Tips to providing the perfect Lowcountry Thanksgiving

November 15, 2010 

Whether you are hosting a crowd or on your own for the Thanksgiving holiday, preparing an elaborate turkey dinner can be a bit intimidating. Let's face it, not everyone's kitchen is as decked out as the Barefoot Contessa's.

Unless you have double ovens and warming drawers, figuring out how to cook stuffing, turkey, casseroles and homemade breads in a single oven can require the logistical skills of a four-star general and the mathematical precision of a physicist.

And let's not even get started on the challenges of rolling out the perfect piecrust -- which always seems to have a mind of its own. It's enough to leave even the most accomplished cooks a bit frazzled. Fortunately, we've drummed up a few helpful tips to ease the stress:

  • Review your menu ahead of time and shop for all the non-perishable items in advance, saving time and long lines at the grocery store.

  • Use a fresh turkey to avoid worrying about proper thawing times.

  • If serving six to eight guests, ask your butcher to carve the legs and thighs and remove the breasts for shorter roasting times. (Celebrity Chef Tyler Florence's trick, as seen in Better Homes & Gardens Magazine.)

  • Speak with your local farmers market vendors to see if you can arrange to pick up fresh collards and vegetables the day before Thanksgiving to avoid the supermarket crush.

  • Seek out recipes that can be made in advance and rewarmed in the oven while the turkey rests before carving.

  • For some real time-saving assistance, try a little outsourcing. For those willing to "cheat" a little, there are plenty of tasty choices in the area.

    The Cottage on Calhoun Street in Old Town is one place where you can get a jump-start on dessert. A traditional deep-dish Southern pecan or spiced pumpkin pie is sure to be a hit, or shake it up a bit with a pumpkin white chocolate bread pudding.

    "Everything we bake is made fresh from scratch in house," said owner Leslie Rohland, the woman behind the Cottage's array of pastries, cakes and pies. This year she is also offering a round of brie with raspberry filling wrapped in a flaky puff pastry ready to pop into the oven for hors d'oeuvres.

    Bluffton resident Bess Soper of Bess' Catering and Delicatessen on Hilton Head Island is another resource. Her buttery ham biscuits have become synonymous with Thanksgiving for some local families, who wouldn't think of hosting a holiday meal without them.

    "One year I had to ship them to Washington because the family couldn't make it to the island for Thanksgiving," said Soper, whose restaurant also offers a whole turkey, thawed and preseasoned with complete roasting instructions and Southern cornbread stuffing. Soper said she can even put a savory casserole in your own bakeware so no one will be the wiser.

    If you should find yourself on your own for the holiday, don't despair. Two Bluffton restaurants are putting on over-the-top Thanksgiving dinners that are sure to hit the spot.

    Sigler's Rotisserie and Seafood will be hosting a grand buffet, brimming with holiday favorites, and Claude & Uli's will be offering a prix fixe menu.

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