It isn’t my job to tell you what kind of gravy to serve with your turkey. Whether or not you add wine to it, and whether you include the giblets and add chopped boiled eggs is up to you. My job is to show you how to make gravy that’s silky-smooth and delicious. You will need a roasting pan with a heavy enough bottom to withstand direct heat, a degreasing pitcher (fat separator), and a flat whisk. Read More
Recipes and Stories
The other key ingredient in my family’s cornbread dressing is actually another kind of bread altogether: biscuits. They give the dressing body and help bind it together without having to add eggs, which can sometimes make dressing a bit heavy.
Unfortunately, few home cooks seem to make biscuits very often, which is too bad. Because once one gets the knack, they’re drop-dead easy, and serving forth a basket of delicate, piping hot biscuits never fails to impress company. They always think you’ve gone to a lot more trouble than you actually have. Read More
Before tackling the stuffing or dressing, a quick word about tradition, with a word (and recipe) for one of the ingredients from my own tradition.
The wonderful thing about what you put into that savory bread pudding that accompanies your turkey, no matter what you put in it and whether you bake it in the bird or out of it, is that it’s one time that sticking to tradition will win for you every time. You really don’t have to think about it, analyze it, or reinvent it—you just make it and sit back and bask in the praise. Read More
If all has gone well and you’ve done enough basic prep by tomorrow, your only really big job will be the turkey and dressing. If you haven’t tried to roast a turkey in a year (or have never done it), relax: a turkey roasts just like a chicken – it just takes longer. Allow plenty of time and remember that it doesn’t have to look like those magazine covers. Read More
Until now, this series has been about planning ahead, doing ahead, and keeping calm. This installment, however, is for those of you who have, until now, done none of that, either because cooking the dinner was not supposed to be your worry or because you’re a world-class procrastinator.
It doesn’t matter why you’re not prepared, and the purpose of this is not to shame or judge you. Read More
One of the lovely things about Thanksgiving dinner is the way family traditions are perpetuated from generation to generation as we gather around that common table. Even lovelier is the way other traditions get adopted and shared as people come into our family and as we get absorbed into theirs, sometimes through legal ties but more often just because we love one another. Read More
Now that we’ve established that I take an ecumenical approach to the traditional sweet potato and pumpkin custard pies on Thanksgiving’s dessert board, and have shared my grandmother’s recipe for the former, here’s how she made the latter.
It’s just a standard pumpkin custard without frills or “reinvention,” varying from most other American recipes only in detail. Read More
I am not entering into the argument over whether pumpkin pie is a Yankee thing and sweet potato is a Southern one. My grandmother always served both at Thanksgiving, and both sweet potato and pumpkin pie (they were sometimes just called “custard”) were included in one of our earliest published records of Southern Cooking, Mary Randolph’s classic The Virginia House-Wife (1824), and both were included in most every antebellum Southern cookbook that followed, from Lettice Bryan’s Kentucky Housewife (1839) through Mrs. Hill’s New Cook Book (1867). Read More
Never mind the arguments over whether the pie should be pumpkin, sweet potato, pecan or not pie at all, but cheesecake: the easiest way to deal with whatever you’ve planned for the grand finale is to sweet talk someone else into doing it. However, if you’ve not done that (or you’re the person who got sweet-talked), and are contemplating a ready-made pastry, know that the difference between a memorable pie and a merely good one is the crust. Read More
On Thanksgiving day, practically every table across the country on which the centerpiece is our quintessentially American bird, one can almost take for granted that the turkey will be mated with another quintessentially American thing: cranberries.
And despite the hundreds, if not thousands of cranberry sauce, compote, chutney, and relish recipes that are presently cluttering the internet, most of those berries will be served straight out of a can, which is odd. Read More
One of the most essential elements of Thanksgiving dinner, the one on which the rest of the meal rests, is the one that is the most often neglected: the broth. Each year, of the big packaged broth companies hawks its chicken broth with a warm, fuzzy thing about how caring cooks who love the process always rely on packaged broth to boost the flavor of their best dishes. Read More
Thanksgiving may be a week away, but that's not as much time as you think: if you don’t already have a plan in place, it’s time to stop daydreaming over those picture-perfect magazine table-settings and turkeys and get real.
As you begin to plan, be aware that your three greatest weapons are good organization, the make-ahead dish, and the fine art of delegation (also known as sweet talking someone into doing something for you), but at the risk of sounding scriptural, the greatest of these is organization. Read More
Before we launch into preparation for that all-consuming late-November cooks’ holiday (you know the one with the big bird in the middle of the table), here’s a gentle reminder that you don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving Day to entertain in November.
Even if the only entertaining you are, excuse the expression, entertaining is that weekend, say you’re having friends and family staying over during the holiday, you’re going to need something other than an oversized bird to keep them happy. Read More
For those who live in more moderate climates, the Deep South’s summer, especially in our sub-tropical corner, always lingers past September and sometimes even October. That means that while other parts of the country have long since gathered the last of summer’s harvest and prepared the garden for winter, ours are often still producing tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, and even eggplants. Read More