2. So you’ve never cooked Thanksgiving before?
Or maybe you have, but it was a total disaster. NOT TO WORRY: If you find yourself in charge of Thanksgiving dinner but really have no idea what you’re doing, here are five very simple recipes that are so delicious.
3. Here are all the ingredients you’ll need for the whole meal:
This feeds 6–8 people. Buy your groceries Monday or Tuesday before Thanksgiving (except the turkey, which you’ll need sooner; there’s more info about that at the bottom of the post). Because Sunday is too early and Wednesday is cutting things a little too close.
1. 1 large bag of ice (for drinks)
2. Kosher salt (NOT table salt, NOT sea salt)
3. One 14-oz. can jellied cranberry sauce
4. 2 medium onions
5. 5 sticks unsalted butter
6. 1 pint vanilla ice cream (optional, for pie)
7. 3 pounds brussels sprouts
8. ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
9. Freshly ground pepper
10. 2 eggs
11. 3 pounds Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes
12. Two 1-pound loaves of store bought, sliced white bread
13. 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
14. 4 stalks celery
15. ¾ cup dark brown sugar, packed tightly
16. 15 sprigs thyme
17. 4 lemons, halved
18. 2½ cups heavy cream
19. 2 large (or 4 small) carrots
20. One 15 oz. can pumpkin puree
21. 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
22. 1 unbaked 9-inch refrigerated pie shell (found in the dairy case)
23. One 14- to 16-lb. turkey
4. YOU’LL NEED TO START COOKING 6 HOURS BEFORE YOU PLAN TO EAT. HERE IS EXACTLY WHAT TO DO:
5. Remove your fully thawed turkey from its packaging.
Remember that a 16-pound turkey will take FOUR DAYS TO THAW! Learn exactly how to thaw your turkey here.
It’s easiest to do this over the sink, because there will probably be some gross liquid pouring out.
7. Take out the plastic bag that’s inside the cavity of the turkey. These are the giblets and the neck of the turkey. Throw them away.
They actually make for some pretty delicious gravy, but this is Thanksgiving 101, and that’s something they don’t teach until the 200-level class.
9. Put the turkey in the roasting pan and let it come to room temperature on the counter, along with a stick of butter.
11. Now, start to prepare your stuffing. You will need:
13. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and position two racks like this:
15. Cut two 1-pound loaves of sliced bread into roughly 1-inch pieces.
17. Put the cut bread in a large mixing bowl and set it aside.
Seriously, the BIGGEST mixing bowl you can find. Bigger than this. We had to switch the bread cubes out into a 5-quart mixing bowl later.
19. Peel 2 large carrots and 2 medium onions.
21. Chop the carrots, onions, and 4 stalks of celery into ½-inch cubes.
Don’t go crazy about precision; you just want all the pieces to be roughly the same size.
23. Pick the leaves off of 10 sprigs of thyme, like this:
25. In a large skillet or sauté pan, melt two sticks (1 cup) of butter over medium heat.
NOT the butter you have sitting on the counter. That’s for your turkey, later.
27. Add the chopped vegetables, picked thyme, 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, and some freshly ground pepper to the melted butter in the skillet.
29. Stir with a rubber spatula so that the butter and seasoning is coating all the vegetables evenly.
31. Turn the heat to medium-low and cook the vegetables for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are soft but not browned.
33. Combine bread cubes and vegetables in a very large (at least 5-quart) mixing bowl.
35. Add 2 cups of chicken stock too.
37. Mix everything with a rubber spatula until the bread has soaked up all the liquid.
39. Press the mixture into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and set it aside.
41. Now make your pie. You will need:
43. Unroll the store-bought pie crust and and press it into a 9-inch pie dish, making sure that it is centered and the crust comes up over the side of the dish all around.
45. Crimp the edges of your crust by making little folds all the way around.
47. Set the crimped crust aside while you make your filling.
48. In a large mixing bowl, beat 2 eggs until the whites and yolks are completely combined.
50. To the eggs, add ¾ cup packed dark brown sugar, 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, one 15-oz. can of pumpkin puree, 1½ cups heavy cream, and ¼ teaspoon kosher salt.
