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Before the big day, experiment with recipes to familiarize yourself with preparation. Piecrusts can be rolled out and frozen weeks ahead of time. Cranberry sauce tastes better after "curing" in the refrigerator for a few days.
Herb-Butter-Roasted Turkey Surround the glorious baked bird with festive trimmings, including herbs, baby squash, Seckel pears, crab apples, quinces, and a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds.
Pear-Pecan Stuffing Pears, pecans, and nutmeg create a festive holiday twist on old-fashioned stuffing. It's equally delicious when baked in a casserole and served as a side dish.
Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Parsnips The subtly sweet flavor of parsnips makes ordinary mashed potatoes exceptionally delicious.
Vegetable-Puree Gravy Scraping up the crusty, flavorful browned bits of turkey and using some of the drippings left in the roasting pan make this wine-flavored concoction extra delicious.
Glazed Carrots with Pistachios Toasting the pistachios brings out an irresistible nutty flavor in this fast and festive side dish.
Cranberry Sauce with Lime and Ginger The perfect accompaniment to the holiday bird, this maple-syrup-sweetened sauce cooks in less than 15 minutes and can be made several days before the feast.
Brandied Pumpkin Pie We've added a little brandy for a tasty variation on classic pumpkin pie. Topped with whipping cream and ginger, it's the perfect finale to your Thanksgiving feast.
Prepare as much as possible in advance. For instance, premeasure seasonings and store them in labeled bags or containers; precut and store vegetables; and roast garlic a week in advance, then store the cloves in olive oil in the refrigerator.
Let your family set the table. Children will gobble up the chance to make place cards, fold napkins, and dress up your holiday table. This will also keep them out of the kitchen while you attend to the food.
Serve buffet-style. With pretty serving bowls and silver utensils, guests can help themselves to seconds whenever they want.
Let the turkey rest before slicing. To avoid a last-minute crunch and assure tender turkey, let the bird rest out of the oven, covered, for about 20 minutes before slicing.
Use your microwave oven. Take advantage of the appliance to quickly reheat food before serving when all the burners on the stove top are occupied.
Thermometers are essential for food safety. When choosing an oven meat thermometer, look for an easy-to-read dial with a stainless-steel face and shatterproof lens. Check the thermometer for accuracy by submerging at least 2 inches of the stem in boiling water. It should read 212 degrees F. (or the boiling temperature of water at your altitude).
An instant-read thermometer, also known as a rapid-response thermometer, is designed to measure a wide range of temperatures, typically from 0 to 220 degrees F. It does not stay in food during cooking. When it's inserted in the food, the temperature should register in about 15 seconds.