When you see the perfect Thanksgiving meal on TV or in a movie, there’s usually a long dining room table involved, with space to lay out the whole decadent spread. And the cooking is done in a spacious kitchen, complete with seemingly endless, often marble, counter tops.
For many, this is not reality — especially for millennials in their first apartments, and most especially when those apartments are in New York City, infamous for its economy of space. But a lack of space doesn’t have to stand in the way of a complete Thanksgiving feast. The whole thing can be done in a kitchen with only enough room for one person to move around at a time, and with only a sliver of counter space. It’s not easy, but it can be done.
The trick is to work in pieces, and not try to do the whole meal at once. This means that cooking Thanksgiving dinner becomes a two-day long process, but if you think about how many meals’ worth of leftovers you’ll have at the end, it’s totally worth it.
(This step-by-step plan is for a Thanksgiving meal consisting of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, candied yams and pumpkin pie. If you plan to serve something additional, plan accordingly.)
Start with things that don’t lose their charm when not served freshly made: pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce are both served cold, so make them on Wednesday afternoon and then put them in the fridge and out of your mind. Rolling out pie crusts can be a sprawling and messy affair, so if your counter space is really, really limited, clear off your desk and cover it with wax paper.
Once the pie is in the oven, prep the yams. Don’t bake them yet, just slice them up and put them in a baking dish with brown sugar sauce and optional marshmallows. Then put them away in the fridge. Same deal with the stuffing — don’t cook it yet, but get it ready and then put it in the fridge.
Then on Thanksgiving morning, prep and stuff the turkey and put it in the oven. Depending on what size turkey you have, it could be in the oven for anywhere from two hours to seven hours, so plan this out accordingly. (Standard is about one hour for every five pounds of turkey if the bird is stuffed.)
When there are about two hours left, start the potatoes. Slice, boil, and mash them, and then leave them in a covered pot on the stove-top.
Once the turkey is done, it needs to “rest” for about half an hour. As soon as you take the bird out and move it to the stovetop or counter to cool, put the yams in. They take about the same amount of time to cook as the bird does to cool.
While the bird is cooling and the yams are baking, make the gravy.
Check the potatoes and reheat if necessary, but they should still be hot, which leaves you with yams, turkey, and gravy all to be ready at the same time, potatoes still hot, and cranberries in the fridge cooled and delicious.
And that long table is overrated: A sheet on the floor makes for a lovely Thanksgiving picnic!