The Home Stretch — Your Morning of Checklist

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Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes; Ina Garten

Photo by: Tara Donne

Tara Donne

Happy Thanksgiving! It's time to sit back and relax — well, aside from some cooking — and make room for the big feast. Having prepared well ahead of time, you'll impress your family and friends as the cool, calm and collected host. As much as we love the Thanksgiving meal, our favorite time of day is always the morning of, alternating between preparing the final dishes in the kitchen and sitting down to watch the parade with family and early guests. Not to mention, nothing beats the smells of a kitchen in full-on Thanksgiving mode.

• The Grand Finale: The moment you've been waiting for: time to roast the turkey. Unstuffed turkeys take hours to roast (anywhere from 3 to 5 hours depending on the size and the method), and you'll want to give the bird at least 30 minutes to rest before carving, so start nice and early. One technique we like is to roast the bird at moderate heat, around 350 degrees F, only opening the oven door to baste occasionally so the heat stays inside. If the breast is getting too dark, you can cover it with foil. The turkey is done when the internal temperature of the breast is 165 degrees F and the legs are about 175 degrees F. Here's where you get to use that meat thermometer.

• Eat Your Vegetables: Vegetable sides, including salad, are always best when prepared the day of. You'll already have all of your ingredients in place, so now it's time to enlist some help in the kitchen and finish off those sides. You can make your side dishes in the morning, and reheat just before serving. To avoid drying out the vegetables, we like reheating on the stove using just a little bit of water or stock.

• Do the Mash: Mashed potatoes are also best when they're fresh. Read our quick and easy tips for making your best batch to date.

• No Ingredient Left Behind: We like adding any extra fresh ingredients that didn't make it into the cooking onto our Thanksgiving table for a flourish at the last second, such as Brussels sprouts on the vine, nuts and fresh apples.

Enjoy! Try to savor the fruits of your labor before it's all gobbled up.

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