Thanksgiving is about one week away. Are you ready?
The last few days leading up to the feast are often chaotic. There’s family in town, holiday traffic and plenty of last-minute tasks to complete the menu. Plus, for many of us, this is the biggest dinner party we host each year.
This year, with a little planning, your Thanksgiving can be stress-free.
Ruthie Colmer, owner of Fork in the Road catering company, shared her top five tips for hosting Thanksgiving (or any holiday party) like a pro.
Make a plan — like, now!
Having a game plan is the key to hosting a stress-free Thanksgiving meal.
Colmer suggests planning your menu first. Once the menu is set, start getting yourself organized.
Make sure you have everything you need for the big day: the correct serving pieces, enough plates, glassware, cutlery and napkins. Double check that you have enough baking pans and casserole dishes for everything on your menu.
Also, pull out all your recipes and write your grocery list. It’s not too early to get a jump start and go ahead and purchase non-perishable ingredients.
“Make sure you plan to have ice and coolers on hand,” Colmer said. “Remember that fridge and freezer space are at a premium.”
“Thanksgiving is a gathering and sharing time,” said Colmer. “Let others help. It enriches the esprit de corps.”
All of us have our “gifts,” so Colmer recommends delegating accordingly. Ask your “chef” friends to bring a dish. Someone who doesn’t like to cook can be in charge of bringing the rolls or picking up a bottle of wine.
“Not everything needs to match or be in the same type serving dish,” Colmer said. “Relax. It will taste divine — no matter what!”
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Don’t be afraid to outsource
“Memphis has the best food resources,” Colmer said. “Restaurants, caterers and grocers are there for you.”
She suggests ordering the proteins — smoked or fried turkeys and hams, for example. “Let the pros handle that and free up your oven. Place that order and move down the list.”
Side dishes, breads and desserts are also available at stores and restaurants across town.
The key is to order early. Many popular holiday items do sell out. Also, plan to pick up on Tuesday to avoid the Wednesday crowds.
Your buffet strategy
After decades as a caterer, Colmer has mastered the art of a foolproof buffet.
“Place only plates at the beginning of the buffet,” she said. “The napkins and cutlery should be at the end of the buffet.”
This simple detail allows your guests to have a free hand to serve themselves and prevents them from having to juggle a plate and their silverware.
Colmer also recommends being strategic about your food placement. “If there are dishes with limited quantity, place them near the end of the buffet,” she advised. “Since their plates will be almost full, guests won’t take as much.”
As for portion sizes, Colmer recommends about a half cup, or generous spoonful, of each side dish per person. A 9-by-13-inch casserole should feed 10 to 12 guests.
As for the meat, allow for approximately a quarter to a half pound per person.
“Adjust for vegetarians, allow for the weight of the turkey bones — and remember, young boys and men in particular have hollow legs and can throw your calculations out the window,” she said.
Lastly, try to locate your beverage station away from the buffet area to avoid bottlenecks.
“If the weather is nice and temperate, set up the bar on your patio. Beverages thrive in the great outdoors and so do guests,” she said. “Don’t forget to have coolers available to accommodate extra ice and beverages. Or even better, assign that task to a guest.”
Don’t be a hero
Don’t forget your friends and family are there to be with you. You need to be and should be present for your guests.
“Your guests do not want to remember you appearing so stressed as if in a wind tunnel,” Colmer joked, as she referred to her tips to delegate and outsource.
The key is to remember this your Thanksgiving holiday, too. Thanksgiving is a gathering among friends and family — so utilize them.