Kitchen Focus

The key to a low-stress Thanksgiving is proper planning. Last month, we talked about how you can organize your kitchen space to make things run efficiently. This month, we are considering some recipes that can be made a day or two ahead of the big holiday to help reduce your work load at the last minute. Ideally, there will only be the turkey and a handful of things to attend to on Turkey Day, if you do things right. Here to help are three of my favorite make-ahead Thanksgiving dishes. Enjoy!

Lettuce, Orange, and Pecan Salad

  • 3 heads Boston lettuce, rinsed and torn
  • 2 navel oranges, peeled and sliced into thin circles
  • 3/4 cup (about 3 ounces) toasted pecans, roughly chopped
  • 4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled (optional)
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Place the lettuce, oranges, pecans, and goat cheese (if using) in a large bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk together the orange juice, vinegar, shallot, oil, salt, and pepper. Add to the salad and toss. Divide among individual salad plates.

Make-ahead tip: The lettuce, oranges, shallots, pecans, and vinaigrette can be prepared and refrigerated, separately, up to 1 day in advance. Dress and toss the salad just before serving.

  • Yields: 8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Fennel and Apricot Stuffing

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil or unsalted butter
  • 2 medium yellow onions, diced
  • 3 medium carrots, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 3/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • 1 day-old baguette, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 8 cups)
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, cut into 1/4-inch pieces

Heat oven to 400° F.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and fennel and cook until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Add the carrots and celery and cook until soft, about 6 minutes. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 3/4 teaspoon pepper, the parsley, and thyme and cook for 1 minute.

Add the apricots to the chicken broth and warm.

In a large bowl, combine the bread, vegetables, and apricots-and-broth mixture. Transfer to a baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes, until heated through.

Make-ahead tip: The stuffing can be assembled (but not baked) and refrigerated up to 1 day in advance. Bake from room temperature at 400° F until heated through, 30 to 45 minutes.

  • Yields: 6-8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour

Cider-Roasted Vegetables

  • 1 1/2 pounds beets (1 bunch), peeled and cut into wedges
  • 1 1/2 pounds parsnips, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 1 1/2 pounds baby carrots, peeled (or 1 1/2 pounds carrots cut into 2-inch chunks)
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 pound shiitake or cremini mushrooms, cleaned and stemmed

Heat oven to 450° F. Place the vegetables in two small roasting pans.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, oil, and vinegar. Pour over the vegetables and toss to coat well.

Cook until tender, about 1 hour, stirring halfway. Add the mushrooms during the last 10 minutes, toss to coat well, and finish roasting. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Make-ahead tip: The vegetables can be roasted and kept at room temperature up to 2 hours in advance or refrigerated up to 1 day in advance. Reheat from room temperature at 350° F to 400° F.

  • Yields: 8 servings
  • Preparation Time: 75 minutes