I’ve been cooking in a long galley kitchen for the past four years, and while it works just perfectly for everyday things like making breakfast, weeknight dinners, and even the occasional baking project, hosting Thanksgiving requires some seriously smart, small-kitchen strategies. Here are my top five tips for making a big feast in a small space...
- Plan the menu. Work with your kitchen’s size, not against it, by picking appropriate dishes. If your oven is small, skip the 20 pound turkey and try a roasted turkey breast instead, which can easily serve 6 to 8 people. I love roasted vegetables and would use them in every side dish if possible, but planning on stovetop sides, such as sautéed Brussels sprouts, makes better use of the brief time you’ll have with a heated oven while the turkey is resting. Plus, don’t forget about room-temperature and make-ahead sides: The cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, salad and cornbread are all prime candidates for make-ahead meal components.
- Clean out the refrigerator. You’ll need all the fridge space you can spare to store all the ingredients and the make-ahead items on your menu. To make room, start eating like you’re leaving on vacation – avoid grocery shopping and instead focus on finishing what’s already in your refrigerator. (Hey, a dinner of leftover Thai food, plus the last of that applesauce and some spare roasted beets never hurt anyone!)
- Make the most of counter space. I hang towels, oven mitts, cutting boards and even the recipes I’m using to the wall (see the photo above). This saves precious counter space for the chopping and mixing, and makes me feel more organized. Plus, put away anything on the counter that you won’t use that day, like the toaster, coffeemaker or that pile of junk mail.
- Get creative with serving dishes. I manage to make room in my tiny kitchen for appliances I love (food processor, Whirley Pop) but I just don’t have the space to store stacks of pretty serving dishes, so come Thanksgiving I make the most of what I have and create some MacGuyver-style buffet dishes: drape a cloth napkin over the colander and – viola! – a bread basket. Take the ceramic shell out of the slow cooker and use it to hold stuffing. A wide-mouthed Mason jar is a cute way to serve cranberry sauce, and you can divide roasted vegetables between two soup bowls instead of one big one.
- “Bake” an icebox dessert. When everyone is gathered around the table together, the last thing you want to be doing is listening for the “ding” of the kitchen timer to pull that warm apple pie out of the oven. Make an icebox pie instead, which is served straight from the fridge. Try a pumpkin icebox pie or the Maple Cheesecake with Roasted Pears on page 68 of our November issue.
Have you ever hosted Thanksgiving in a small space? What are your tricks?