Get a head start on Thanksgiving cooking with these make-ahead recipes

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes

By Genevieve Ko

It’s not just that mashed potatoes can be made ahead; they actually end up creamier and fluffier when prepared in advance. When mashed potatoes chill, their starches firm up, and when reheated gently, they relax into a mash with an even silkier texture. But you can’t save potatoes that start out gluey. Shearing cooked spuds with any blade — food processor, blender or hand mixer — releases enormous amounts of starch and turns the mash into spackle. Here, you break up the potatoes by hand or with a stand mixer’s paddle attachment for an airy smoothness. If you have a ricer or food mill, you can use that instead.

Servings: 8-12 (10 cups)

Total time: 40 minutes, plus 30 minutes’ reheating, if desired

  • Salt and pepper
  • 5 pounds russet potatoes
  • 10 tablespoons butter, sliced ​​and at room temperature, plus more for reheating
  • 1 cup whole milk, warmed, plus more for reheating
  1. Fill a large pot with 8 cups cold water and 1 tablespoon salt. Peel and quarter the potatoes, adding each to the cold water as you cut to prevent them from discoloring. The potatoes should be immersed. If they’re not, add enough water to cover them, along with a pinch of salt.
  2. Bring to a boil over high heat and continue boiling until a knife slides through the potatoes very easily, 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Drain well, then return the potatoes to the pot. Some should be falling apart. Heat over low, shaking the pot occasionally, until the potatoes are mottled and very dry, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn off the heat.
  4. Mash in the pot, adding the butter a few pieces at a time, until smooth, then stir in the milk and season to taste with salt and pepper. Or transfer to a stand mixer and beat with the paddle on low, adding a few pieces of butter at a time, until smooth, then add the milk with the machine running. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. You can serve the potatoes right away or hold them for up to 3 hours: Transfer the hot potatoes to a large, wide metal bowl and evenly smooth the top. Set the bowl over a large saucepan of steaming water (or in a skillet of steaming water) over low heat. Add just enough milk to barely cover the potatoes and partly cover the bowl. Stir gently but well before serving so they’re evenly hot and creamy.
  6. You also can transfer the potatoes to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days. To reheat, use the setup in Step 5, but add an 1/8-inch layer of milk over the cold, flat top of the potatoes and stir the potatoes every 10 minutes to help them reheat evenly. The whole batch should be steaming hot within 30 minutes. If the mash is still stiff when hot, stir in more milk (or butter, if you’d prefer). Season to taste with salt and pepper again before serving.


Make-Ahead Gravy

By Mark Bittman

You need gravy on Thanksgiving to aid the turkey, moisten the potatoes, douse the stuffing. But traditionally it’s made at the last minute, after the turkey has been removed from the roasting pan. Here’s a secret: There’s no need to make gravy right before serving. You can make it up to five days ahead. Then, as you reheat it, whisk in the turkey pan drippings for extra flavor. The result is every bit as good as last-minute gravy — and far less crazy-making.

Servings: 5-6

Total time: 20 minutes

  • 1 stick butter
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 to 5 cups rich stock, warmed
  • Turkey drippings and giblets (optional)
  1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, then add onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle the flour on the onions, stirring constantly, and cook until flour is golden to brown. Adjust heat so mixture does not burn.
  2. Gradually whisk in 4 cups stock until mixture thickens and is smooth. If it is too thick, add liquid. Cool, cover and chill.
  3. When ready to serve, reheat mixture over low heat, stirring. Scrape bottom of turkey pan and add drippings or giblets to gravy. Taste and adjust seasoning, then serve.


Foolproof Pie Dough

By The New York Times

Vodka is essential to the texture of the crust and imparts no flavor — do not substitute. This dough, which was developed by a test-kitchen team led by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt for “America’s Test Kitchen,” will be moister and more supple than most standard pie doughs and will require more flour to roll out (up to ¼ cup).

Servings: 2 pie crusts

Total time: 10 minutes, plus chilling

  • 2½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (12½ ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter (1½ sticks), cut into ¼-inch slices
  • ½ cup chilled solid vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
  • ¼ cup vodka, cold
  • ¼ cup cold water
  1. Process 1½ cups flour, salt and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage-cheese curds, and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.
  2. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

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