This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
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.
More: Thanksgiving Ideas Here | Desserts Here | Side Dishes Here
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.
Also, you can make stuffing ahead of time, freeze it uncooked, and bake it directly from the freezer. I wrote about this method for Food52. Notes here. Recipe here.
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.
If you are yeast averse — which you should not be! — biscuits are a great option. Here are two: Joanne Chang’s Buttermilk Biscuits | Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuits
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.
Four Nice Cakes To Have Around
Each of these four cakes gets better by the day, so don’t be afraid to bake them ahead of time.
Teddie’s Apple Cake | Orange and Olive Oil Cake | Chez Panisse Almond Torte | Applesauce Yogurt Cake
Bye for now! See you soon! Good luck! Gobble Gobble!
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
41 Comments on “Thanksgiving 2017”
So much effort for your turkey, and it didn’t turn out well! So sorry. I started dry brining a few years ago (Williams Sonoma herbed) and have found it to work really well, at least from the reviews from the table. I didn’t put it under the skin though so it washed off easily before I prepped the bird for the oven. Do you think that makes a difference? All you sides look delicious!
I think it probably does make a difference! Also, I didn’t rinse it … which might be the problem. I had read I shouldn’t rinse it because the skin wouldn’t be as crisp, but I’m thinking I should have rinsed, patted dry, and proceeded. Thanks for your help! Happy TG!!
Gotta rinse the turkey! Also, have you tried cooking the bird on a charcoal grill?
I know it has been a few months since this post but in addition to the grill method, check out a maple sweet potato pie with pecan crust and home made maple whipped cream. Yum!
I know it’s a little out of fashion right now, but I always wet brine. I spatchcock the turkey first so it roasts more quickly and evenly. The drippings are a little salty, but I make unsalted broth from the back and an extras back from my meat market the day before, so I have lots of broth for moistening stuffing and making gravy, etc. if I’m having a big group I make two 12 poundish turkeys. I roast one the day before and my husband takes it off the bone and I use the carcass to make broth. The second one I roast for dinner on Thanksgiving. The small bird cooks quickly so it doesn’t dry out, and there are leftovers in the fridge for sandwiches and to send home with folks.
The rest of the meal is dictated by family tradition. I used to try new sides, but the family always pouted (gently) until the old favorites appeared also!
I love this! I’m wet brining this year. Fingers crossed. All of our sides are family favorites for years, too. It’s not Thanksgiving without Alice Waters’s Potato Gratin!
I love your mom’s Brussels sprouts with grapes–such a great combination! And did I hear correctly–23 people next week! That’s going to be awesome. Happy (early) Thanksgiving, Ali! xox
Wish you could come, Leigh! Yes, something like 23 people … yikes 🙂 I love the Brussels Sprouts-grape combo, too. I need to blog about that!
Hi Alex. A dry-brine comment for you. I always wet-brined until last year. My dry recipe calls for baking soda and herbs with the salt. Never had a more delicious, moist and golden bird. We grill ours and ALWAYS take it off grill earlier than necessary, but I’m sure you’re all over rest time, etc. I think it’s about trusting your instincts. We put butter on it (not olive oil) and we also baste because it’s in a big aluminum pan on the grill— can’t sacrifice those drippings! Gravy/drippings not too salty, either. Here is my recipe: Combine half a cup of Diamond Crystal kosher salt (or 6 tablespoons Morton’s kosher salt) with two tablespoons of baking powder in a bowl. Carefully pat your turkey dry with paper towels. Generously sprinkle it on all surfaces with the salt mixture by picking up the mixture between your thumb and fingers, holding it six to ten inches above the bird and letting the mixture shower down over the surface of the turkey for even coverage. The turkey should be well-coated with salt, though not completely encrusted.
Warning: You will most likely not need all of the salt, in some cases less than half will be ok depending on the size of your bird and your salt preference.
Transfer the turkey to a rack set in a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate uncovered for 12 to 24 hours. Dry-brining for more than 24 hours will produce even more juicy and well-seasoned meat. To brine longer than 24 hours, loosely cover turkey with plastic wrap or cheesecloth before refrigerating to prevent excess moisture loss through evaporation. Let rest for up to 3 days.
* Pat the turkey dry: Pat the outside of the turkey dry with paper towels.
* Loosen the skin: Using your hands, loosen the skin over the breast and separate it from the meat, making sure to break through the thin membrane between the skin and breast while leaving the skin itself intact. Loosen the skin over the meaty part of the legs.
* Season the cavity: Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of the salt mixture into the cavity of the turkey.
* Season the meat: Rub another 2 teaspoons of the salt mixture into the meat of the legs (under the skin). Rub 4 teaspoons of the salt mixture into the meat of the breasts (under the skin).
* Season the skin: Sprinkle the remaining salt mixture over all the skin of both the breasts and legs.
* Tuck the wings back: Bend the wings back and tuck under the breast.
* Refrigerate: Place the turkey breast-side up in a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan and refrigerate uncovered for at least 1 day but ideally 3 days. You do not need to pat it dry before cooking.
