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If you follow this blog at all, you know that I LOVE to cook!! I enjoy experimenting, am fairly confident in the kitchen, and find joy in feeding others – the more, the better. But, with that said –  I freely confess that I have struggled mightily with the Thanksgiving turkey!! A few years ago, my dad cut into the turkey that I had meticulously followed directions in preparing, only to find that (despite what my cheap cooking thermometer indicated), it was undercooked…. borderline raw. As 25 people chatted hungrily in the next room, juices seeped out of the turkey, all over the counter in my tiny kitchen, dripped onto the floor, and my heart sank. No matter what, those juices weren’t going back into the turkey, so it was certain to be dry once it was cooked. Everyone was hungry and now I had to ask them to wait longer. And, to top it off, there was just a gross, greasy, wet mess everywhere. Yuck. Fortunately, everyone was gracious, the turkey pieces were cooked in another 20 minutes, gravy covered it up, plenty of delicious sides and mouth-watering desserts were available (let’s face it: the turkey really isn’t anyone’s favorite part of Thanksgiving anyhow!), and because our families are warm and wonderful, the evening was a pleasure for all.

make ahead thanksgiving turkey

But I decided that very evening that never again would I spend Thanksgiving day checking on the turkey, worrying about the temperature readings, counting down the minutes it needed to rest, making a mess all over my counters, and struggling to add drippings to gravy in those final few moments before everything goes on the table. I wanted Thanksgiving afternoon to be about welcoming and relaxing with family and friends!! I decided to read everything I could to determine if it would be possible to make a turkey early. And YES, I found out – it is!! It is totally possible, and because there’s no pressure or countdown the day BEFORE Thanksgiving, it’s actually more likely to be moist and flavorful!

At this point, I’ve read a lot about thanksgiving turkeys and here is a summary of the best tips and recipes that I’ve found.


Start early. Like, today:

Thawing takes way, way longer than I expected when I first began roasting turkeys. If your refrigerator is properly cooled, it will take days, depending on the size of your turkey. Because a thawed turkey is perfectly safe in the refrigerator for 2 days, but it’s unsafe to leave a turkey on the counter to defrost, it’s much better to start early than late.

can you make a turkey in advance

Plan ahead for the dirty work:

Turkeys for a crowd are big. And you’ll need something bigger than the turkey itself to brine it in (see below). If you don’t have a big pot, or if your fridge doesn’t have room for a big pot, use a cooler. I used a huge cooler this week to defrost and brine three turkeys. If it’s warm where you live, or if it’s so cold that you’ll have to bring the cooler inside, have some ice to have on hand in case the cooler gets too warm. Below 40 degrees is safe. I actually like to do all the gross work of removing the neck and innards with the turkey still in the cooler outside too. It does tend to be a bit of a wrestling match, and I’d rather just keep those germs in the cooler that I’m going to have to disinfect anways, than in my sink or on my counter. I dump the brining solution in the grass and use a hose and a bleach/water combo to clean the cooler once I’m done.

how to make a turkey ahead

A turkey is naturally dry!

Alton Brown explains this in great detail, and you should follow the link below to read more. But, in short: If you’ve struggled with a turkey before, it’s for good reason – a turkey is a naturally dry protein, so it’s very easy to overcook. In addition, the white meat and dark meat cook at different rates, so it requires a little bit of a magic trick to get the both done properly.

how to make a turkey the day before

The magic is in the brining:

Again, I refer you to Alton Brown. While I’m not 100% convinced about the 5o0/350 method he recommends (apparently, neither is he anymore), I am absolutely 100% convinced that BRINING is MAGICAL. Here’s the thing: I DO overcook my turkeys, actually. Faced with the dilemma above, I let that breast get good and done because I think that pink, runny, rare leg meat is… disgusting. And, because as much as I don’t want to serve guests dry meat, I’m far more fearful of making them sick!!!! But, as Alton Brown says, you are actually making the turkey into a moister, juicier protein when you brine. Now, it can handle a little bit of overcooking.

best thanksgiving turkey recipe

FULLY resting the turkey before slicing is also magical:

This is another reason that I make the turkey a day ahead of time. I let that bird rest and rest and rest some more – at least an hour. Not only does every cook in the world say that you need to do this, anecdotally, I’ve seen and tasted the evidence myself. This is another reason to cook a day ahead of time; there’s just no pressure to cut into that turkey and let those glorious, flavorful juices run everywhere.

make ahead thanksgiving turkey

Use aromatics:

While stuffing a turkey isn’t really safe (again, I refer you to the Alton Brown article below), it’s a great idea to place some aromatics (i.e. apple, cinnamon, onions, carrots, herbs) loosely into the cavity before roasting.

Add moisture before reheating the turkey:

The simplest thing is just to slice the turkey, lay it in a pan, and then sprinkle (pour?) some chicken broth overtop before reheating. I prefer Ina Garten’s idea of laying the turkey slices over a layer of gravy. See the link below.

can you make a turkey a day ahead

Recipes that I like:

The Pioneer Woman’s Brine

Alton Brown’s aromatics + His cooking method (PLUS all the science – this is a great read that I highly recommend)

The one note I will share about AB’s method is that I find his temperatures to be too low. I have all the respect in the world for him, so I am SURE that the error is on my end, but have not had good results on my attempts. Again, with a good brining and a very long rest, I find that going a little higher in the temps is the side that I prefer to err on.

