Is planning ahead the enemy of the fresh?
November 25, 2008 4:24 PM   Subscribe

How far in advance is it ok to prep veggies for Thanksgiving?

I'm hoping to get as much out of the way before the big day as possible. I'm making many side dishes from scratch and wondering if they will suffer if I prep veggies tonight.

For example, I'm making a cauliflower-brussels sprout gratin. Can I chop and blanch the veggies tonight? Or will they be too soggy by the time they're actually eaten on Thursday (and leftovers on Friday?)

Likewise, can I chop the celery and onions now for the (two) stuffings I'll be baking on Friday?

In general, I've found lots of advice on prepping things 1 day ahead of time. Is 2 days pushing it? Do I just need to accept that my Thanksgiving Eve will be a choppy choppy night (I have plenty of other tasks tomorrow already!)? Would it be too silly for me to chop now, and freeze, to be thawed Thursday AM?

Thanks and a happy holiday to all, particularly the other cooks this week!
posted by pants to Food & Drink (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I wouldn't chop and freeze veggies. They'll mostly be mush when you thaw them, a completely different texture from what you normally are expecting. I think chopping the celery and onions for stuffing would be okay. Since the cauliflower and brussels seem to be the main ingredient of the gratin, I wouldn't do those so far in advance.

If you do big cooking sessions often, it can be worth it to get a food processor, and save big chunks of veggie prep time.
posted by Listener at 4:31 PM on November 25, 2008

I think just about everything I usually prep the day before has been fine when I've done it two days out. Certainly chopping for the stuffing is fine, and I can't see how blanching would be trouble since you're cooking it all yet again on the day anyway. Here in New England I usually just do all the chopping a day or two ahead of time, throw it in old takeout containers, and leave it in the mudroom until Thanksgiving; if fridge space wasn't at a premium I'd put it in there too. The onions will definitely off-gas when they're stored chopped, but if you're already doing it a day ahead then you already know what that's like, and it's not worse @ 2 days.

And re-reading, yeah, don't freeze -- you'll be fine in the fridge or some other cool place, and you don't want the cell damage that comes with freezing.
posted by range at 4:38 PM on November 25, 2008 [2 favorites]

I'd say celery and onions would be fine tonight. I'd even chop the brussels sprouts and cauliflower tonight, but I probably wouldn't blanch them. Definitely don't freeze and thaw, I think you'd sacrifice a lot of quality for just a little convenience.
posted by robinpME at 4:40 PM on November 25, 2008

Blanched vegetables can easily be stored. The trick is to cool them under cold running water or in ice water, then dry them as much as possible (like in a salad spinner), and then bag them in ziplocks and put them in the fridge. I do this for green beans. All I do on the day is toss them in a hot skillet with some browned butter and chopped hazelnuts.

Why not assemble the gratin and just refrigerate that?
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 4:58 PM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Definitely safe with the onions and celery, though I'm not sure I'd mix them together in the fridge.
posted by onlyconnect at 6:42 PM on November 25, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, a dear friend has lent me a food processor which will save me tons of time tomorrow... I was bereft of heavy artillery and thinking this would all be knife work. Thanks for the specific comments on poor quality for frozen stuff (now that I think about it, this is probably why I've seen some frozen veggies, but never frozen onions and celery!). Will keep the offgassing in mind when storing as well. And put a food processor on my wish list!
posted by pants at 7:11 PM on November 25, 2008

Looks like you're all set, but cutting onions produces an enzyme that becomes more bitter over time. The other things would probably be OK.
posted by oneirodynia at 8:38 PM on November 25, 2008

Just to chime in -- I would do everything BUT cutting onions and celery, including blanching your vegetables. Shock them in ice water, drain well, and just refrigerate -- you'll be fine.

Good luck! Let us know how it all goes.
posted by rossination at 12:08 AM on November 26, 2008

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