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Video: Prepare this turkey feast ahead

By TODAY food stylist
TODAY
updated 11/3/2008 4:38:56 PM ET 2008-11-03T21:38:56

Thanksgiving is one of the most traditionally ambitious, not to mention stressful, meals of the year. If you have family and friends who like to get in the kitchen and truly help, don't change a thing — nothing can replace that laughter amid the madness. But if you find yourself doing most of the cooking (at the last minute), or you just like to do things your way, then I offer this advice:

You have one week left, make it work for you!

Below you will find five dishes that can easily be made ahead. Start cooking today and by the time Thanksgiving rolls around, you can actually enjoy the holiday with your family.

Sausage, cornbread and Madeira fig dressing
Mix the ingredients for this stuffing together, fill the dish that you will be serving the stuffing in and freeze prior to baking. Take this dish out of the freezer when you put the turkey in the oven, and it will be ready to bake about one hour before serving. Recipe: Bianca's sausage, cornbread and Madeira fig dressing

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Mashed potatoes
Rather than boiling the potatoes in water and then mashing them and adding milk and butter, you save yourself time by actually boiling your potatoes in milk. Once you've mashed the potatoes, you can literally leave them in the pot for two to three days (be sure to cover it in plastic wrap and the pot lid) and then quickly reheat them on Thanksgiving. You can also freeze them. I swear they will be creamy and delicious, assuming you've made them that way to begin with. Recipe: Bianca's mashed potatoes

Pies
If you make your own pies, assemble them completely and freeze them raw. They can go directly to the oven from the freezer. Frozen or not, I recommend baking the pies the day before, as multiple pies will hog the oven, and the turkey will already be doing that. Pies keep well at room temperature overnight, and you can pop them into the oven during dinner so they are nice and warm for dessert. Recipe: Bianca's pumpkin pie

Cranberry relish
This can be made three to four days ahead, and usually tastes better for it. Recipe: Bianca's cranberry relish

Turkey brine
Have you ever brined your turkey? A brine is water, orange, lemon, kosher salt, sugar, garlic, fennel, pepper, sage, thyme, cardamom and bay leaf, all boiled together and cooled for a distinctive turkey marinade. Whipping this together takes only 14 minutes and will change your entire turkey experience. Consider this: Your turkey is going to be in your refrigerator approximately two days in advance anyway. All you need to do is have it sit in brine instead of in a bag. Brining does not change the day's roasting preparation at all. Make the brine three to four days before Thanksgiving, keeping it cold until you put the turkey in it. Recipe: Bianca's turkey brine and brined roast turkey with gravy


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