52. Whisk it gently until everything is combined and smooth.
54. Carefully pour the pumpkin mixture into the unbaked pie shell.
56. Make sure that the top of the pumpkin mixture is at least half an inch below the top of the crust.
58. Put the pie on the top rack of your 375-degree oven, and the stuffing on the lower rack.
59. While those bake for 60 minutes, start prepping your turkey. You will need:
61. Cut 4 lemons in half and set them aside.
63. Put the turkey on a large cutting board, and dry it thoroughly with paper towels.
65. Outside and inside!
67. When the turkey is completely dry, sprinkle 2 tablespoons of salt and some freshly ground pepper evenly all over the outside of the turkey.
69. Sprinkle another tablespoon of salt inside the cavity.
71. Use your hand to pull the skin away from the breast meat.
73. …and spread the soft butter under the skin, all over the breast meat.
75. Place your turkey breast-side up on the roasting rack, and stuff the lemon halves inside the cavity.
77. Pour 2 cups chicken stock and 1 cup water into the bottom of the roasting pan.
This will prevent the fat that drips off the turkey from burning.
79. After 50–60 minutes, the top of the stuffing should be slightly browned…
81. …and the pumpkin mixture should be totally set. You can test this by inserting a knife into the center. The pie is done when the knife comes out clean.
83. Get the finished pie and stuffing out of your way.
85. Crank your oven to 450 degrees, position one of the racks on the lowest rung, and take the other rack out of the oven.
87. Roast the turkey at 450 degrees for 45 minutes, then turn the oven down to 375 and continue roasting for another 2–2½ hours.
89. While your turkey is roasting, start your mashed potatoes. You will need:
91. Peel 2 pounds of Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, and cut them into roughly 1-inch cubes.
93. Put the potato cubes in a large stockpot, and cover them by 2 inches with cold, unsalted water.
95. Put the pot on the stove over high heat, and bring it to a boil.
97. Meanwhile, put ½ cup (1 stick) butter in a microwavable bowl and microwave until it’s completely melted (about a minute).
If you don’t have a microwave, you can do this in a sauté pan over low heat. Once the butter is melted, keep it in a bowl next to the stove so that it stays warm.
99. Continue to boil the potatoes for 40 minutes, then take a cube out do test its doneness. It’s done when it’s fork tender:
It could take up to an hour, so if the piece you test isn’t ready, just keep on boiling.
101. When the potatoes are cooked, strain them into a colander.
103. Put the hot potatoes into a large mixing bowl, and add the melted butter, 1 cup heavy cream, 3 teaspoons kosher salt, and some freshly ground pepper.
Make sure the butter is still hot and totally melted. If it has started to set, your potatoes might get lumpy.
105. Beat the mixture with an electric mixer on low for about a minute, until the potatoes are all mashed.
107. Then, beat the potatoes on high for another 1–2 minutes. This will whip some air in and make them really fluffy.
109. Use a rubber spatula to scrape them into a large serving bowl.
111. Cover the bowl with foil, and set it aside.
112. Check on your turkey. If parts of the skin are starting to burn, cover those parts with foil.
114. If the liquid at the bottom of the roasting pan has evaporated, add some more water.
116. Start preparing your Brussels sprouts. You will need:
118. Put 3 pounds of sprouts in a colander and rinse them under cold water.
120. Turn the water off and shake the sprouts to get as much water off of them as possible.
122. To cut the sprouts, trim about a centimeter off the root…
124. …and cut them in half, lengthwise, then transfer them to a large mixing bowl.
126. Put ½ cup (1 stick) butter in a microwavable bowl and microwave until it’s completely melted (about a minute).
If you don’t have a microwave, you can melt the butter in a sauté pan over low heat.
128. Pour the melted butter over the sprouts, and add ⅓ cup brown sugar, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, and some freshly ground pepper.
