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Posted at 09:00 AM ET, 11/22/2011

Casseroles, gravies and brines: Recipes to make ahead

It’s two days before the Big Show, which means there’s still plenty of time to prep ingredients and devise an organizing strategy for your Thanksgiving meal.

If you’ve already shopped for ingredients, good for you. Today or tonight you can:

* Cook the vegetables and/or meats for your stuffing or dressing. Assemble up to the point of adding egg or broth or other moistening agent; complete the recipe and bake the night before or the day of Thanksgiving.

That’s what I do with Hazelnut and Sausage Stuffing. This year I may change it up a bit, using a combination of chopped pancetta and crumbled, smoked kielbasa — but don’t tell my husband.

* Toast any nuts you may need; cool and store in a foil packet — preferably portioned in the exact amounts you’ll need. For example, spread walnuts or pecans on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring

(James M. Thresher for The Washington Post)
* Make stock or broth , which can facilitate . . . gravy. Pick up turkey wings or necks and roast them, or haul out those good, reserved turkey bones from your freezer. Simmer in lots of water with onion and/or leek, celery, carrot, whole black peppercorns. It takes little effort and results in flavorful liquid whose sodium is in your control.

Rich Turkey Stock. If you don’t feel like winging it.

Make-Ahead Turkey Gravy. This basic technique can most likely be adapted to your favorite gravy recipe. This Jus leaves out the butter.

* Roast or cook squash or potatoes or onions that will be pureed or included in other dishes. Cool, scoop out the flesh and refrigerate, remembering to label.

These Crushed Sweet Potatoes With Roasted Garlic and Ginger (only 2 grams of fat; huzzah!) can be completely made in advance. To reheat, cover them loosely with aluminum foil and warm in a 350-degree oven for about 25 minutes.

(Julia Ewan/The Washington Post)
Butternut Squash, Kale and Shiitake Casserole. If you’re up for a broader flavor spectrum, this calls for galangal, green curry paste, chili garlic paste and sesame seeds. You can assemble it tonight and bake it Thursday afternoon.

I do these Balsamic Pearl Onions every year (pictured at right), two days in advance. It frees up stove top space on Thursday. They can be reheated in the microwave.

On Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving:

(James M. Thresher for The Washington Post)

* Mix up the brine, then add the bird. I used to have to buy a new bucket and clear out space in my fridge to do this. Now, plastic brining bags are widely available. I still place the bagged bird in a pan, just to avoid any leaks.

* If you haven’t already done so, cook up a batch of cranberry sauce. Lots of Recipe Finder options are bright with citrus, but I’m partial to this Pear-Cranberry Sauce, with Bartletts and fresh ginger.

(James M. Thresher for The Washington Post)
* Assemble dessert alternatives. Let’s assume the pies have begun, or they’re being brought by thoughtful guests. You can fill in with non-baked items such as Poached Pears and Mascarpone in Asian Syrup. (Actually, you can make these on Tuesday. Score.)

* Pumpkin Seed Brittle might be nice for a guest giveaway at the end of the evening — just in case you’d rather hang on to leftover turkey and trimmings.

* Baked Apples. Simplicity from Jacques Pepin. They can be baked in advance and served at room temperature.

* Unearth the equipment you’ll need on Thursday. This includes a fat separator cup, an instant-read thermometer, a potato ricer, oven mitts that are clean.

By  |  09:00 AM ET, 11/22/2011

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