Beau can't help but cook up a storm around the holidays, so when we moved to Hillsborough almost ten years ago and had more room for entertaining, we started hosting Thanksgiving dinner at our house. Beau was going to cook anyways, so we figured it was better to cook with our own equipment than to cart it all over the state!
In recent years, we’ve hosted 30+ family members and friends on Thanksgiving Day. Due to the pandemic, this year’s number will be a lot smaller, as will most Thanksgiving gatherings. Still, if you’re “quaran-teaming” with even one or two other families, you could end up with a small crowd in your home. And even small crowds can make for cooking challenges!
So, if you’re hosting a small group for Thanksgiving dinner and you haven’t ordered food from a caterer (always an option, wink wink!), you can use some of Beau’s best tips for pulling off a great dinner while still watching football (Go, Cowboys!) and catching up with your visitors!
Prep as Early and as Much as Possible
Make as much as you can before the big day so all you have to do with your Thanksgiving sides is reheat. We’re making our sides (and yours, if you place your order here) ahead of time this year! Decide in advance (like, now!) which recipes you’re going to use, and make sure you have all the ingredients on hand. You don’t want to be scrambling on Thanksgiving day! Also, in the interest of not running around like a turkey with its head cut off, stick with classic family favorites and save that new, 25-step recipe for another day!
Set the Table the Day Before
This one might sound a little unconventional, but trust us: if you don’t set the table the day before, you’ll be scrambling to do it at the last minute. Instead, source, collect, and pre-wash all your platters and serveware well in advance. Throw your placemats and tablecloth in the washing machine and iron them if need be. Then, the night before Thanksgiving, make a little ritual out of setting the table. It will get you in the Thanksgiving mood and also save you time the next day!
Let Your Guests Help
When your guests ask what they can bring, don’t say, “Whatever you want!” or “Just yourself!” Instead, ask your guest to bring a specific item that you actually need, and make sure it's not a complicated dish that requires assembly. No-heat dishes like appetizers are even better! Make a list of your guests ahead of time and take note of what they’re good (or not good!) at preparing, and have that list ready in case guests call to ask what they can bring. Remember, most people want to contribute on Thanksgiving (it’s the season of giving!)
Don’t Overcrowd the Oven
Your kitchen will be overcrowded no matter what, but the oven is a different story! If you are cooking all the sides at your house, account for the fact that the turkey takes precedence and time. Make some stovetop options so you don't crowd the bird. If you have a grill, don't forget to use it - it can help out as another stove top or warmer!
Keep Your Guests Busy
Give your friends and family little jobs throughout the day. This will keep everyone engaged and will save you time with last-minute tasks. Send all the kids outside to collect greenery, leaves, and pinecones for the centerpiece; have Nana fold the napkins and write place cards; if you have a cocktail master on hand, give them a station and let them shine!
Serve the Food Buffet-Style
With a buffet, the chefs can finish their jobs and leave the rest to the guests! There’s no reason to cook all day and then have to serve everyone, too, right? Instead, set up a staging station where everyone can grab their plate, silver, and napkin. Then, bring all that delicious, cooked food to one space and let your guests go at it! This will also help keep the meal relaxed and fun. Say yes to stuffing, but no to stuffy Thanksgivings!
Ask for Help with the Dishes
We believe in your friends and family enough to trust that someone will offer to do the dishes. But just in case your guests are too stuffed with Grandma’s sweet potato casserole or pecan pie to voluntarily get off the couch, we suggest you ask someone to help. As chefs, we always clean as we go, but it’s impossible to not end up with a post-feast mess on Thanksgiving. Thankfully, we find that when we ask someone to help, they almost always take over. Just remember: it doesn’t matter where the clean dishes end up, you can rearrange them later!
We will miss having a large group of family and friends over to celebrate Thanksgiving and Beau's birthday, which falls the day after Thanksgiving this year, but we will cherish the friends and family we can celebrate with.
We’ll also look forward to next year when we can pull out all the folding tables and chairs, shine the silver, dust off the piles of linens, and cook up a feast with love.
Happy Thanksgiving, y’all,
Beau, Beau's Mama (who taught him everything he knows about Thanksgiving), and the entire Beau Catering Team