Here’s my best advice on how to make Thanksgiving dinner easier: cook as much ahead as you can.
That includes mashed potatoes.
Yes, mashed potatoes do taste better when you eat them immediately after mashing and mixing them with whatever you mix them with. But do you really think anyone you know will actually taste the difference if you make the mashed potatoes the day before?
Over the years I’ve learned to make lots of the food ahead for holiday meals. There’s just too much to do and too much to serve on those occasions to have to bother with anything but gravy at the last minute.
One thing I’ve found helpful is to make casserole type vegetable and side dishes instead of, say, plain steamed string beans or stir-fried broccoli, which we love at everyday dinners. Those need to be cooked at the last minute and keep me in the kitchen rather than enjoying the time with my family.
Besides, if you have a crowd, by the time you serve everything (like the turkey and stuffing and cranberry sauce), plain steamed vegetables have already become too cold.
Casserole vegetables can be made a day or so ahead and heated through. There’s no day-of prep. They stay hot in the serving dish.
Some of my favorite of these types of side dishes are spinach pie, sweet potato casserole, succotash, kugel, ratatouille. And so on.
This year one of the dishes at our dinner will be Broccoli Kugel. It’s almost quiche-like but there’s no crust, and it’s made with coconut milk, which makes it rich and vaguely sweet. I add chopped chili peppers to give it some balance. You can get this dish ready for cooking a day ahead and bake it on Thanksgiving Day, or cook it completely and reheat.
By the way, broccoli has a much better, more tender texture if you peel the thick stems. Here’s how: peeling broccoli.
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 bunch (2 stems) fresh broccoli, coarsely cut
1 large onion, chopped
1 serrano or other chili pepper, deseeded and chopped
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
15 ounce can coconut milk
4 large eggs, beaten
salt to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 9”x13” baking dish using some of the vegetable oil. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the broccoli and cook for 2 minutes. Drain under cold water; chop the broccoli into small pieces. Set aside in a bowl. Heat the remaining vegetable oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and chili pepper and cook for 3-4 minutes or until softened. Add the garlic and cook briefly. Transfer the onion mixture to the bowl with the broccoli. In another bowl, beat the coconut milk and eggs together. Add the egg mixture to the vegetables. Season to taste with salt. Spoon into the prepared baking dish. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until browned. Makes 8 servings