Taking the time to prepare certain foods can help make the holidays less stressful.
1. The Turkey: Prep It for Roasting
Of course you can't cook the turkey now, but there are a few other little tasks that you can tackle, depending on how you plan to prepare the bird. If you're planning on brining or dry brining your turkey, that can be done anywhere between one and three days ahead of time. Or if you're simply rubbing the bird with a compound butter before roasting it, the butter can be made and stored in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for up to three months.
2. Mashed Potatoes: Freeze Them or Embrace the Make-Ahead Casserole
The full-fat dairy in mashed potatoes actually coats and protects the spuds in the freezer, making them a great make-ahead choice. Just make mashed potatoes as you usually would, definitely not skimping on the butter and cream, and freeze them in a freezer bag or container. Defrost them in the fridge one to two days before Thanksgiving and then reheat them on the stove or in the oven, slow cooker, or microwave.
The reheated version may be a little more watery than the original, but a few dollops of sour cream or cream cheese stirred into them will quickly remedy that.
Another option is to make mashed potato casserole, which delivers a golden crust that's hiding silky-smooth goodness underneath. The potato mixture can be made and refrigerated up to two days ahead of time. Then all you need to do is pop the pan in the oven an hour before dinner is served.
3. Gravy: Yes, Even Without Roasting the Turkey
I like to drown everything with turkey gravy, so I want to make sure there's enough of it to go around and that it's perfect. You can make it without drippings or roast a few turkey pieces to achieve both homemade stock and drippings to make the gravy, and then freeze it. The frozen gravy can be thawed in the fridge overnight, then reheated over low heat, whisking to smooth out any separation.
5. Stuffing: Bake the Bread, Toast the Nuts
Do you make a special bread or cornbread for your stuffing? Take care of that now and stash it in the freezer. Now is also the time to tackle any homemade stock or toasted nuts that go in the stuffing. Homemade stock can be tucked in the freezer if it's made weeks or months in advance, or it can stay in the fridge for a few days before you need it. Store toasted nuts in the fridge or freezer as well to keep them fresh.
6. Green Beans: Prep the Garnishes or Casserole
Just like the stuffing, think of the components in your green bean dish that can be made now — almonds or breadcrumbs can be toasted ahead and frozen. If your side dish roster includes a classic green bean casserole, that can even be assembled without the crisp onion topping and store tightly wrapped in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Top with the fried onions before baking.