Some days Thanksgiving seems so far off, and on others, it feels right around the corner. Either way, it’s never too early to get started. Here, eight things you can get on with this week.
1. Pie doughs and crusts
Filling pies is fairly tidy work but making the dough isn’t, so it’s great to get it out of the way early. You can wrap disks of pie dough in plastic or wax paper and then in foil and freeze them until you’re ready to roll, fill and bake. Or, if you have enough freezer space, you can roll out the doughs and fit them into pans or pie plates and freeze; once they’re frozen, wrap them in plastic or put them in large sturdy plastic bags. Even cookie crusts for a cheesecake, for example, can be frozen ahead. Try this chocolate pecan tart and this deep-dish apple pie with a cheddar crust.
Now is a great time to roast your turkey parts (I like wings and drumsticks best) with aromatics until browned, then transfer everything to a big stockpot and simmer until you have a really tasty broth. (I usually pull a lot of the the meat off the legs to use in a curry before tossing the bones in the pot.) If it seems like you end up with too much stock to store, just simmer it until reduced further—it will only make your gravy more delicious.
Speaking of gravy, you can just go ahead and turn your stock into gravy ahead of time. Simply make a roux with butter and flour, then whisk in your stock and simmer it for about 10 minutes. You can whisk this gravy “base” into your drippings on the big day and never worry about floury lumpy gravy again! Here's a delicious make ahead gravy from Kay Chun.
4. Quick Breads
Whether you’re making cornbread for the stuffing or dressing, or just a couple of loaves of pumpkin bread to have around, as long as you let the breads cool completely before wrapping them well, they can be made ahead, frozen and at the ready. Here's the loaf I make and freeze every year.
So many Thanksgiving dishes feature nuts, and it’s way too easy to burn them when you’re doing 10 things at the same time. Toasting amplifies the flavor of all nuts and gives them a great crunch that makes them perfect in every part of the meal from salad to dessert. Store them in an airtight container to preserve the flavor and texture—I always prefer glass to plastic.
6. Cranberry Sauce
No matter what kind of cranberry accompaniment you’re cooking, whether it’s a relish, sauce, conserve or compote, you can make it now. Most, in fact, will even get better with a bit of a rest that allows the flavors to really meld.
7. Compound Butters
These seasoned butters are great to have on hand. You can slip slices under the turkey skin to baste and flavor the meat as the bird roasts. Or serve them along with the breads or rolls at the table. And all cooked vegetables—baked, boiled, steamed or roasted--can be turned into a dish for guests by simply tossing them with a compound butter.