130. Mix with a rubber spatula so that the butter and seasoning is coating all the sprouts evenly.
132. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil, and set the raw sprouts and the baking sheet aside.
134. It’s probably been about 2 hours and 45 minutes since your turkey went in the oven. Time to check it out.
If it hasn’t been that long, chill out for a little while. Watch some football. Maybe eat a spoonful of those delicious mashed potatoes.
136. Check the temperature by inserting a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the bird, right where the thigh meets the breast.
138. If it reads 165 degrees, it’s done. If not, put it back in the oven for 20 minutes, then check it again.
Repeat until it’s done.
140. When the turkey is done, let it sit in the roasting pan for 5 minutes before you do ANYTHING.
142. Crank the oven temperature up to 425 degrees, and position the oven racks like this:
144. Take the lemons out of the cavity of the turkey, and throw them away.
146. Using a wooden spoon inside the cavity of the turkey, lift it up out of the roasting pan and let the juices that have pooled inside the cavity drip out.
148. Transfer your turkey to a cutting board.
150. Take the rack out of the roasting pan (you’re done with it for the day). There should be a pool of drippings in your pan.
152. Set up a small strainer over a bowl, and strain the pan drippings in.
Scrape what you can off the bottom of the pan, but don’t worry about getting it all.
154. Spread your Brussels sprouts out evenly on the baking sheet, and roast them on the top rack of the oven for 30 minutes.
156. Now it’s time to make gravy. First, measure out ½ cup of your strained pan drippings, and heat them in a medium sauce pot over medium heat.
158. Add 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, whisking constantly so that there are no lumps.
160. KEEP WHISKING!
163. In about a minute, it’ll get really sticky and start to ball together.
164. Keep whisking for another minute. The mixture will get a little bit darker, take on a smooth, paste-like consistency, and smell slightly toasted. This fat/flour mixture you’ve made is called a roux.
166. Keep whisking, and SLOWLY pour 4 cups chicken stock into your roux.
If you add the liquid too quickly, your gravy will be lumpy and gross. It should take at least 45 seconds to pour in all 4 cups.
168. KEEP WHISKING.
170. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and 5 sprigs of thyme. You can whisk slower now, just to keep things moving enough so that the gravy won’t get lumpy.
172. Let the mixture come to a boil.
174. Then lower your heat, stop whisking, and just let the gravy simmer for 5 minutes.
176. Now you’ll reheat your stuffing and mashed potatoes. Make sure they’re both covered in foil.
178. Put both dishes on the bottom rack of your oven, beneath the Brussels sprouts.
180. When your gravy is done, pull out the sprigs of thyme, and put the gravy in a gravy boat on your table.
182. Now, carve your turkey! Here’s how.
185. Your Brussels sprouts should be done now. They’ll be a little dark in places, but that’s OK.
Those slightly burnt, crispy leaves are delicious.
186. Take them out of the oven, transfer them to a large serving bowl, and serve.
188. Carefully take the reheated stuffing and mashed potatoes out of the oven, and dinner is served!
191. Whenever your guests are ready, break out the dessert plates and spoons, and serve the pumpkin pie with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
193. NOW THAT YOU KNOW YOU CAN DO IT, HERE’S WHAT YOU’LL NEED TO DO BEFORE YOU START COOKING:
194. Secure a turkey (like, now).
OPTION A: Buy a FROZEN TURKEY.
• This needs to happen at least FIVE DAYS before the meal because it will take that long to thaw.
• A generic frozen turkey is the cheapest option and easy to find. But like, scary cheap, meaning, 16 lbs. for $32, and probably not totally ethically raised.
• Because it’s frozen, you can get it weeks before your meal and keep it in the freezer, which is reassuring and nice.
• For a 16-lb. bird, take it out of a freezer and put it in the refrigerator Sunday night and it’ll be thawed by Wednesday night. More thawing info here.
OPTION B: Order a FREE-RANGE ORGANIC TURKEY.
