A Classic Thanksgiving Dinner Menu with Turkey and All the Trimmings
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. Our menu is meant to be adaptable: Prepare it entirely or choose individual recipes, weaving them into your customary spread. As any cook will admit, getting every Thanksgiving dish to the table at once is an exercise in master planning: knowing which elements can be prepared days before the first guest arrives and which can be finished on the stove while the bird roasts in the oven. Follow our tried-and-true schedule for managing the feast.
MAIN: PERFECT ROAST TURKEY
Before being cooked, the turkey is loosely packed with stuffing, then covered with cheesecloth soaked with butter and white wine; this keeps the meat juicy and encourages the skin to brown evenly. The finished turkey is surrounded by crab apples and rosemary and sage sprigs. For intense depth of flavor, the gravy is made from roasted giblets and a golden-brown roux.
SIDE: CHESTNUT STUFFING
Chestnut dressing, baked outside the turkey, acquires a golden, croutonlike crust in the oven.
SIDES: BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH LEMON AND WALNUTS + MASHED POTATOES
For many, it's the dishes served alongside the turkey that make the meal, such as these Brussels sprouts sautéed in butter and garlic and tossed with lemon and walnuts. Yukon Golds yield creamy mashed potatoes, which are seasoned with freshly ground pepper.
SIDE: TARRAGON GREEN BEANS
Green beans are prepared simply-cooked with butter, shallots, and white wine. Fresh tarragon is stirred into the finished dish.
SIDES: CRANBERRY-ORANGE SAUCE + TWICE-BAKED SWEET POTATOES
Navel orange segments and fresh ginger turn a bag of cranberries into a standout sauce. But perhaps the most innovative side dish is twice-baked sweet potatoes. In a reinterpretation of the mini-marshmallow-topped casserole, the potatoes are baked and mashed, the flesh is returned to the jackets and gilded with pecans and fluffy marshmallows. It's food that's altogether familiar, yet new.
DESSERTS: CLASSIC PUMPKIN PIE + OLD-FASHIONED APPLE PIE
No Thanksgiving would be complete without homemade pies. While you can certainly use canned pumpkin, roasting your own gives the filling a deeper, more concentrated flavor. Either way, spice it with cinnamon, ginger, vanilla, and nutmeg, then serve the finished pie with freshly whipped cream. It shares the table with a double-crust apple pie made with a spiced mix of the fruit. Crystals of sanding sugar, scattered on top, add crunch and shine.
- 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.
1 WEEK BEFORE
- Clean refrigerator, clearing as much space as possible.
- Write a shopping list.
- Purchase nonperishables and wines.
4 TO 5 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.
2 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.
1 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.
- Assemble everything you will need for table settings, including linens, serving pieces, and centerpiece; set table.
ON THANKSGIVING DAY
- 9:00 a.m. Remove turkey from brine, and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours.
- 9:30 Trim and blanch brussels sprouts. (Cook just before serving.)
- 10:00 Add toppings to sweet potatoes. (Just before dinner, bake until golden brown.)
- 11:00 Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Stuff, truss, and season turkey.
- 11:30 Roast turkey, covered with soaked cheesecloth.
- 12:00 p.m. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Brush turkey with butter mixture every 30 minutes; tent with foil if skin gets too dark.
- 1:30 Add giblets and neck to roasting pan.
- 2:00 Remove giblets and neck; make stock for gravy.
- 2:30 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.)
- 3:00 Rotate roasting pan; bake any stuffing not being cooked in the turkey. Whip cream for pumpkin pie.
- 3:30 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.
- 4:00 Cook Brussels sprouts, and bake sweet potatoes. Bring food to the table. Pour drinks. Begin seating your guests.