I am super excited about hosting Thanksgiving this year, friends, and since some of you might be geeking out in your own kitchens, I thought I’d share my menu and suggestions for the bird, sides, and dessert. For the newbie host/ess, take our collective advice and prep what you can ahead (make this cranberry sauce tomorrow, write a timeline for when to put things in the oven, set the table the night before) to break down the big event into easy-to-manage parts. And please ignore those “survival guides” and other bleak magazine descriptors. It’s just dinner, not a countdown to the apocalypse.
First things first: the bird. Apply the same principle to turkey as I do my beloved roast chicken recipe, which calls for a small bird, high heat, and lots of salt. The salt comes from an overnight brine, which makes for a fabulously juicy and well-seasoned bird, and I follow these roasting instructions from an old issue of Gourmet. It’s fast (the bird only takes about two hours, including a half hour rest!) which keeps the white meat from drying out and frees the oven up for side dishes and pies. (NB: I use store-bought gravy, since the drippings from a brined bird are too salty for homemade.) For a smaller celebration, I heartily recommend this recipe for Cornish game hens and cornbread stuffing. Delish.
There’ll be mashed potatoes (make two hours before serving; keep warm on the stove in a heatproof bowl placed over a pot of simmering water), basic roasted sweet potatoes (swapping olive oil for bacon) and these fantastic creamed winter greens which I’ll make the day before and re-warm on the stove. My mother’s dressing (bread crumbs, celery, onions, sage, stock, enough butter to make Julia Child blush) gets prepped on Wednesday and warmed in the oven while the turkey rests. Last week, I made and froze pie doughs for apple pie (my husband and I have a tradition of baking one together the night before Turkey Day) and this pecan chocolate tart that I’ll bake Thursday morning. (Defrost doughs in the fridge a day or two before using.) The tart is the one untested recipe in the bunch, but I trust Suzanne Goin in all things edible.
What else? My mother-in-law is bringing green beans and a pumpkin pie, and our friends are making brussels sprouts. To round everything out, I ordered mini gougères (for pre-dinner drinks) and cornbread from a favorite bakery and flowers from my amazingly talented friend Lidia. The husband’s in charge of mixing cocktails, wine selection and the super-quick cranberry sauce below.
And, praise all that is holy, the dishes.
Easy Cranberry Sauce
- 12 oz bag fresh cranberries, rinsed
- one orange
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- pinch salt
Zest half the orange and reserve one generous teaspoon. Halve the orange and juice; add enough water to the orange juice to make one cup.
In a small saucepan, add the cranberries, sugar, salt, orange juice and zest. Heat over medium-high, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries start to burst and relax into a thick sauce, about 10 minutes. Let cool and refrigerate until needed, about 2-3 weeks.