Sideview of just-baked buttermilk pull-apart rolls.

Hi, Friends. As I type, snow is falling. It is October 30th, and we are, per usual, scrambling to cobble together costumes for the big night of trick-or-treating, however that will look tomorrow I do not know.

As a homebody, I find myself already longing to make it the few blocks, round the corner, ring my in-laws’ doorbell, slouch into an armchair, and call it a night, their welcoming fire and platter of nuts and cheese and other various nibbles (pickled herring!) always a sign the holiday season is nigh.

This year for Thanksgiving we’re hosting my sister and her family, a cozy party of 12. I likely won’t make as many pies as I might normally or a full batch of punch (horrifying!), but I have no doubt the sentiment of Thanksgiving, in particular gratitude for my health and family and all of you, will be more present this year than ever. As always, thank you for reading and writing and being here.

I’ve compiled all of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes and tips below. There’s a rough “countdown to Thanksgiving schedule” at the bottom of the post to help you plan your timeline.

I’ll be updating this page in the weeks ahead with any gems I discover — I’ve been eyeing an Instant Pot mashed potato and cauliflower recipe and a brandy pecan pie from Sister Pie, which I made last year and loved. I’ll be sure to give you the full report.

Wishing you all health and happiness as we head into the holiday season. Sending lots of love.


Philadelphia Fish House Punch

If you’ve never made a “house” punch, I highly recommend it, and I highly recommend this one: Philadelphia Fish House Punch, a mix of brandy, cognac, rum, fresh lemon juice, and simple syrup.

Since discovering this recipe eight years ago, there has not been a Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve, or Easter for which I have not made it. Its reception, without fail, is wild, and for this, I look forward to making it more than just about anything during the holiday season.

Ingredients to make Philadelphia Fish House Punch.

Dust off your punch bowl! Freeze your ice ring! And start juicing those lemons!

This recipe calls for 1.5 cups of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Lemons can be juiced several days in advance; stash the juice in the fridge till Thanksgiving Day. Be sure to make your ice ring at least a day in advance.

Note: In these strange times of social distancing, if the communal nature of a punch bowl feels not quite right, you can simply make the punch and pour it into pitchers or some other drink dispenser.

PS: My Favorite Holiday Preparation Trick


Holiday Bread

While any bread is welcome at the holiday table, there is something particularly festive about a roll, especially for Thanksgiving. Both of the recipes below are no-knead, and each dough can be made ahead of time and stashed in the fridge until you are ready to bake. Video guidance is provided for each of these recipes.

On the left: No-knead Buttermilk Pull-Apart Rolls: slightly sweet, soft and squishy, these pull-apart rolls resemble Parker House rolls in both taste and texture. On the Right: No-Knead Thyme Dinner Rolls: buttery and crisp on the exterior and soft and tender on the interior. I love the flavor thyme imparts, but rosemary or sage or a combination of the three would be nice here. You can also omit the herbs entirely.


Favorite Stuffing

A 9x13-inch pan filled with just-baked stuffing.

This kale and caramelized onion stuffing is a variation of the one in my cookbook, Bread Toast Crumbs. After 45 minutes in the oven, it emerges with a crisp golden exterior and a creamy center, flavorful enough to eat on its own, but welcoming to many a relish, sauce, gravy, or anything else the Thanksgiving plate has to offer.

Know you can customize the seasonings and add-ins to your liking. Also: you can make it ahead and freeze it. See instructions in the post for how to freeze it.

A 9x13-inch pan covered in foil.
A 9x13-inch pan filled with just-baked stuffing.

Alice Waters’s Potato Gratin

Alice Waters's Potato Gratin.

Alice Waters’s potato gratin is a dish my mother has served at nearly every big holiday gathering for as long as I can remember. It often steals the show no matter what it’s beside, turkey or otherwise.

It comes from Chez Panisse Vegetables, which offers a number of enticing combinations — potato with turnips or celery root or leeks or sweet potato — but we always use potatoes exclusively and keep the seasonings simple too: salt, pepper, thyme, and just a dash of freshly grated nutmeg. Submerged in a mixture of equal parts heavy cream and chicken stock, topped with a mixture of Gruyère and parmesan cheeses, these potatoes emerge irresistibly crispy on top and creamy underneath.