* On the day it is to be cooked, remove the turkey from the refrigerator and leave it at room temperature at least 1 hour (do not rinse—it’s not needed, and rinsing will make the skin less crispy).
* Pat it dry one last time and baste with melted butter. Place the turkey breast-side down on a roasting rack in a roasting pan; put it in the oven (grill!). After 30 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and carefully turn the turkey over so the breast is facing up (it’s easiest to do this by hand, using kitchen towels or oven mitts).
Sandra!! Thank you for all of this!! So many great tips, this one in particular: “To brine longer than 24 hours, loosely cover turkey with plastic wrap or cheesecloth before refrigerating to prevent excess moisture loss through evaporation.” I think that my turkey, which sat for 48 hours, dried out a bit in the fridge, so I’d definitely cover with plastic wrap or cheesecloth next time. Love the idea of grilling, too, not only because it’s fun, but also because it frees up the oven. How nice?! I’m also really intrigued by the baking powder — I wonder what the science is behind this?
This is the best turkey recipe I’ve ever used: https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1018403-splayed-turkey-with-herbs
A friend just sent me the same recipe … so funny! Looks great. Going to investigate!
I have made the no cook cranbery relish for years, it was my mom’s recipe. She didn’t go as fine as your picture shows and always included currants or raisins. I usually make it a day or two in advance. I love it too!
Ohhh, it sounds so good with currants … yum!
I don’t use the drippings of a brined turkey (wet or dry) to make the gravy because it always comes out too salty (and this is after of course rubbing off, washing, and re-drying the bird prior to prepping it). I’ve found it’s best to make the gravy ahead of time instead of trying to scramble last minute to fat-separate the drippings, deglaze the pan, and do the food set up all at once. Too many plates to juggle. I’ve enjoyed using this do-ahead gravy recipe: https://noblepig.com/2009/11/make-ahead-turkey-thanksgiving-gravy/
Thanks for a great list of Turkey Day resources.
So smart to make the gravy ahead! A long time ago, I followed a make-ahead turkey stock recipe from Gourmet, and several times I used it to make gravy ahead of time, which was such a stress reliever. Checking out Noble Pig’s recipe now — I love NP!!
Ali, we cook our turkey in a bag. We had Thanksgiving with a friend years ago and she cooked her turkey in a paper bag! It was delicious. We buy the Reynolds Oven Bag. My husband doctors the turkey with spices and such as he desires, but no brining, nothing fancy, just put in the bag with the flour and the cooking time as recommended. Perfect and moist every time. It’s the only way to go. Your recipes look super, especially the potatoes. Have a great time with your family!
Allison, I love this!! Can’t wait to try it.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and your Family!! Great to hear from you. xo
When I have dry brined, I don’t think I measured out the salt but looking at the Russ Parsons technique from the LA Times, looks like your proportion should have been fine. I don’t remember the drippings being overly salty, but I am pretty sure I used unsalted stock and went easy on salt for the stuffing just in case…
The thing I have noticed about dry brined birds is that they cook far more quickly than what the recipes normally say – I think I have had similar size birds be complete in under 2 hours. I was shocked by this the first time (and was so glad I caught it in time) and then the following years I stuck an over-safe digital thermometer in the thigh and just let it go until it hit 165.
Happy Thanksgiving! I’m looking forward to making peasant bread stuffing this year.
Viva, this is so interesting! I am sure you are right, because I cooked it for less than what it actually suggested, and it was still overcooked. I wish I had kept a better eye on it. I think it would have been done in under 2 hours for sure.
Thanks for the tip!! Happy TG to you.
Hey there I LOVE turkey. The best cooking I have come across is dry brining and to spatchcock the turkey. It is a way quicker method of cooking so the turkey doesn’t have time to dry out resulting in delicious succulent meat. This is my favourite recipe http://www.seriouseats.com/amp/recipes/2014/11/herb-butter-rubbed-crisp-skinned-butterflied-spatchcock-roast-turkey-thanksgiving-recipe.html
And also Jamie Oliver’s stuffing recipe with chestnuts. It looks beautiful cooked and presented in a cast iron skillet with sage leaves.
I hope you dry the turkey. ?
I have always wanted to try that recipe!! I bookmarked it a few years ago and have been dying to try it ever since. You’re convincing me to give it a go! Maybe for Xmas. My mom is in charge of the turkey, and she’ll be doing it in her romertopf. Love the idea of stuffing in a cast iron skillet — so pretty!
I did dry my turkey before roasting it, but I didn’t rinse it and then re-dry it.
Happy TG to you!!
I started cooking thanksgiving dinner at 13 years old (over 2 decades ago) and still turkey perplexes me and I just don’t have the patience or desire to figure it out. =P Some years ago I’ve roasted it breast side down first (via America’s Test Kitchen, the idea being gravity keeps the juices flowing into the breast) then flipped it breast side up mid roasting to finish–yes, flipped a hot 25lb bird completely over, it involved a whole lot of paper towels. It was better. The breast was more moist and the whole bird was evenly cooked. But no thanks to flipping a hot heavy bird.
