My latest book, "Martha's Entertaining: A Year of Celebrations," is finally finished, and I am very excited to share a bit with you. Almost 30 years have passed since my first book, "Entertaining," was published. And while the basic tenets remain the same, everyone can always use new secrets and shortcuts, tips and hints, easy instructions, fabulous recipes they can trust, and above all, new inspiration for more extraordinary and more innovative gatherings. I hope this book offers you just that and sparks many elegant and casual get-togethers all year long.
I approach each holiday during the year as a pleasant challenge. While I do appreciate a tried-and-true tradition, I am not of the "do it the same exact way" school of entertaining, like some of my friends, whereby every Thanksgiving is identical to the last and the one before that. Their reasoning? "Everyone expects the same things; they will miss my sweet potatoes with marshmallows; they need their oyster stuffing." Sound familiar? Well, as I have admitted, I am an enthusiast for change, for subtly altering the traditional to see if I can make it more interesting, more creative, more inventive. I am a firm believer that there are almost infinite choices for a single thing, such as the turkey. We now have access not only to the supermarket varieties and to frozen, factory-raised birds but also to many heritage breeds, including Bourbon Red, Black Spanish, Narragansett, and others, as well as to wild turkeys, hybrid turkeys with extra-broad breasts, organically raised birds, and free-ranging specialty breeds. This opens up so many ways of preparing a bird, including oven-roasting, smoking, deep-frying, spit-roasting, grilling, poaching, steaming, "turduckening," and so on.
As for the sides, as everyone calls the accompanying vegetables, sauces, relishes, and stuffings: Should the stuffing be in or out of the bird? Baked in a dish or in a giant squash? Should the cranberries be used in a sauce, jelly, or tart filling, or should dried cranberries appear in the stuffing? And for dessert, should the pumpkin pie be fresh pumpkin, canned pumpkin, or squash?
I take notes during the year and tear out pictures of ideas that could possibly be used; we call these "tear sheets" at the magazine. I search farm stands for unusual pumpkins, gourds, and squashes, looking for centerpiece inspiration. I also study seed catalogs in hopes of discovering heirloom varieties to grow in my own garden in time for the holiday. I engage my crafters at the television show and at the magazine to think of new ways to "think turkey," using unexpected materials: Wood? Metal? Chocolate? Gilt? Glass? Pottery? For the Thanksgiving dinner pictured, I set a rustic table using some of my Spode turkey plates and platters and a fine antique rag runner down the center. Warty squashes, pomegranates, Amy Goldman's cast-bronze squash, and some old copper birds all made a wild and natural landscape down the middle of the long marble dining table. The food was superb and very "Vermeer" in appearance on the sideboard.
Roast Turkey with Cornbread Stuffing
Baby Brussels Sprouts with Wild Rice and Pecans
Reprinted from the book "Martha's Entertaining: A Year of Celebrations," by Martha Stewart. Copyright 2011 by Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. Photographs by Frederic Lagrange. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc.