Thanksgiving Onboard

November 2014 Web Exclusive

Hosting Thanksgiving dinner at home might seem like small potatoes compared to holding it onboard your houseboat, but fear not—there are a lot of easy tricks for the preparation that will make everything come neatly together on the 27th. By strategically breaking down things to do in the days beforehand, you’ll have time to relax and face the family crowd with a smile unstrained with stress. And best of all, spending the holidays aboard will make Thanksgiving a special and unforgettable experience.

Here’s what Food Network has to say with a houseboating tweak—these clever ideas promise to cut down on stress and increase your confidence for staring down Turkey Day with an oven mitt in one hand and a flute of sparkling cider in the other.

First, it’s most important to know how many you’ll be hosting. This will help you prepare everything to follow. Fine-tune your confirmed guest list and double-check that no one has any allergies. Make sure you have enough chairs, glasses, flatware, plates, and table room for everyone coming.

Decide on your full menu and make sure you have the recipes you’ll need. One tip is to choose some dish ideas that taste great at room temperature, to cut down on heat or chill time. Don’t forget to delegate cooking assignments out to anyone who offered to help.

Get your turkey ahead of time. Plan on one pound of meat per person, or ¾ pound per person if you’re buying only the bone-in breast.

Pick up beverages yourself or delegate this to a non-cooking guest. If you’re serving alcohol, make sure to have some non-alcoholic options as well. Pick up any nonperishable goods while you’re at it—cranberries, flour, sugar, corn syrup, canned pumpkin, stuffing mixes, etc, can all be bought long before Thanksgiving and before store supplies run out.

One week ahead, you can stock up on things like heavy cream and hearty veggies (like squash, carrots, potatoes and yams). If you have any linen or silverware that needs ironing or polishing, you can get this taken care of, too. Track down that turkey roaster and any platters/serving dishes you’ll be needing in seven days.

With three days to go, set up a houseboat cleaning crew to make sure everything’s in order. Set up the tables and chairs to make sure enough seats are onboard. And if your turkey is frozen, squeeze it into your fridge to start thawing.

Two days till Thanksgiving, and now is the perfect time to make all the pumpkin pies, cheesecakes, breads, rolls, and cornbread for stuffing. Refrigerate the pies (you can always warm them up again just before serving), but if you have a relative who will breathe fire if there’s no apple or pecan pie, don't make them yet—the crust won’t stay flaky and crisp. You can go ahead and make everything else that can sit in the fridge for awhile, like cranberry sauce and soups, and assemble uncooked casseroles to be baked in two days. Getting this busy work done before you're on the houseboat will significantly simplify your kitchen time.

One day remaining, and you can send someone aboard to clean up and set up the place settings, centerpieces, and any other decorations. Designate a place to hang up extra coat hangars and wrap up the rest of that baking, like the apple and pecan pies. Buy the perishable food that’s left on your list. Wash and dry the lettuce and store it between sheets of paper towels in a bag in the fridge. Plan out your cooking times and order for the big day, making sure everything can be done around the turkey. 

The big day—Thanksgiving. After shrugging off sleep, get the turkey stuffing ready for the bird and clean, peel, and chop the veggies. Cover the veggies and leave them in the fridge. Boil and mash the potatoes, as they’re easy to reheat. Stuff the turkey and get it in the oven based on yesterday’s schedule. You can do this either in your house or onboard your houseboat, depending on what schedule you've set for yourself—how early you'll be eating dinner, how close you are to your houseboat, etc. Whatever you decide, space out enough time to make sure it'll work. (Of course, we'd recommend baking as much as possible at home, transferring the food to the houseboat, and touch-up heating there). 

While the turkey is cooking, spend a little while away from the kitchen—relax with family and friends, but leave a timer. Just before the turkey is done, you’ll want to start cooking the cut veggies and readying everything else that will go into the oven after the turkey is out.

When the bird is done, cover it with a foil tent and plan for an hour of last-minute cooking. Warm everything that’s been chilled, from mashed potatoes to soups and casseroles. Cook any frozen veggies, and make the gravy. 

Start putting out the food on the table or counter. Ask people to help put food in bowls, fill glasses, and open beverages. Then, once the turkey is carved and the oven is turned off, relax. The hay is in the barn, as they say, and there's no need to keep worrying about running around in the kitchen. If you've planned it out, there won't be anything to worry about anyway! Grab yourself a plate, dish up, and enjoy the water's view around you, the pleasant company by you, and the Thanksgiving feast before you. All of this is the perfect recipe for a very Happy Thanksgiving.

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