In most families, there's no diverging from the classic menu: turkey and all the trimmings. And thank goodness. With many of the beloved foods gracing the table just once a year, replacing them with newfangled creations would surely disappoint. Indeed, the biggest crowd-pleasers are often the standards that have been emerging from the family kitchen for generations. Embracing the idea of household favorites, we asked our food editors which dishes they cherish most, and let their answers inspire the quintessential Thanksgiving meal. Our menu is meant to be adaptable: Prepare it entirely or choose individual recipes, weaving them into your customary spread.
Perfect Roast Turkey
Tarragon Green Beans
Brussels Sprouts with Lemon and Walnuts
Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes
Cranberry Orange Sauce
Classic Pumpkin Pie
Old-Fashioned Apple Pie
Starting early is the best way to keep all of the preparations on track.
If you're ordering a fresh turkey, do so now. You will need 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of turkey per person
Make pie dough, and freeze.
Polish flatware, and iron table linens.
One Week Before
Clean refrigerator, clearing as much space as possible.
Write a shopping list. Purchase non-perishables and wines.
Make place cards, and decide upon a centerpiece.
Four to Five Days Before
If using a frozen turkey, begin to thaw in refrigerator, allotting about 5 hours for each pound of turkey. Place bird on a rimmed baking sheet to catch any drips.
Two Days Before
Prepare bread for stuffing: Cut loaves of good white bread into chunks; let dry on a baking sheet. Cook and peel chestnuts.
Prepare cranberry sauce. Roast pumpkin for pie.
Buy any remaining ingredients.
One Day Before
Pick up fresh turkey; begin brining turkey in a saltwater bath.
Combine stuffing ingredients.
Thaw pie dough; assemble and bake pies.
Prepare sweet potato filling, and pipe into potato skins. Prepare vegetables and ingredients for your own favorite sides, too.
Assemble everything you will need for table settings, including linens, serving pieces, and centerpiece; set table.
On Thanksgiving Day
This schedule is for our stuffed 18- to 20-pound turkey; adjust timing as needed.
Remove turkey from brine, and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours.
Trim and blanch brussels sprouts. (Cook just before serving.)
Add toppings to sweet potatoes. (Just before dinner, bake until golden brown.)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Stuff, truss, and season turkey.
Roast turkey, covered with soaked cheesecloth.
Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Brush turkey with butter mixture every 30 minutes; tent with foil if skin gets too dark.
Add giblets and neck to roasting pan.
Remove giblets and neck; make stock for gravy.
Remove cheesecloth, rotate the pan, and baste turkey. Make mashed potatoes. (Just before serving, warm them over medium-low heat in a double boiler, stirring in more milk or cream as needed.)
Rotate roasting pan; bake any stuffing not being cooked in the turkey. Whip cream for pumpkin pie.
Insert an instant-read thermometer into thickest part of one turkey thigh. When thermometer registers 180 degrees, remove turkey from oven. Before carving, let turkey stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Make gravy and tarragon green beans.
Cook brussels sprouts, and bake sweet potatoes. Bring food to the table. Pour drinks. Begin seating your guests.