Feeding 32 for Thanksgiving: Make Ahead Oven Dishes

By Charleen - December 06, 2019

Every couple of years, it's our turn to host my husband's giant family Thanksgiving celebration. These great make-ahead dishes are fantastic for both hosting and traveling. Brown butter bourbon spice cookies, cider mashed sweet potatoes, wild rice for stuffing, blistered green beans and sheet pan roasted brussels sprouts and butternut squash can all be prepped in advance for an enjoyable holiday.

Brown Butter Bourbon Spice Cookies
Even with two ovens in the house, a large Dacor range oven and a smaller GE microwave-convection oven, there is usually intense competition for oven space on Thanksgiving Day. Given that the large oven will be occupied by a 22 pound turkey, while the smaller oven roasts an 8 pound turkey breast, it's helpful to make sure the other dishes are either stove-top dishes or those that can be at least partially made in advance. These same dishes are easy to reheat, assemble or finish while the turkey rests and the gravy is made. That makes them great for potluck gatherings as well!
Maple-Cinnamon Glazed Butternut Squash and Roasted Brussels Sprouts
After selecting the dishes to be made, the first step is lining them up by baking temperatures. The recipes are prepped and prepared, starting with the lowest oven temperature. While the oven is preheating to the next temperature, other dishes can be prepped, with some stovetop or Instant pot recipes thrown in the middle.
Dry-Fried Szechuan Style Green Beans

350°F - Brown Butter Bourbon Spice Cookies

One day I came home and my daughter had made these amazing cookies. They have the perfect balance of warm fall flavors, soothing caramel and vanilla notes from the browned butter and bourbon enlivened by sweet-spicy cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. She mounded the cookies up, resulting in a delightfully pillowy texture with just a hint of an attractively crazed crust.
Turns out these cookies are also easy to make. My husband made a batch while I prepped vegetables for roasting. It was really hard to limit myself to 2 cookies so the rest could be saved for the holiday! 
Check out the recipe by Cassie of Bake Your Day.

400°F - Maple-Cinnamon Glazed Butternut Squash and Browned Brussels Sprouts. 

On Thanksgiving Day, these pre-roasted vegetables can be easily assembled for a delicious salad from Julia's Album: Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Cinnamon Butternut Squash with Pecans and Cranberries.
Peel butternut squash. Separate cylindrical neck from bulbous base. Cut neck into slices and each slice into 4-6 wedges. Bisect base, scoop out seeds and cut into chunks.
I doubled the recipe for the Thanksgiving crowd, roasting 3 pounds of butternut squash tossed in maple syrup and cinnamon on one sheet pan, and a bit over 2 pounds of fresh brussels sprouts on another.  Keeping the different types of vegetables separate allows you to adjust to adjust the roasting times until each vegetable is the perfect texture and color.
Store in refrigerator. On Thanksgiving Day, these pre-roasted vegetables can be easily assembled for a delicious salad (recipe link at bottom). The veggies are tossed together with cranberries and pecans and served at room temperature. The dish can also be warmed for 20 min in the oven after the turkey comes out. Add pecans immediately before serving.
Wilton Armetale serving pieces are made in Pennsylvania and can go straight from oven to table, or even freezer to oven.

Stovetop - Cider Baked Mashed Sweet Potatoes

This simple recipe cooks the cubed sweet potatoes directly in apple cider, adding a rich tart-sweet dimension to this dish. Indeed, the entire contents of the pot, minus the cinnamon stick, is blended to form the mashed sweet potatoes, making this extremely easy. The puree is then transferred into a 7 x 11 or 8 x 12 inch baking dish and refrigerated. After the turkey comes out, butter is dotted on top and it is heated covered in the oven for 20 minutes, and then uncovered for another 5 minutes.
Five simple ingredients, sweet potatoes, apple cider, butter, nutmeg and a cinnamon stick
We prefer this tangy cider-based mashed sweet potato side, made from a Food and Wine recipe inspired by the Jeffersonian table, to the super sweet marshmallow topped versions of this dish. Read more about this dish and our favorite mashed potatoes here.

400°F - Blistered Green Beans for Dry-Fried Szechuan Green Beans

I started bringing a double or triple batch of this delicious room temperature dish to Thanksgiving celebrations hosted by other members of the family 2-3 years ago, and it always disappeared quickly.  The sauce is based on a recipe in Grace Young's Breath of a Wok, with a modified meat mix described in another post. The traditional Chinese dish starts by wok-roasting small batches of green beans until they are browned in areas and blistered all over -- a time-consuming process. The beans are then set aside, while the ground pork topping is prepared, then added back to the pan and tossed until they absorb a slightly sugared and salted chicken broth, before being finished with the complex flavors of black vinegar, sesame oil and scallions.  

While roasting the butternut squash and brussels sprouts, I had the idea that the sheet pan could also be used to blister large batches of green beans, obviating the need to stand at the stove babysitting small batches. So, I gave it a try!

Update January 4, 2020 - I have found that broiling works better for this dish. Click here for the full vegan or optional meat-garnished recipe.
After 25-30 min at 400°F, they were wrinkled all over and starting to brown
I made a vegan version of the dish, replacing the Szechuan Master Meat Mix with the sumiyacai pickled mustard green stems component and the ginger from the dish, and replacing chicken broth with water.
sumiyacai and minced ginger root
Tossing the cooked beans until they imbibed the water, sugar, salt solution.
The texture was a softer and the color less bright than the wok-roasted version (pictured above), but the tantalizing flavors of the black vinegar, sesame oil and a touch of sugar was preserved.
Szechuan flavored roast green beans

Cook Rice or Prepare Bread for Dressing/Stuffing

In the days before Thanksgiving, it also makes sense to order any breads and pies to be picked up the day before, or to cook the rice for the dressing. The whole grain rice stuffing/dressing that I make is enriched by dry cured ham and Chinese winter mushrooms to complement our family Szechuan peppercorn dry brined turkey recipe.
Click here for the stuffing/dressing recipe 
The Instant Pot cooked the rice to perfection in the background. Three cups gave rise to more than 8 cups cooked.

Green Tips: 
🍃 Line up multiple oven recipes to cook one after another to save energy. It takes more energy to warm up the oven than to maintain its temperature for longer. Start with the lowest temperature recipe, and work your way up. 

🐾 Use a pastry brush instead of paper towels to grease the sheet pans. More oil stays on the pan instead of being thrown away with the paper towels.

DID YOU TRY ANY OF THESE RECIPEs? Please post comments below or photos to Instagram, Facebook or Twitter

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