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Holiday Survival Guide: Turkey Dinner 101

Uh-oh… you’ve gone from the kiddie table to the head of the table, and the whole clan is descending upon your house for the annual holiday feast. What to do? Fear not: Rick Rodgers, chef and author of the über-helpful cookbook Christmas 101, has plenty of pointers to help get you through it.

Start early.
Set your holiday menu at least three weeks in advance and get going on the shopping, suggests Rodgers. Pick up non-perishable items during your regular trips to the market and you’ll save some serious heavy lifting the week of your holiday dinner.

Take shortcuts.
When you’re planning your menu, look for things that you can make ahead and freeze. “One of my best shortcuts is that I always serve soup as my first course,” says Rodgers. “I can make the soup ahead of time and all I have to do is warm it up!”

Know your audience.
“There’s a difference between throwing a cocktail party with people your own age and having a multi-generational dinner,” says Rodgers. “Strike a common chord. Remember that the holidays are all about tradition for a lot of people.” So, if Aunt Mildred expects prime rib, work hard to give her the best damn prime rib she has ever tasted.

Say no to potlucks.
Asking guests to serve up parts of the meal can be a recipe for disaster. People often bring something other than what they promised, leaving you to fill in the blanks at the last minute. Instead, ask well-intentioned guests to contribute in a more productive way: “Forget the potluck; help me wash the dishes!” says Rodgers.

Scrap the apps (well, almost).
“Holiday meals are usually quite the feast,” says Rodgers. “You don’t need to fill people up with tons of fancy-schmancy appetizers. I’ve really got it down to a dull roar when it comes to hors d’oeuvres. I’m perfectly happy with a wonderful selection of great cheeses.”

Roast with the most.
Splurge on the meat. Go for Canada Prime or AAA. Let the meat sit on the counter for an hour before the oven to even out the temperature. After cooking, let the roast rest for about 20 minutes before carving so the juices reabsorb.

For dessert, seek help.
There’s no shame in leaving the sweet stuff to the pros. “They’re going to do a great job, and no one’s going to look down their nose at you for going to the bakery and getting a fabulous dessert,” says Rodgers.

Find more ideas and tips in our Holiday Survival Guide:
Holiday Bucket List For Couples
How to Host a Kick-Ass Christmas Party
Delicious Cocktail Recipes
In-law Etiquette
Turkey Dinner 101
Hilarious (and Helpful!) How to Roast a Turkey Video
Staying Home For The Holidays
Sweet and Salty Chocolate Bark Recipe
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Image(s): Brett Lamb