The secret to the personal chef approach is organization. Dreaming up a feast can be so much fun, but planning, shopping, and doing some of the cooking in advance will help things run smoothly, stress free, and allow you to enjoy your own party, too! Here’s how I like to plan the perfect Thanksgiving dinner:

Personal Chef Julie Anne Rhodes
1). Plan your menu up to a month in advance. When planning your menu keep in mind your own oven and stove top space. You will see the menu below has recipes that make use of the whole kitchen, not just the ovens, and some can even be made ahead and served at room temperature. Ask your guests if anyone is vegetarian, so you are both covered and a considerate hostess. I’ll use my family’s traditional menu here as an example, but feel free to go with your own choices – just follow the basics of the plan. It’s okay to be flexible – Nick used to prefer roast potatoes to mashed, so I’d peel a couple potatoes, cut into chunks, toss in olive oil and herbs, and throw in with the turkey the last hour of roasting – easy!
Nick Rhodes, Thanksgiving 1990
Members can click on the links to get the recipes! In the meantime please enjoy the delectable homemade pumpkin ice cream recipe below.
Thanksgiving Menu
Sweet Potato Casserole
Buttered Corn
Pecan Pie with Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream
Thanksgiving ’94 Tatjana, Emma, Peter, Christian, Petra, and Lavinia
2). Pull the recipes from cookbooks, magazines, recipes sites, etc. (this time of year you will find great ideas on your favorite food or parenting blogs). You can also click on the links in the text of this post for recipes from The Roving Stove, or Chef Tal’s vegan Thanksgiving recipes.
3). Make a grocery list from the ingredient section of each recipe. I usually make a rough recipe list first, then go over it again, multiplying the ingredients by the number of servings I’ll need (if the recipe serves four, and your serving eight – just double the ingredient amounts). Then consolidate ingredients that are in multiple recipes (ie. 4 tablespoons of butter in the mash potatoes + 4 tablespoons of butter in the corn pudding = 8 tablespoons or one stick of butter over all). I usually plan the menu and make the grocery lists at least couple weeks in advance. I start a file for each client or event, and keep the final grocery list and recipes in there until I am ready to use them.
Thanksgiving with Dad
4). Think about all the serving pieces you will need. Do you have enough plates, glasses, napkins, and silverware for all your guests? How will you decorate your table – do you have appropriate tablecloths? Either purchase or arrange rentals at least a couple weeks in advance to be sure you are set. Also order any floral arrangements you may want to dot around the house. Don’t forget salt and pepper shakers, and candles.
5). Figure out a schedule for your recipes. What can be made a day or two ahead? What needs to go into the oven? What needs to go on the stove? Can anything be heated in the microwave? What must be served as soon as it is cooked? BTW, it is never too early to order your turkey if you want kosher, free-range, or organic. If you go with frozen, be sure to allow time for defrosting in the fridge for a few days.
 Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream
Over the next few weeks I will be posting other Thanksgiving tips and recipes – lets get my newest dessert recipe out of the way first. You could actually make this now, and store it in your freezer until Thanksgiving.
Servings: 6

1 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon bourbon (optional)
1 cup whole milk
1 cups heavy cream
1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs


1). Using an electric mixer, mix pumpkin puree, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, and bourbon until well blended, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

2).In a small heavy saucepan bring milk, heavy cream, and sugar to a boil, stir occasionally.

3). Whisk eggs in a small bowl. Temper by adding 1/3 of the hot milk mixture in a slow stream whilst whisking constantly. Transfer mixture back into same saucepan, and set over low heat, stirring and scraping down the sides of the pan with a small heatproof spatula until thickened. Do not boil. Cook until the custard coats the back of the spoon. Pour custard into a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl to strain out any bits.

4). Stir in pumpkin mixture.

5. Chill custard, then freeze in an ice cream maker for 30-45 minutes. Transfer soft ice cream to an airtight container and keep in the freezer to firm up.

Serving Suggestions: Serve on it’s own, with a slice of pecan pie, or use it to make a pumpkin ice cream pie with gram cracker crust.

This post was first published November 13, 2012

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