Maybe your parents decided to travel for the holidays this year. Perhaps you just moved to a new state and aren’t planning to go home for Thanksgiving. Or possibly your sister decided it is someone else’s turn to host Thanksgiving because frankly, she’s been doing it every year for the past five years and darn it, she’s tired! (Okay, maybe that’s just my sister.)
No matter how the holiday has fallen into your lap, don’t worry – you can host Thanksgiving in your apartment! Yes, the space is small. And yes, the dinner is huge. But with a little pre-planning and strategy, you can pull this off.
What to do now: Get organized. Go through your apartment and eliminate all of the clutter. Put away as much as you can (don’t worry—you can get it back out after the dinner. If you plan on decorating for Christmas, these items should be put away anyway). Pay special attention to surfaces such as counters, shelves, bookcases, and side tables. You’ll need this space, so clear them off as much as possible.
After you’ve organized, look at your space. If your living room is the largest room in your apartment, serve dinner in here. You can either swap furniture around or put what you can in another room that won’t be used, such as your bedroom. Borrow folding chairs and card tables from family and friends. (Or if you will be hosting events frequently, consider getting some of your own. When folded, the table will slide under the bed and the chairs will fit in a closet.)
Although it isn’t traditional, you might want to consider a modified progressive dinner with nearby friends or family. Have cocktails and appetizers at one location, the main course in your apartment, and dessert at another location. This will keep guests from feeling “closed in” and it takes some of the pressure off of you.
Here’s what to do this weekend: Start making a few dishes such as casseroles, appetizers and pies that can be refrigerated and reheated on the big day. You want to make as much ahead of time as possible, especially if you have a tiny kitchen and a small stove. If you feel comfortable, ask everyone to bring a covered dish – this will cut down on the amount of cooking you’ll have to do.
Be sure to take your turkey out of the freezer and put it in the fridge. Depending on the size of the turkey, it can take several days to defrost, and you don’t want to be stuck with a frozen turkey on Thanksgiving! A small turkey–8 to 12 pounds–will take two days. A turkey 20 or more pounds could take five or six days to defrost. Remember: the turkey must be defrosted in the refrigerator – never at room temperature – to keep bacteria from growing.
Give your apartment a good cleaning – especially if you are working until the Big Day. You don’t want to be rushing around Thanksgiving morning with the vacuum cleaner and dust cloth.
What to do the day(s) before: Make whatever remaining pies and side dishes you didn’t complete earlier and put them in the fridge. Gather your tablecloths and decorations, silverware, wine glasses, and your good dishes and set the table. If you don’t have a crock-pot, borrow one from someone or go out and get one. These are very handy for keeping food warm and it will free up your stove. Make a hot apple cider in the crock-pot and not only will it taste great, but it will add a wonderful scent to your apartment.
Thanksgiving: With most of your side dishes done (or being brought by friends and family), your apartment clean and organized, and the table set – the turkey will be your priority. Depending on the size of the turkey, it will take between four and seven hours to cook. You want to check the turkey with an oven thermometer. Make sure the temperature is around 165 degrees before serving. (If you’ve never cooked a turkey, here’s a step-by-step guide to the perfect turkey.) And no matter how Grandma did it, don’t stuff it! Cook the stuffing separately. Putting stuffing in the turkey adds to the cooking time and it can be dangerous if it isn’t cooked properly.
Now, survey your space. Make sure you have enough seating for everyone. Get creative if necessary – place a card table in front of the sofa for extra seating or use TV trays. Remember those cleaned-off bookcases and side tables? Place appetizers, drinks, wine glasses, and other items there. You might want to consider leaving food in the kitchen and serving dinner buffet-style. Yes, it’s less formal, but it is much simpler and will save valuable table space. Light candles and lower the lights to make the space feel cozy rather than tight. To open the room up a little more, try hanging a mirror.