruyere Crust
- Maple-Applejack Sweet Potato Pie with Marscapone Whipped Cream
The best way to make a cooking feast for a crowd run smoothly is to do as much prep work as possible. Here are some of the areas of the meal where prep will save you a ton of headaches on the big day.
- For a 20-lb frozen turkey, dissolve 1 cup kosher salt and 1 cup brown sugar in about 25 quarts of water.
- Add 1 unpeeled onion, cut in quarters, 2 heads of garlic, cut in half, 2 Tbsp black peppercorns, 3 bay leaves, and the bird. Cover to keep turkey submerged, and add ice to the tub occasionally to keep it cold.
- The turkey will defrost at a rate of about 2 pounds an hour, or 10 hours in our case. As soon as the turkey has defrosted, move it to the refrigerator if you have room, or add a lot more ice to keep it cold for its total brine time, at least 24 hours, or up to 72 hours.
- 24 hours before the turkey is to be roasted, remove from brine and dry thoroughly. Place turkey on a rack in the refrigerator, uncovered, and allow to air dry thoroughly.
- Make dough up to 48 hours before you are ready to roll it out and bake, and place in refrigerator, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap.
- Roll out pie shells and freeze up to 24 hours before you are ready to bake and fill.
- Make filling and finish pies the day before, but wait on any whipped cream-style toppings.
Some dishes are best served freshly made, but others are best, or even only edible when, they have had time to rest and let the flavors meld and mellow. In the case of this menu, both of the cranberry dishes (which have alcohol and horseradish in them), need at least a few days before they are edible at all. The smashed potatoes, with the loads of roasted garlic and shallots, are good when they’re freshly made, but are even better after they sit for a day or two.
Sturdy vegetables like brussels sprouts, squash, green beans, and even heavy greens can all be prepped and portioned the day before. Fruits and vegetables that oxidize, like potatoes and apples, should be saved for the day they will be cooked.
If there is anything that can be chopped, toasted, roasted, cleaned or portioned the day before, do it. You’ll thank yourself later. Stay tuned for all of the recipes!