Martha Stewart, Founder, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia
Martha's mother, Martha Kostyra -- or Big Martha, as she was affectionately known -- used to present a diverse array of side dishes from one Thanksgiving to the next, drawing from her vast cooking repertoire and her equally expansive garden. But her famous mashed potatoes unfailingly graced the table.
The recipe was neither terribly complicated nor set in stone. "If she had heavy cream, she added heavy cream. If she had salty butter, she put in salty butter. If she had sweet butter, she put in sweet butter," Martha says. "But it always had cream cheese." Another constant: the KitchenAid mixer, which whipped the potatoes into an impossibly rich, velvety cloud that was invariably finished with plenty of black pepper.
The next day, Mrs. Kostyra would turn the cold leftovers (she somehow managed to ensure that there were always ample amounts) into thin pancakes, browning them in sizzling butter until they were crisp. "The cream cheese helps them hold together," Martha says. "Plain old mashed potatoes would never work." These two dishes required mountains of potatoes, which meant that even the youngest Kostyras were enlisted to help. "I'm sure I peeled potatoes when I was 2 years old," says Martha.
Jennifer Aaronson, Editorial Director of Food
If Jennifer could single out one dish worth a trip home, it would be her mom Bette's braised red cabbage. A culinary legacy inspired by her family's German heritage, it accompanies pot roast and spaetzle for most of the year.
But every Thanksgiving it falls perfectly in step alongside the turkey, providing a palate-cleansing counterpoint to the heavier fare. It's like sauerkraut without the spice, Jennifer says, and it takes on a gorgeous magenta hue as it becomes infused with red-currant jelly, vinegar, and grated green apple. She sticks closely to her mother's recipe but stirs in a little extra apple for a subtly brighter, fresher finish.
"Maybe I feel like I need to add my own touch," she says. But one can tinker only so much with a good thing. As for her 3-year-old son, Giorgio, his tastes are still in the making, but he's poised to be a fan. "He likes anything with lots of vinegar," Jennifer says. "And he loves my mom's food."
Lucinda Scala Quinn, Executive Editorial Director of Food
Thanksgiving at the Scala home in Michigan featured all the quintessential trappings of the holiday. Lucinda, her three brothers, and their parents attended a college football game, watched the annual parade, turned out a turkey dinner for 15 or so, and then capped it off with even more football.
But perhaps the most time-honored element was the dish of artichoke hearts on the table, blanketed with breadcrumbs, lemon, parsley, and freshly grated Parmesan and Pecorino cheeses. Lucinda's mother, Rose, created the recipe, reimagining one of her husband's favorite Italian dishes, stuffed artichokes, as an easy-to-eat casserole. Little was lost in translation, with the artichokes providing a respite from the many mashes on the table -- and causing a commotion the next day.
"When we went scrounging around in the refrigerator the morning after Thanksgiving, it was the first thing we went looking for," Lucinda says. "And chances were, someone else had just finished it."
Sarah Carey, Food Editor
In the 20-person commune in Woodstock, New York, where Sarah was raised, dinner responsibilities rotated among the adults. Consequently, the offerings were ever-changing, including dishes as varied as liver, enchiladas, and vegetable-protein balls. "Typical 1970s hippie health food," Sarah says of the latter.
Amid all this diversity, little was predictable, even on Thanksgiving. But one item made a perennial appearance: her mother Susan's peach stuffing. Made with canned peaches and their accompanying heady, heavy syrup, it has earned its devotees. Sarah modeled her own made-from-scratch stuffing after her mother's back-of-the-box recipe. Starting with a loaf of artisanal bread, Sarah swapped in fresh herbs -- sage, parsley, and thyme -- for dried.
And because her mother basted the turkey with orange juice, Sarah added just a touch to the stuffing. But she never considered losing the peaches or their unapologetically sugary liquid. "It's pretty sweet," Sarah says. "But to me, it's perfect."