One bite of this gratin every year confirms: I could totally skip the turkey.


4 Holiday Sauces

All of the sauces below can be made in advance. Bring cranberry sauces and mustard sauce to room temperature several hours before serving, and bring the gravy to a gentle simmer before serving.

Cranberry Sauces

On the left: Sally Schneider’s Red Wine Cranberry Sauce (an old favorite, also delicious when made with Port). On the right: No-Cook Cranberry Relish (sweet, tart, orange-scented, and delicious).

Gravy & Mustard Sauce

On the left: Simple, Make-Ahead Gravy. What is especially nice about having a gravy on hand before the bird is even roasted is the mental assurance that as soon as the bird is done, you can (after it rests) serve it without too much of a last-minute scramble. On the right: My Grandmother’s Mustard Sauce: We rarely make a ham for Thanksgiving, but if we do, we make my grandmother’s mustard sauce, affectionately known as the ham sauce!


Simple Salad

I love a simple green salad on Thanksgiving. I often make something like the fall salad pictured below. Another option: good, crisp greens tossed with a shallot vinaigrette. (I highly recommend making a large-batch of shallot vinaigrette, which can be made at least a week in advance and which is so nice to have on hand, holiday season or otherwise.)

A plate of a fall salad.

Other Sides

If you like the idea of a heartier side dish or if you’ve been enlisted to bring a side dish to your Thanksgiving gathering, here are four ideas:


Thanksgiving Desserts

Foolproof, Food Processor Pie Dough

One of the best ways you can get a jump start on your Thanksgiving preparations is to make your pie dough in advance. The recipe in the video above and in the recipe here yields two rounds. If you want to double it, I recommend measuring all of the ingredients and making two consecutive batches (no need to clean the food processor in between) as opposed to trying to make a double batch all at once. I use this recipe for all of my pies, tarts, galettes, etc.

Every Thanksgiving I make Ronnie Hollingsworth’s Most Excellent Squash Pie (middle), which comes from Kristin Kimball’s, The Dirty Life, in which she writes: “Pumpkin shmumpkin, winter squash has more flavor and better texture.”

I couldn’t agree more. I also always make David Lebovitz’s no corn syrup bourbon pecan pie (right) and some sort of apple tart, either this apple frangipane galette (left) or this French apple tart (below right). Sister Pie’s salted maple pie (below left) has become a recent favorite.

Video on rolling out pie dough and making a fluted edge:


Vegetarian Thanksgiving?

Butternut Squash Lasagna

One snowy Thanksgiving in Vermont, this butternut squash lasagna, brought to the feast by a vegetarian friend of my aunt’s, stole the show. This is the kind of dish you will want to make all winter long, one you’ll want stashed in your freezer, ready to take to a friend in need, the crowd-pleasing recipe you’ll turn to for your next holiday party, one proven to please both carnivores and vegetarians alike.

The recipe comes from Gourmet magazine: Butternut Squash Lasagna

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And last but not least… the turkey!

A platter with a roasted turkey on top.

I confess: every year, when it comes time to deal with the bird, I feel I’m winging it.

The simple method I used last year, however, my notes have reminded me was a success. I bought the turkey from Butcher Box (photo below), thawed it in the fridge for a few days, then dry brined it with salt alone — 1 teaspoon of kosher salt per pound — for 48 hours in one of those giant plastic turkey bags.

On Thanksgiving morning, I patted the turkey dry, set it on a rack in a roasting pan, brushed it with butter, seasoned it all over with salt (lightly), and pepper; then transferred the pan to the oven and roasted it till it looked done, a little over 2 hours.

My notes have also reminded me that the power went off while the bird was in the oven! Such an adventure! There is a recipe below for dry brining and roasting a turkey.

A frozen, Butcher Box turkey in a box.
A frozen turkey from Butcher Box.