Also, America’s Test Kitchen wrote an article about cutting up the turkey into pieces (breast, wings, and leg pieces) and then roasting it separately to ensure even cooking. But who wants to bring out a tray of cut up turkey pieces?
Last year my cousin did the alton brown wet brined turkey and it was cooked well (moist breast and evenly cooked) and made yummy gravy.
T — I’m kind of with you re not having the patience. My mother did the flipping technique one year, too, and I remember it being very good, but also not necessarily worth the effort of flipping a 25-lb hot bird. No thank you is right 🙂 Thanks for the Alton Brown recipe link — going to check it out. Happy TG!!
I’ve used this recipe with good success: http://nomnompaleo.com/post/66597843666/butterflied-big-bird-spatchcocked-turkey. Spatchcocking the turkey ensures it will cook evenly. I used my gas grill as an oven. Yes the drippings are salty. I would advise making a separate stock using the neck/giblets and using the to make gravy. You can add a spoonful or two of the drippings to the gravy if you think they aren’t too, too salty. Also, if you use the carcass to make soup (of course you do), don’t add salt to the pot.
Hi Jane! I love it … I made a soup with the carcass and lots of vegetables and kale, and it was good, and fortunately not too salty — I actually had to add some extra salt.
Thanks for the link to the recipe and for the tip to making a separate stock. I also like your idea of using just a spoonful of the drippings. It’s almost like a super concentrated more “natural” bouillon cube. I think spatchcocking the turkey is in my near future given some of the other comments. Thanks so much for the recipe link. Happy TG!!
One more thing – I agree with the previous comment that the dry brined birds seem to cook faster. I use a probe sensor to keep track of progress. I’d rather take it out and have to warm the bird up (after carving that’s not hard), then have it be dry.
I find this so interesting. Going to investigate!
This will be the first year that I don’t cook Thanksgiving dinner for all my family and friends (mother in law wants to, who am I to argue). Except I can’t go with out my homemade stuffing , turkey, ham and our favorite…your grandmother’s mustard sauce. It is so amazing and I make often along with many other wonderful recipes.
Thank you for all of the wonderful recipes and stories that you’ve shared over the years and I hope your holidays are filled with lots of love and happiness.
You are so sweet, Liane! Thank you so much for your kind words. So happy you love that mustard sauce as much as I do. I look forward to making it every year. Wishing you and your family a happy TG, too!!
Sous vide that bird! Moist delicious, perfect!
I used my Joule circulator last year and followed the instructions from ChefSteps.com
Best turkey ever…doing it again this year!
I was reading about that in The Food Lab! They actually offer instructions for creating a sous vide machine in a cooler, which was so interesting to me. I think you need something like your Joule circulator, but otherwise, it’s pretty low-tech. I’m inspired! Thanks and Happy TG!!
I have very good results with my dry rub for four Thanksgivings in a row. Instead of adding too much salt, I add lots of fresh herbs (thyme, rosemary, oregano, sage) and lemon zest. I dry brine for at least 24 hours and then I remove it from the brine and let it sit uncovered in the fridge overnight, to ensure crispy skin. The result is a very flavorful and not dry bird. I also have better luck with the natural WF turkey than their organic one. It makes a difference for smaller size (11-12lb.) birds.
So interesting re natural vs organic, Marilena — thanks so much! And I love your idea re herbs and lemon. I’m sure they impart so much flavor. Happy TG to you and your family. Lots of love!! xo
I have had great success cooking “A simple roast turkey” from Sam Sifton’s cookbook Thanksgiving
Awesome! Love Sam Sifton. Will check it out. Happy TG!!
So happy to see the roasted butternut pie! Happy Thanksgiving sweetheart!
I dry brine my turkey in the oven bag (but I remove it before baking) and it works perfectly. I also started putting the turkey in a 400 degree oven and then immediately turning the temperature down to 275 and cooking until it reaches temperature. It took about 3 hours for a 19lb turkey. I’ve never had a more moist turkey and everyone raved about it. The brine recipe I use is Bon Appetit’s Garlic and Herb Dry Brine. As far as the gravy goes, I dilute the drippings with more turkey stock than I normally would and I don’t add any salt when making the broth.
Somewhat belated thank you for your fabulous stuffing. After a lifetime of homemade cornbread stuffing, heavy on the butter, I needed to go dairy free. I made yours using just olive oil. I’m a convert! Just terrific.
Turkey thoughts: I get a heritage bird. Dry brine per Russ Parsons/Judy Rodgers (see Food 52). Salt gets fully absorbed. I roast per NYT. Often cooks faster than I plan on so I test its temperature early. I buy turkey parts and make stock and gravy in advance. Result is a much less stressful day.
Thanks for all your great recipes. Your granola is a staple. I used the last of my Thanksgiving cauliflower in that lentil and radicchio salad this week. A favorite.
So happy to hear all of this, Patty! Thanks so much for writing. And thank you for the tips regarding the turkey…one day I’ll get it right. I think making gravy ahead of time is key. Happy Holidays to you!!
Your thanksgiving must have been amazing! I love the post and pics, thanks for sharing!