As much as I'd love to be the cool, calm, collected, always-do-everything-in-advance type of person, the reality is, I always try to cram too much in, and end up doing things at the last minute. (Even though I tell all of you, on the blog and in the book, to do things in advance!!) Alas. BUT for all of you fellow procrastinators out there, I’ve got great news: it’s not too late to host Thanksgiving! You’ve got two days to go, and as long as you've at least invited a few people, you can totally pull off the dinner part. I’m hosting 12 around the yellow table on Thurdsay, and – true confession – I haven’t even started my grocery shopping, and my apartment looks like a book-shipping center. So if I can do it, you certainly can!

With no further ado, here's my Ultimate Last-Minute Guide to Hosting Thanksgiving:


1) You (and me!) should both read over my notes from last year's How to Host a Stress-Free Thanksgiving class at West Elm. There are lots of great tips and tricks – and recipes! – in there, many of which I plan to use this year.

2) I wrote a piece for Tasting Table – running today – all about How to Host a Last-Minute Thanksgiving, with more practical tips.

3) Now, let's talk turkey. If you're the host, you're most likely in charge of the turkey (because who wants to lug a turkey across town?!). If you haven't already bought one, you're going to want to buy a fresh one, as you won't have time to thaw a frozen one. Though it's too late to order a heritage breed, you can buy a hormone-free, farm-raised fresh turkey at Whole Foods. I always brine my turkey (see my post on turkey brining), using my mother-in-law's apple cider brining mix, because it makes it SO moist – but this year, I honestly may just skip it and stick with a simple herb-butter rub. We will see.

But if you do decide to brine, make sure to start it the afternoon before: you'll need to boil and cool the brine, the let the turkey soak overnight. Though the end result is fantastic, the whole process is kind of a hassle (especially when you have a tiny sink and limited refrigerator space!), which is why I might forgo it this year. In terms of amount, think in terms of one pound per person (to insure you have plenty of leftovers for Three-Bean Turkey Chili!).


(Photo by Signe Birck)

4) What about the rest of the menu? Given that it's just days before Thanksgiving, the most important thing to remember is this: Don't try and do it all! Ask others to bring a dish - they will not only love feeling involved, but that will allow you to focus on the table, the turkey, and one or two favorite side dishes. (In case you need some menu ideas, I created a Thanksgiving Day Guide a few years ago, with some great recipes.) This year, I'm planning to make a few of my favorite healthy side dishes: Roasted Winter Squash with Kale and Pomegranate Seeds, Farro with Wild Mushrooms, and most likely Cranberry Orange Sauce, and Roasted Pears & Red Onions. I grew up eating so many cheesy, buttery casseroles on Thanksgiving that it's kind of nice to serve healthy foods at my own gathering. I've asked my friends to help bring appetizers, desserts, and other side dishes so I'm not stuck doing it all.


(Photo by Signe Birck)

5) Don't forget the wine! My friend Jean-Luc Le Du, owner of Le Du's Wines and the incredible sommelier who created the wine pairings in my cookbook, recommends the following wines to serve with your Thanksgiving Day feast:

*Cider-Manoir du Kinkiz, AOP Cornouaille ($16.99) - This sparkling cider would make a nice pre-dinner aperatif with appetizers

For white wine, Jean-Luc recommends a Gruner Veltliner or white Cotes du Rhone, which both have plenty of fruit flavors and nice acidity:

*Gruner Veltliner « Gobelsburger », Schloss Gobelsburg, Kamptal 2013 ($17.99)

*Cotes du Rhone "Gendrines,“ Domaine Pierre Gaillard 2012 ($32.99)

For red, Jean-Luc recommends pairing the following medium-bodied red wines from France and Italy with your turkey:

*Anjou Cabernet Franc, Domaine des 2 Arcs 2011 ($15.99)

*Roeno Teroldego della Vallagarino « I Dossi » 2012 ($16.99)

*Fleurie “Cuvee du Chaos”, Yann Bertand 2013 ($32.99)

(All of these wines can be ordered through Le Du's Wines.)


Photo by Brandon Carl

6) How about the table? I love setting the table for Thanksgiving. I keep it simple, but it's still nice to add some personal touches, like napkins tied in twine with little handwritten name cards, and pretty little arrangements of seasonal flowers down the center of the table.

7) And last, but not least, make sure to take time to be thankful. In the rush of hosting Thanksgiving, it can be easy to forget about why we are celebrating in the first place. My favorite part of the meal mid-way through, when we take time to go around the table and one by one, tell what we're most thankful for. It's so special to take time to remember our blessings, and to share our thanks with the ones we love.


I hope you all have a beautiful Thanksgiving. And if you have any last-minute questions about cooking or hosting, please don't hesitate to send me a message on Facebook or Twitter! I'll try to reply back quickly!

xo, Anna