OK Friends. One week till Thanksgiving. Are you ready? I’ve compiled all of my favorite recipes and tips below. I was hoping to have some advice regarding the bird this year, but alas I do not. I’ve recounted my recent dry-brining experiment below should it offer any guidance, but likely it won’t. Spoiler: It was not a success. I am the one who needs guidance from you. Share any and all turkey (or other!) wisdom below. Thank you. Hope all of your Thanksgiving preparations are going well.


Drink

My favorite. Highly recommend if you’re looking for something festive. I’ve made it for every major holiday since discovering it about 4 years ago now. It calls for 1.5 cups of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Lemons can be juiced several days in advance; simple syrup can be made in advance; ice ring must be made in advance.


On the Side

Alice Waters’s Potato Gratin: I could totally skip the turkey. Love these potatoes so much:

Ina Garten’s Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic: These Brussels sprouts are not a staple, but I love them. I also recently made them without the pancetta, and they were still completely delicious. If I were to make these for Thanksgiving, I would omit the pancetta:


Stuffing

No matter what stuffing I make, I always follow the same method, the essential steps for me being to remove tough crusts from whatever loaf of bread I am using and to toast (as opposed to stale) the bread with a generous amount of olive oil. Stuffing, I think, is personal, so add what you like. I’ve bulleted the basic method below, but for more detailed quantities and instructions, see this post: Stuffing Two Ways, which has the two stuffing recipes from Bread Toast Crumbs.

  • Remove the crusts from loaf of bread (unless using the peasant bread).
  • Tear into pieces or cut into cubes, toss with a generous amount of olive oil and a good pinch of salt, and toast until golden.
  • Add mix-ins of choice. Sautéed onions are essential for me, and I love greens, like chard or kale. I also prefer to keep stuffing meatless, but if you like sausage or oyster or whatever (a little bacon or pancetta never hurts), go for it.
  • Taste and make sure the mixture of bread and mix-ins is well seasoned. Whisk a good amount of stock with 1 egg, which helps bind the stuffing, toss with your stuffing mix, then bake until golden.

Also, you can make stuffing ahead of time, freeze it uncooked, and bake it directly from the freezer. I wrote about this method for Food52. Notes here. Recipe here.

Print
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kale stuffing — Bread. Toast. Crumbs.

Traditional Bread Stuffing


  • Author: Alexandra Stafford
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Yield: 10 servings 1x

Description

Adapted from my cookbook, Bread Toast Crumbs


Scale

Ingredients

  • pounds peasant bread, crusts removed, torn into 1- to 2-inch pieces (about 12 cups)
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups finely diced onions (1 to 2 onions)
  • 1 cup finely diced celery
  • 1 tablespoon Bell’s Seasoning
  • 1½ cups homemade chicken stock or store-bought
  • 1 egg
  • Softened unsalted butter, for greasing

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a large bowl, toss the bread with ¼ cup oil; it will feel saturated. Season the bread with salt and pepper to taste. Spread it onto a sheet pan in a single layer, reserving the bowl. Transfer the pan to the oven and toast the bread for 15 to 17 minutes, or until golden. Set it aside to cool briefly.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, melt the butter with the remaining ¼ cup oil over medium heat. Add the onions and celery, season with a pinch of salt, and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring, until soft and beginning to color.
  3. Return the toasted bread to the reserved bowl. When the onions and celery have finished cooking, scrape them into the bowl over the bread. Sprinkle with the Bell’s. Add 1 cup chicken stock, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper, and toss. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding another ½ teaspoon salt and more pepper as needed. In a small bowl, whisk the remaining ½ cup chicken stock with the egg and add it to the bowl. Toss them to combine.
  4. Grease a 9 × 13-inch baking pan with the softened butter and spread the mixture into it. Cover the pan with foil, transfer it to the center rack of the oven, and bake the stuffing for 30 minutes. Uncover the pan and bake the stuffing for 10 to 15 minutes more, until the bread is golden. Remove the stuffing and let it stand for 10 minutes before serving it.

  • Category: Stuffing
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Thanksgiving, stuffing, traditional, classic, simple



Salad

Salad: Essential or superfluous? We are never consistent in our family — some years we make one, some years we don’t — this year, we’re making this one: Shaved Cabbage, Fennel, and Greens with Citrus Vinaigrette, Manchego and Candied Pepitas, which will be festive, though I think a simple green salad with a shallot vinaigrette would be a fine substitute, too.