Countdown to Thanksgiving Schedule

Sunday:

Monday:

  • Make a double batch of pie dough, roll out each round, fit each into a pie plate; then freeze until Thanksgiving morning.
  • Make a double batch of stuffing through the step at which you cover the pan with foil; freeze each pan.

Tuesday:

  • Brine the turkey (recipe below).
  • Freeze the ice ring (for the punch)
  • Juice the lemons (for the punch)
  • Make the simple syrup (for the punch)
  • Make the cranberry sauce.

Wednesday:

Thursday:

  • Rise early and bake off the 4 pies.
  • Bring the turkey to room temperature, and prepare it for roasting.
  • Prepare the salad — toss it at the last minute.
  • Finish baking the potatoes.
  • Assemble the punch.
  • Bake the stuffing.
  • Roast the turkey.
  • Bake the rolls — while the turkey rests and is carved, there should be plenty of time to bake off the rolls, which means they’ll be piping hot when you gather around the table.

The below printable timelines mostly reflect the above schedule. Print your copies here: Countdown to Thanksgiving 2020 | Detailed Countdown to Thanksgiving. Add your own notes and to-do’s. Good luck! Gobble Gobble.

Printable Timelines

A downloadable and printable Countdown to Thanksgiving timeline
Detailed countdown to Thanksgiving Timeline

Print
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Thanksgiving Menu, Plus How to Dry-Brine and Roast a Turkey


  • Author: Alexandra Stafford
  • Prep Time: 48 hours
  • Cook Time: 3 to 4 hours
  • Total Time: 51 to 52 hours
  • Yield: Serve 12

Description

For this recipe, you’ll need:

  • a turkey bag (for brining)
  • a roasting pan with a rack
  • a thermometer — can’t recommend investing in a good instant-read thermometer enough

Ingredients

For the brine: 

  • kosher salt, I prefer Diamond Crystal
  • turkey bag
  • 1214 lb. turkey

For roasting: 

  • Roasting pan with a rack
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
  • 1 cup white wine, plus more as needed

For finishing:


Instructions

  1. Calculate how much salt you need: for a 12-lb. bird you’ll need about a quarter cup of salt. Place the turkey into the large plastic bag. Sprinkle the salt evenly all over the bird, rubbing it into the skin and sprinkling it into the cavity as well. Tie the bag, and transfer to the fridge for 24-48 hours.
  2. When you are ready to roast, remove the turkey from the bag and set it on a rack in a roasting pan. Pat dry. Let sit at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours before roasting. 
  3. Heat the oven to 450ºF. Calculate how many hours your bird should roast: a good rule of thumb is 12 minutes per pound, so for a 12-lb. bird that’s about 2 hours and 25 minutes. 
  4. Melt the butter and brush it evenly over the bird. Season lightly with salt and pepper to taste. 
  5. Transfer pan to the oven and roast for 30 minutes. Open the oven, pour the 1 cup of wine along with 1 cup of water into the roasting pan, and close the oven. Lower the oven temperature to 350ºF.
  6. Continue roasting until the bird is done. In my experience, dry-brined birds cook more quickly, so I would start checking as soon as an hour and a half later, especially if your bird is 12 lbs. It may need another 30 minutes or even longer, but best to check early. An instant-read thermometer (or other) should register 160ºF. 
  7. Transfer turkey to a board to rest. If there is liquid in the bottom of the turkey pan, pour it into a quart container or 4-cup liquid measure. Allow the fat to rise to the surface. If there is no liquid, pour some white wine into the pan and use a wooden pan to scrape up the drippings. Transfer them to a bowl. 
  8. To finish: bring the make-ahead gravy to a very gentle simmer. Skim the fat off the turkey drippings and reserve for another use or discard. If you wish, fortify the make-ahead gravy with the fresh drippings to taste: Simply add as much of the drippings as you wish to the make-ahead gravy to taste. 
  9. Once the turkey has rested for 30 to 60 minutes, carve it. Serve gravy alongside the turkey.  
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: dry brine, turkey, simple, roasted


Bye for now! Good luck! Gobble Gobble!