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OK Friends. One week till Thanksgiving. Are you ready? I’ve compiled all of my favorite recipes and tips below. I was hoping to have some advice regarding the bird this year, but alas I do not. I’ve recounted my recent dry-brining experiment below should it offer any guidance, but likely it won’t. Spoiler: It was not a success. I am the one who needs guidance from you. Share any and all turkey (or other!) wisdom below. Thank you. Hope all of your Thanksgiving preparations are going well.
Philadelphia Fish House Punch. My favorite. Highly recommend if you’re looking for something festive. I’ve made it for every major holiday since discovering it about 4 years ago now. It calls for 1.5 cups of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Lemons can be juiced several days in advance; simple syrup can be made in advance; ice ring must be made in advance.
ON THE SIDE
Alice Waters’s Potato Gratin: I could totally skip the turkey. Love these potatoes so much:
Ina Garten’s Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic: These Brussels sprouts are not a staple, but I love them. I also recently made them without the pancetta, and they were still completely delicious. If I were to make these for Thanksgiving, I would omit the pancetta:
No matter what stuffing I make, I always follow the same method, the essential steps for me being to remove tough crusts from whatever loaf of bread I am using and to toast (as opposed to stale) the bread with a generous amount of olive oil. Stuffing, I think, is personal, so add what you like. I’ve bulleted the basic method below, but for more detailed quantities and instructions, see this post: Stuffing Two Ways, which has the two stuffing recipes from Bread Toast Crumbs.
- Remove the crusts from loaf of bread (unless using the peasant bread).
- Tear into pieces or cut into cubes, toss with a generous amount of olive oil and a good pinch of salt, and toast until golden.
- Add mix-ins of choice. Sautéed onions are essential for me, and I love greens, like chard or kale. I also prefer to keep stuffing meatless, but if you like sausage or oyster or whatever (a little bacon or pancetta never hurts), go for it.
- Taste and make sure the mixture of bread and mix-ins is well seasoned. Whisk a good amount of stock with 1 egg, which helps bind the stuffing, toss with your stuffing mix, then bake until golden.
Salad: Essential or superfluous? We are never consistent in our family — some years we make one, some years we don’t — this year, we’re making this one: Shaved Cabbage, Fennel, and Greens with Citrus Vinaigrette, Manchego and Candied Pepitas, which will be festive, though I think a simple green salad with a shallot vinaigrette would be a fine substitute, too.
Cranberry Sauce Two Ways: On the left: No-Cook Cranberry Relish (this is a new one for me, love it); On the right: Sally Schneider’s Red Wine Cranberry Sauce (old favorite; recently made it with Port and loved it)
We always have applesauce on the table, too. I forget which apples I used to get the beautiful hue in the photo below (pink lady?), but I make applesauce just as my mother does with unpeeled apples and nothing but water — no cinnamon, sugar, lemon, spices, etc. Here is the recipe: Homemade Applesauce. (Note: The picture below is from this post for Applesauce Yogurt Cake, which is such a good one to have on hand for the holidays.) Applesauce and cake can be made ahead of time.
And if we’re making ham, we always make my grandmother’s mustard sauce, also known as — wait for it — the ham sauce!
These No-Knead Thyme Dinner Rolls (left) are a variation of the peasant bread with the addition of thyme and baked in muffin tins instead of bowls. They can be baked ahead, cooled, and frozen, then reheated on Thanksgiving, but another easy thing to do is this: mix* the dough in the morning (because what else will you have to do?), let it rise on the counter all day, punching it down as needed if it gets too high, then, during the last 20 minutes of the turkey’s cooking time, transfer the dough to buttered muffin cups, and bake the rolls when the turkey is resting. Easy peasy. You can do it! | You could do the same thing with the peasant bread (right) recipe. Let me know if you have any other bread questions. *To get a jump start on the mixing, you can measure the flour, salt, and sugar the night before, and stick it in a ziplock bag or covered bowl until the morning, at which point you’ll just have to add the instant yeast and water.
I’m making three desserts: Apple-Frangipane Galette (left), which is super easy (video guidance on that one—dough comes together in seconds with the food processor) and Ronnie Hollingsworth’s Most Excellent Squash Pie (right), which I love. This one is also easy (though you do have to roast a butternut squash as opposed to open a can of pumpkin), and I do not blind bake the crust anymore, which helps simplify the process. The third one is a bourbon pecan pie (no corn syrup) from David Lebovitz, which I made recently and really loved. I left out the fresh, dried, and candied ginger. Hoping to post about that one before Thursday. Will keep you posted.
OK, as noted above, I dry brined a 14.5-lb turkey (organic, Whole Foods Market) for 48 hours in my fridge, which is to say I rubbed 14 teaspoons of salt all over the bird (including under the skin covering the breast), then let it sit uncovered in my fridge in a roasting pan for 2 days. When I was ready to cook it, I rubbed it with olive oil (following a Sally Schneider recipe from a A New Way to Cook), then roasted it at 425ºF for 25 minutes, then for 2 hours (about 10 minutes a pound) at 350ºF. I didn’t baste it once — basting, I’ve read, is not the secret to a juicy bird! — and when I pulled it out, it looked beautifully golden but definitely done: the leg meat looked desiccated and pulled away from the bone. My trusty instant read Thermapen confirmed the worst: the breast was over cooked by about 10 degrees, the legs by about 20 degrees. Gah!
The meat tasted dry, but not inedible. Something else to note: the drippings were super, super salty, so much so that even after mixing them with a lot of only very lightly salted chicken broth, the gravy also tasted salty. Question for you dry or wet briners: are the drippings always this salty? I wet brined a turkey years ago using Sally Schneider’s recipe, and I remember the bird being delicious (if a little salty), but I don’t remember there being an issue with the pan-drippings.
Despite the subpar turkey, the experiment was not a total loss. We ate it that evening for dinner with the two cranberry sauces mentioned above, gravy (made with a simple roux, stock, and the pan drippings, which made for a salty gravy), and roasted parsnips. The turkey sandwiches the following day for lunch were surprisingly good. And with the carcass, I made a big batch of stock.
If you’re hosting any vegetarians, I highly recommend this Butternut Squash Lasagna, an old Gourmet recipe that my aunt’s friend introduced the family to when she brought it to Thanksgiving in Vermont a few years ago. It’s one of my favorites. I repeat: I could skip the turkey.