Sauces

Cranberry Sauce Two Ways: On the left: No-Cook Cranberry Relish (this is a new one for me, love it); On the right: Sally Schneider’s Red Wine Cranberry Sauce (old favorite; recently made it with Port and loved it)

We always have applesauce on the table, too. I forget which apples I used to get the beautiful hue in the photo below (pink lady?), but I make applesauce just as my mother does with unpeeled apples and nothing but water — no cinnamon, sugar, lemon, spices, etc. Here is the recipe: Homemade Applesauce. (Note: The picture below is from this post for Applesauce Yogurt Cake, which is such a good one to have on hand for the holidays.) Applesauce and cake can be made ahead of time.

And if we’re making ham, we always make my grandmother’s mustard sauce, also known as — wait for it — the ham sauce!


Bread

These No-Knead Thyme Dinner Rolls (left) are a variation of the peasant bread with the addition of thyme and baked in muffin tins instead of bowls. They can be baked ahead, cooled, and frozen, then reheated on Thanksgiving, but another easy thing to do is this: mix* the dough in the morning (because what else will you have to do?), let it rise on the counter all day, punching it down as needed if it gets too high, then, during the last 20 minutes of the turkey’s cooking time, transfer the dough to buttered muffin cups, and bake the rolls when the turkey is resting. Easy peasy. You can do it! | You could do the same thing with the peasant bread (right) recipe. Let me know if you have any other bread questions. *To get a jump start on the mixing, you can measure the flour, salt, and sugar the night before, and stick it in a ziplock bag or covered bowl until the morning, at which point you’ll just have to add the instant yeast and water. 

If you are yeast averse — which you should not be! — biscuits are a great option. Here are two: Joanne Chang’s Buttermilk Biscuits | Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuits


Dessert

I’m making three desserts: Apple-Frangipane Galette (left), which is super easy (video guidance on that one—dough comes together in seconds with the food processor) and Ronnie Hollingsworth’s Most Excellent Squash Pie (right), which I love. This one is also easy (though you do have to roast a butternut squash as opposed to open a can of pumpkin), and I do not blind bake the crust anymore, which helps simplify the process. The third one is a bourbon pecan pie (no corn syrup) from David Lebovitz, which I made recently and really loved. I left out the fresh, dried, and candied ginger. Hoping to post about that one before Thursday. Will keep you posted.


Turkey

OK, as noted above, I dry brined a 14.5-lb turkey (organic, Whole Foods Market) for 48 hours in my fridge, which is to say I rubbed 14 teaspoons of salt all over the bird (including under the skin covering the breast), then let it sit uncovered in my fridge in a roasting pan for 2 days. When I was ready to cook it, I rubbed it with olive oil (following a Sally Schneider recipe from a A New Way to Cook), then roasted it at 425ºF for 25 minutes, then for 2 hours (about 10 minutes a pound) at 350ºF. I didn’t baste it once — basting, I’ve read, is not the secret to a juicy bird! — and when I pulled it out, it looked beautifully golden but definitely done: the leg meat looked desiccated and pulled away from the bone. My trusty instant read Thermapen confirmed the worst: the breast was over cooked by about 10 degrees, the legs by about 20 degrees. Gah!

The meat tasted dry, but not inedible. Something else to note: the drippings were super, super salty, so much so that even after mixing them with a lot of only very lightly salted chicken broth, the gravy also tasted salty. Question for you dry or wet briners: are the drippings always this salty? I wet brined a turkey years ago using Sally Schneider’s recipe, and I remember the bird being delicious (if a little salty), but I don’t remember there being an issue with the pan-drippings.

Despite the subpar turkey, the experiment was not a total loss. We ate it that evening for dinner with the two cranberry sauces mentioned above, gravy (made with a simple roux, stock, and the pan drippings, which made for a salty gravy), and roasted parsnips. The turkey sandwiches the following day for lunch were surprisingly good. And with the carcass, I made a big batch of stock.


Vegetarian

If you’re hosting any vegetarians, I highly recommend this Butternut Squash Lasagna, an old Gourmet recipe that my aunt’s friend introduced the family to when she brought it to Thanksgiving in Vermont a few years ago. It’s one of my favorites. I repeat: I could skip the turkey.


Four Nice Cakes To Have Around

Each of these four cakes gets better by the day, so don’t be afraid to bake them ahead of time.
Teddie’s Apple Cake | Orange and Olive Oil Cake | Chez Panisse Almond Torte | Applesauce Yogurt Cake

Bye for now! See you soon! Good luck! Gobble Gobble!