Make two lists before holiday

BURNING QUESTIONS

November 22, 2006|By Erica Marcus | Erica Marcus,Newsday

What can I do tonight to get ready for Thanksgiving tomorrow?

The first thing you should do on Thanksgiving Eve is to make two lists: one, a menu that enumerates every single thing that you plan to serve, along with the appropriate sauces, dressings and garnishes; the other detailing every nonculinary task that needs to be done, from bringing the folding chairs in from the garage to tidying up the bathroom.

Post the menu in a prominent place, so that you don't realize while clearing dessert that you forgot to serve the salad.

Using your menu as a guide, make a kitchen timeline. The timeline should note, at 30-minute intervals right up to serving time, when every dish needs to be prepared or finished, placed in the oven and removed from the oven. (If you find that certain dishes need to be in the oven at the same time, make sure they need the same temperature and that the oven is large enough to accommodate all of them.)

Setting the table the night before usually has a calming effect on nervous hosts. Don't worry if you don't have enough matching pieces, but if you can regularly alternate mismatched sets (e.g. one white napkin, one red napkin), it will look more deliberate.

Go through your menu and take out and set aside all the serving pieces you will need. In each platter or bowl, place the appropriate spoons, forks or tongs. If you have a lot of courses, you may want to label each piece with the dish it is destined to contain.

In the kitchen, go through the menu again; take out and set aside all the pots, pans and tools you will need.

Cook whatever you can the night before. Some dishes, like casseroles, can be cooked and reheated before serving. Stuffing can be assembled the night before, vegetables can be prepped, cheese can be grated. Wash and dry lettuce and keep it wrapped in a dish towel in the fridge. Start making ice.

Erica Marcus writes for Newsday. E-mail your queries to burningquestions@newsday.com, or send them to Erica Marcus, Food/Part 2, Newsday, 235 Pinelawn Road, Melville, NY 11747-4250.

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