Our resident entertaining expert and Food Network chef, Damaris Phillips, shares her strategy and recipes for a stressless, made-from-scratch holiday feast.
By Damaris Phillips
A few years ago my sister-in-law, Dameron, and I decided to cook the entire Thanksgiving dinner together. Growing up, our family dinner tradition was potluck style, so making everything ourselves felt like a fun challenge. We planned, we shopped, we organized and we started early Thanksgiving morning. By 4 p.m., we had created a stunning Thanksgiving dinner that anyone would be proud to serve. We were also completely exhausted and vowed to never do that again.
It can be hard to cook all of your Thanksgiving favorites and still have time to relax and enjoy the holiday on the actual holiday. If you’re trying to find balance, you really have just two options if a traditional meal is important to you.
Option 1: Buy prepared food. You can order from the grocery, your favorite restaurant, or a caterer and simply focus on reheating the meal. This is a great option for folks who want a traditional meal, but don’t love cooking.
Option 2: Make scratch recipes that you can prep early and freeze. This is what I do. I love making delicious recipes that feel special and festive. I just can’t do that and have time to visit with family and friends. The key is finding recipes that freeze well and can be baked or reheated the day of.
Here are three delicious, holiday recipes I’ll be making early myself and still have time to enjoy the day with friends and family.
MAKE AHEAD AU GRATIN POTATOES
- Butter to grease the baking dish
- 2 pounds Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/8 inch thick slices
- 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup (4 oz) finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme (or 2 teaspoons dried)
- Butter an 8 x 8 baking dish or 9-inch glass pie pan.
- Toss potatoes with salt and pepper until evenly covered. Arrange sliced potatoes, overlapping slightly, in a single layer on the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup cheese, 1/2 cup cream and 1/3 thyme. Repeat until you have 4 layers.
- At this point it’s time to freeze! Wrap the dish completely in plastic wrap and cover in aluminum foil and store for up to 3 months.
- When you are ready to eat, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Remove the plastic wrap and re-cover with aluminum foil and bake until the potatoes are fork tender, about 60-75 minutes. (This will totally depend on how thick you cut your potatoes.)
- Remove the foil. Set the oven to broil and cook until the top is golden, about 3-5 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes before serving.
FREEZER-FRIENDLY PUMPKIN BISQUE
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 14 ounce can pumpkin puree
- 2 14 ounce cans coconut cream or evaporated milk
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 tablespoon poultry seasoning (one with sage)
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- Salt to taste
- Sour cream to garnish
- Pepitas to garnish
- Parsley leaves to garnish
- In a large pot over medium heat, add oil and sauté onions until tender, about 3-4 minutes.
- Add pumpkin purée and garlic. Stir to combine. Add spices, coconut milk and stock. Bring to a simmer, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Using an immersion blender or traditional blender, carefully blend until smooth.
- Add maple syrup, and salt to taste.
- Cool, add to freezer-safe quart containers and freeze for up to 3 months.
When you are ready to enjoy, thaw in your refrigerator overnight. Microwave or reheat on the stove. Garnish with sour cream, green onions and pepitas.
WALNUT GOUDA DINNER SCONES
- 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 10 tablespoons cold salted butter, cut into cubes
- 2 cups grated Gouda cheese
- 1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
- 4 green onion top, sliced
- 1- 1 1/4 cups cold half-and-half, divided
- 1 egg yolk
- Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt in a medium bowl using a whisk. Work the butter into the dry mixture using a bowl scraper or your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Using your fingers will create a more cake-like texture.
- Add cheese, walnuts and green onions. Toss to coat with flour.
- Make a well in the center and pour in 1 cup half and half. Stir until ingredients are just combined. If you notice it looks dry add another 1-2 tablespoons of half-and-half.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead 5 or 6 times.
- Press dough into a disc about 2 inches thick. Cut like a pie to create triangle-shaped scones.
- Place the scones on a baking sheet and wrap completely in plastic wrap. Place in the freezer until you are ready to bake.
When you are ready to enjoy, remove the plastic wrap. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Combine egg yolk and 1 tablespoon half and half.
Brush the tops of the scones and bake from frozen until golden brown, about 25-30 minutes. (If you thaw the dough, reduce the baking time 16- 22 minutes.)
Check out Damaris’s favorite go-to places for authentic international cuisine in her “Think Global, Eat Local” column.