• This needs to happen two weeks before the meal to be safe because stores run out.
• You can get it from a local organic grocery store like Whole Foods, or your farmer’s market, or order it online.
• Arrange to have it delivered or pick it up, fresh (not frozen), the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.
• This will be more expensive ($100–$120 for a 16-lb. bird) but worth it.
Last-minute OPTION C: Buy a FRESH TURKEY from your local supermarket.
• This can happen no more than FOUR DAYS before the meal because it won’t keep longer.
• This is a little risky, as the supermarket could be sold out. But if you have a huge Walmart in the area, you’re probably safe.
195. Make sure you have all the necessary equipment.
196. To cook Thanksgiving dinner, these are exactly the tools you will need:
This may seem like an overwhelming amount of stuff, but having all of this is actually the hardest part. Once you have it, that makes the cooking part SO. MUCH. EASIER. And fun! And really, everything on this list is useful kitchen to have, anyway.
(Prices may vary, and these exact products and brands are just suggestions based on what’s easily available on Amazon.)
1. A 9 × 13-inch baking dish ($27, available here). For stuffing.
2. A large (12- to 14-inch diameter) sauté pan or skillet ($28, available here).
3. 7. A 9-inch-deep (at least 2 inches deep with 4-cup volume) pie dish ($15, available here). For pumpkin pie.
4. A small mesh strainer ($7, available here).
5. A rubber spatula ($2, available here).
6. An 8- to 10-inch chef’s knife (starting at $10, available here).
7. A whisk ($10, available here).
8. A wooden spoon ($4, available here).
9. Spoons, for tasting.
10. A large (at least 18 × 24-inch) cutting board ($25, available here).
11. Set of measuring cups ($7.25, available here).
12. Aluminum foil.
13. Paper towels.
14. A vegetable peeler ($7, available here).
15. Set of measuring spoons ($10, available here).
16. An electric hand mixer ($14 and up, available here).
17. A large (approximately 13 × 18-inch) baking sheet ($15, available here).
18. A colander ($13, available here).
19. A large (at least 6-quart volume) sauce pot or stockpot ($42, available here).
20. A medium (about 1½-quart volume) sauce pot ($16.99, available here).
21. A large roasting pan with a rack ($30, available here).
22. A meat thermometer ($7, available here).
23. A small microwavable bowl (a cereal bowl will work).
24. 2 large (at least 5-quart volume) mixing bowls ($10 each, available here).
25. 5 kitchen towels ($20 for 8, available here).
Not pictured: A can opener ($10, available here).
197. To serve Thanksgiving dinner, this is exactly what you will need:
(Prices may vary, and these exact products and brands are just suggestions based on what’s easily available on Amazon.)
1. 8 cloth napkins (prices vary, available here.) (Optional)
2. A pie cutter ($10, available here). (Optional)
3. An ice cream scoop ($8, available here). (Optional)
4. A corkscrew ($3, available here). (Optional)
5. A tablecloth (prices vary, available here). (Optional)
6. 3 large serving spoons ($5 each, available here). For Brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes, and stuffing.
7. 5. Two small serving spoons ($5 each, available here, but any old spoon will work). For cranberry sauce and gravy.
8. A large platter ($24, available here). For turkey.
9. 2 large (at least 3-quart volume) serving bowls ($33 each, available here). For Brussels sprouts and mashed potatoes.
10.1 small (at least 2-cup volume) serving bowl ($18 for 6, available here, but a cereal bowl will work) OR 1 small serving dish. For cranberry sauce.
11. A large water pitcher ($18, available here).
12. A gravy boat ($11, available here).
198. And, here’s how to set your table:
Assuming you’re cooking for 8 people, you’ll need the following:
1. 8 dinner plates ($28 for 12, available here).
2. 8 small dessert plates ($34 for 12, available here).
3. 8 sets of flatware (a knife, a fork, and a dessert fork or spoon).
4. 8 wine glasses ($20 for 12, available here).
5. 8 water glasses ($18 for 6, available here).