Ina Garten’s Make-Ahead Turkey


This was our last wedding of 2015, and as Susie and I were both dragging a little bit as we approached Saturday. But the second we walked into Sammi’s bridal prep room, met her friends & family, and started gathering the gorgeous details she had chosen, our excitement level jumped to 100%!! Thanks to Sammi and David and the personal, meaningful wedding that they created together, I’m already excited for our next wedding coming up in February!!!! Sammi told us that she chose the Long View Gallery because they wanted a blank slate that she could do *anything* with. Sammi and David were totally up to the challenge and, together with their creative friends, family, and vendors, they created a gorgeous wedding that was modern and classic but so warm and welcoming and FUN all at the same time.

Sammi and David met seven years ago, on their first day of college.  As far as I can tell, Sammi and David, their families, and all of their friends knew that this day was coming for about… seven years!! Sammi and David chose to do a first look on the rooftop of the apartment building that had been their home here in DC. Susie and I both LOVED how meaningful that location was for Sammi & David, yet it posed some minor logistical difficulties. It took just a few minutes longer than normal to get David in place and Sammi out onto the rooftop without David seeing her. Once we were both in position to record the action, I told Sammi that she could approach David. She laughed and said, “Can I sprint?” Whether it was that question, or the smile on David’s face when he saw her, this was truly the best first look I’ve ever witnessed. I cry at every wedding but never at the same point. This time, I had to whisk that tear away while I recorded every sweet moment of their first look. When they finally let us know that they were ready to proceed with portrait time, I told them that there was NO pressure because we already got every shot I could ask for!!!! Of course, we did get lots more shots… here are some of our favorites!:-)




I have to pause for a second on this pair of photos… first of all – HOW ABOUT THOSE FLOWERS?!! Purples and blacks… stunning. Also, I want to tell you about these bracelets that Sammi gave her bridesmaids. Each was inscribed with the coordinates of a place where they shared memories. For instance, in this photo, Sammi’s sister is holding a bracelet with the coordinates of their childhood home. Best bridesmaid gift ever!!









How many guys does it take to dress a groom? 😉




Love this.




She almost did sprint!!! 😉





Sammi’s sisters surprised them with this little gift, which they enjoyed right there on the rooftop 😉





Sammi and David wanted to walk from Meridian Apartments to the Long View Gallery together. I wish every bride and groom had time like this together in the middle of their wedding day.





This photo wasn’t what I envisioned, but… I kind of love it.




Sammi also did a first look with her dad and… first, look at that door! Second… wait until you see this next one…




Sammi and her dad used to play catch every day after school, so Sammi brought her gloves and a ball along, so they could share a few tosses before the wedding. How awesome is that?! Honestly, every.single.thing. about Sammi’s day was so thoughtful, personal, and unique.




From an athlete to a model… love it, Sammi!!!




We all loved this door so much, we did family portraits right in front of it!




We were in this little alley just RACING the sunset and cars kept driving through!!! The wedding party was feeling much more relaxed about the situation than I was and I’m glad they were having fun, because I just love this photo.:-)




About 30 seconds for just a few more photos before it was time to get inside the gallery for the ceremony!!!




The transformation of the gallery was just amazing!




So many laughs from Sammi through the ceremony. Loved it!




So cool to have a reception surrounded by art!!




First dance was as sweet as the first look. I worried I was sharing too many first dance photos, but… who doesn’t love to smile, right? And these photos definitely made me smile!




Sammi’s dad spoke about those key moments in life. Sammi reached out to touch him when he choked up sharing that one his best moments had just happened a few hours earlier, when he played catch with his daughter on her wedding day.




David’s best man and Sammi’s maid of honor both brought down the house.




Candid photo of one of our 2016 grooms… can’t wait John & Sara!!




Congratulations, Sammi & David!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Vendor Team coming SOON….

Lisa Anne Maestri - November 12, 2015 - 10:14 pm


Maurice Garfield - November 13, 2015 - 9:55 pm

What I Love in the photos the most is that they can be remade for whatever we want. Even a picture of an old men can be transformed into an real alien! You can see how it can be done here


After a delightful unseasonably warm week last week, it was most definitely November today: Cold, drizzly, and grey. Just the thought of reaching into the fridge for veggies and making a salad made me colder. And a sandwich… Not unless it could be a hot, bubbly steak and cheese, and having one of those every day for lunch all winter isn’t exactly going to help me when it’s swimsuit season again. So: soup! I made this a few weeks back when I had an extra can of coconut milk sitting around and it was a huge hit. I remembered it as spicy and sweet, fresh and hot and comforting all at the same time. Just what I wanted today… and I’m already looking forward to enjoying it every day this week!!


1 onion

1-2 cloves of garlic

2 cups, give or take, of cauliflower, chopped small, or ground in the food processor

2 tbsp butter or olive oil

2 tbsp flour

2 can chicken broth

1 can coconut milk

1 cup half and half (or just another can of chicken broth)

2 cups frozen corn

2 can black beans

1 lb salad shrimp (the cheap stuff!! ;-))


Chop the onion and roughly chop the garlic. Saute the onion, garlic, and cauliflower on medium-low until soft. Add flour and whisk until thick. Thin with coconut milk, stirring constantly until smooth. Add the chicken broth, still stirring constantly. Add the corn, black beans, and shrimp and cook until thoroughly heated through. Add seasonings to taste. Don’t be skimpy!! Garnish with basil.



Adrienne Maykrantz - November 10, 2015 - 1:05 pm

mmmmm that looks yum!!!

Becky Hadeed - November 10, 2015 - 1:16 pm

Just edited to add seasonings – sorry!!