I learned how to operate my mother’s wall ovens. She’s had them for years, but I never bake when I’m over there. This year, I made roasted Brussels sprouts, but I almost didn’t because I didn’t see the “Start” button all the way on the right side, while the buttons for setting the temperature were on the far left. Stoopit ovens.
I need to calibrate my oven. It’s probably 25 degrees low, which added 30 minutes to the turkey’s cook time.
Speaking of turkey: I should have bought a turkey injector years ago. Not only is the Dr. Frankenstein aspect fun (the bird puffs up like a dead possum in the middle of the road during a south Georgia summer - woot!) the meat was really, really delicious and moist. Also, covering the breast with bacon is an entirely good notion. Added a nice smoky flavor, helped keep that notoriously-dry bit juicy, and gave me something nice to snack on during those last few minutes of prep.
Also, I did a pretty nifty job of reverse-engineering my Grandmother’s pumpkin pie recipe. First time I ever made that pie myself - Mom or Grandmother always made it in the past, but this year we were unexpectedly home for the holiday, and the girls would have never forgiven me if there hadn’t been pumpkin pie, and I didn’t have the recipe, and it was too late to call my mother, and? I winged it. (Don’t tell anyone, but I think my pie was actually a little better than THE recipe. I added lemon zest. That’s just the ticket, IMHO.)
A few of the things I’ve done for large dinners/parties:
Place out all your dishes a day or two ahead of time. Include utensils. Put post-it notes in each one for what they are to be used for. This helps me make sure I have enough serving dishes, and helps me organize the rest of my schedule.
That warming drawer under your stove is your friend. I cooked a bunch of stuff on Wednesday and stored them in the fridge overnight. Thursday, I took them out to let them come to room temperature. About 4pm, they went into the warming drawer (on low).
If you have to put anything away before serving, keep the post-it note in an obvious (to you) spot. Make sure you don’t have any unplanned notes left over when you serve - this is a good way to not forget a dish while rushing around.
ETA: Run and empty the dishwasher before your guests arrive. When you are clearing dishes mid-meal, you can put some things right in the dishwasher, making the rest of your cleanup easier.
Not this year, but a couple ago I learned to debone the turkey. The learning curve is quite doable, especially when you YouTube tutor yourself with The Master. A couple wet runs with chickens, then Gobble’s your uncle.
Cooks a little faster.
You can simmer the carcass while the meat is roasting, then come gravy time you have a large aliquot of fresh homemade stock. I like a lot of gravy.
Easiest way to carve since sliced bread, just about literally.
Yeah there’s always a downside, and here you lose a little on the presentation. You can mitigate this by shaping the deboned so it looks more like a full bird (as opposed to the galantine style shown in the vid) and by leaving the legs bone-in (which allows you to still do the Henry VIII thing, my personal specialty), but you’ll never get back to that Norman Rockwell painting.
Nevertheless, you may now count me a perennial deboner.