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Thanksgiving Countdown: A 4-Day Plan for Stress-Free Holiday Prep

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Let's face it: Thanksgiving is a lot of work. Between the stuffings and the sides, and the gravies, and the pies, the fourth Thursday in November is hardly a day off. The holiday is one of our favorites, but by the time the turkey is on the table, we're usually just thankful to be done.

This year we're doing it differently. Instead of knocking ourselves out on Thursday, we're going to prepare the meal in advance. We'll do the cranberry sauce on Monday and pop some cornbread in the freezer, Tuesday we'll make soup, and on Wednesday we'll prep the sides. Thursday all we'll have to do is put the turkey in the oven and throw together a simple salad -- and then we'll sit down, with family and friends, and give our thanks for that.



Make this brandy-spiked cranberry sauce and let it mellow until Thursday.

Cranberry Sauce

Get the recipe: Pear, Brandy and Walnut Cranberry Sauce.



Bake a loaf of cornbread and pop it in the freezer. 


Get the recipe: Double-Corn Cornbread with Fresh Thyme.



Dry- (yes, dry-) brine the turkey.


Get the recipe: Russ Parsons' Dry-Brined Turkey.



Make this simple carrot soup and stick it in the fridge.

Carrot Soup

Get the recipe.



Poach some pears for a light dessert -- someone always brings a pie.


Get the recipe: Ginger Pears with Honey-Vanilla Custard.



Prep a mash or two for the table and set aside some butter and cream.

Parsnip Mash

Get the recipe: Parsnip and Potato Mash.



Make this savory challah stuffing (you can warm it up tomorrow).


Get the recipe: Challah, Mushroom, and Celery Stuffing.



Braise some fennel and potatoes -- don't overcook them and they'll reheat well.

Potatoes and Fennel

Get the recipe: Crispy Cream-Braised Potatoes and Fennel.



Prep some squash for a hearty side -- it can go in the oven tomorrow with the turkey.

Butternut Squash

Get the recipe: Caramelized Butternut Squash Wedges with Sage Hazelnut Pesto.



Put the turkey in the oven.


Get the recipe: Russ Parsons' Dry-Brined Turkey.



Make some gravy, if you like, or a simple herb-flecked butter.


Get the recipe: Cider-Sage Gravy.



Throw together a salad as your guests sit down to dinner -- and then join them at the table for a delicious Thanksgiving meal.

Kale Salad

Get the recipe: Kale Salad with Apples and Hazelnuts.

Hotline App

Get answers to your burning Thanksgiving questions on the go with our new (free!) FOOD52 Hotline iPhone app.


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