Thanksgiving Prep Part II: The Day Before

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At this point, the menu has been assembled, the groceries bought, and the house cleaned.  Things are in order if only awaiting the chaos of Thanksgiving Day.  In order to alleviate some stress, and free up much-needed oven space, I am trying to get as much prepped as I can before hand.  Last night, Keegan and I went through all of our serving ware and decided what dishes would be served in what and how we would set up the dining room for the ideal flow of food, drinks, and conversation.

I also started on some of the baked goods that don’t necessarily need to be fresh baked Thanksgiving morning.  One of those is cornbread for the stuffing I’m making.  The cornbread actually needs to sit out for a few days in order to dry, so that while the stuffing will be moist, it won’t be soggy.

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Hot-out-of-the-oven cast iron skillet corn bread. Yum!

I’ve cut this into cubes and have it drying in the oven (if you do this, be careful not to forget you have cornbread in there when you go to preheat the oven for, let’s say, a breakfast frittata…)

Most of the recipes I am using this year come from a cookbook my brother bought me last Christmas: The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook.  It’s been really great.  The recipes are the simple, down-home style cooking everyone looks forward to as they gather around the table on the last Thursday of November.

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Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays, and, as much as my husband thinks it’s because I love food [which is a completely valid hypothesis], it really has to do with my love for family.  Every year, my family and I would either go upstate or down to visit extended family.  My most vivid memories are of driving up to Windham, NY to the Kopper Kettle Motel. My mother’s parents owned and operated the small bar, restaurant, and motel for as long as I can remember–my mom telling many stories about her living and working there most of her life, each ending with an unintended theme of the hard-work, sacrifice, and determination it takes to run your own business.  While the Kopper Kettle is no longer part of our family, the memories are:  My Poppi (Greek for “Grandfather”) in the kitchen making a huge turkey for his family who came from all over the state to be together;  The tables of the restaurant dining room all pushed together to form one long unified space;  Family and friends milling around the bar and the pool table catching up, remembering the old times, and cherishing the new moments.

I spent my most formative years traveling around the state of New York to be surrounded by family, and the lasting effects have only gotten stronger with time.  This year is weird for me as the Thanksgiving table will be filled by the new people I have met here in Louisiana.  Yes, there will be some old faces, but the majority of guests will be people I have known for less than four months.  I have to say, though, I am so excited to be hosting my first Thanksgiving.  That said, back to the prepping part of this post:

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This morning, Keegan and his newly-released, finally-free-from-the-Navy counterpart, Stewie, prepped the sweet potatoes for Keegan’s mom’s special recipe for Sweet Potato Souffle.  It involved a lot of chopping, boiling, mashing, and whipping of various sugars.  I have to be honest, I was not present in the kitchen during most of this except to take some candid action shots.  Keegan’s approach to cooking is, let’s say, “different” than mine…and it makes me anxious.  The food he makes is good, but the process…oh, the process.  I’ve learned not to watch and to just enjoy the final product.

So, to round out this post, I prepped some dough for some pumpkin-cheddar bread (pictures of that in the top photo), but I’m not going to bake it until tomorrow morning (though I might cheat and bake it tonight).  What are you all up to the night before Thanksgiving?  I like to relax at home rather than going to the bars.  Is it telling of my personality that I just found out recently that going to the bars on Thanksgiving-Eve was common practice for many?

Oh well, Happy Thanksgiving, Folks:-)

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