What I would eat next Thursday, if you asked me
Thanksgiving 2022, now with 30% less Thanksgiving
Welcome to A Newsletter! Thank you for being here. If you’ve found your way over by some miracle but are not yet subscribed, let me help you with that:
Yes yes yes, we are all very sad there is no Thanksgiving special this year—nobody more sad than me—but we are absolutely thrilled to report last years currently has just over one million views, which feels like a lot for our little Home Movies operation. Thank you for watching, we loved making it so much we couldn’t possibly imagine doing it again till 2023.
As for this year, I started with questions rather than content, but those questions led to answers and those answers produced this content.
TLDR; here is a cut-to-the-chase of what I would eat this year if you asked me (and you did!), based on your most frequently asked questions and requested recipes.
For the PDFs of all recipes, click through to the links provided.
TURKEY and GRAVY
Let’s just start at the top, shall we? Another very popular question this year was: “Turkey. Do I have to?” And my answer was and is a very loud: Absolutely not. In fact, you don’t ever have to eat turkey again if you don’t want. Not in a sandwich, not at Thanksgiving time. But turkey is tradition and I am a sucker for it (the tradition, not the turkey). I have let go of the idea that a turkey is ever going to blow my mind or be better than a perfect roast chicken, and accept that at it’s best, a whole roasted turkey is pretty good.
Several thanksgivings under my belt, by now any repeat customers know that I enjoy a straightforward and pleasingly delicious turkey experience: A 12-16 pound bird, seasoned simply with a dry brine, roasted in a 325° oven on a sheet pan with basic aromatics and a little olive oil. I will and would never suggest you grill, fry, smoke or otherwise do anything to your bird other than roast it in an oven. Not to say those things can’t be done and done well, but you just won’t hear that kind of cooking advice from me, personally. So if you’re looking for positive affirmation about a 3-day wet brine on your 22-pound spatchcocked grilled turkey, turn away now.
But this year, I did cave to the repeated request for a turkey but just like, LESS of it. Turkey, but like, what if you didn’t have to carve it? Turkey but for 6 people? Turkey, but like, tragically delicious? Turkey, but just the legs. Turkey, but roasted low and slow over four lucious hours in a bath of the fat of your choosing (duck fat, chicken fat, olive oil or a melange), until it’s so tender the bone effortlessly slips out in the most satisfying sensory experience you’ll have all year.
Here, I present to you my two favorite turkeys. One, a classic roasted bird (best for a larger crowd), and two, a slow roasted turkey, effectively turkey confit, two words that somehow feel weird when they sit next to each other (best for dinners with twelve or fewer).
Slow Roasted Turkey Legs with Garlic and Herbs
There isn’t much I can say here about this recipe that would help you more than simply following the instructions, as it’s truly one of the easiest and most foolproof cooking techniques period, but especially for large-format meats and birds like turkey legs. The thing that will turn most people off of this recipe is the large amount of fat used– but rest assured that weeks after I’ve eaten the last of my stuffing, I’m still cooking with that leftover fat, a delicious cuvée of turkey, duck or chicken fat and olive oil infused with garlic and herbs. Kept in the fridge it’ll last half a lifetime (or a few months), and is perhaps in and of itself worth making this turkey for.
4–5 lbs. Turkey legs (about 2 legs)
2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper, plus more
2 cups duck or chicken fat or olive oil
2 cups olive oil
2 heads garlic, halved crosswise to expose the cloves inside
A few sprigs herbs, such as thyme, sage or oregano
Preheat oven to 275°. Combine 2 tablespoons salt, 1 tablespoon brown sugar and 2 teaspoons pepper in a small bowl. Place turkey in a large baking dish and season on both sides with the salt mixture. Let sit at least an hour, if not up to 24 hours (24 hours will reward you greatly with better texture and deeper flavor).
Drain any liquid that’s come off the turkey and pat dry a little. Scatter garlic and herbs around the turkey and cover with duck fat and olive oil. Season again with salt and pepper (just like your pasta water should be seasoned, so should the fat you cook in) and cover with foil.
Place in the oven and roast for three hours (at this point your turkey will be cooked through and mostly tender). Remove foil, use a spoon to baste some of the fat on top of the exposed parts of the turkey and continue roasting until the skin is a deep golden brown, another 45–60 minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool slightly. To serve, of course you don’t need to do any carving– the bones will slip right out and the meat should effortlessly shred, not unlike slow cooked pork or short ribs– but an idea for serving is to pull the meat apart into large gorgeous chunks, spoon with a little of the fat and the hunks of caramelized garlic.
Turkey can be seasoned 2 days ahead
Turkey can be roasted 3 days ahead– rewarm in a 275° oven until warmed through, 30–40 minutes.
Very Good Turkey with Excellent Gravy
This turkey is perfect for your basic “whole roasted turkey” moment. The shallots double as a side dish, so this one is for all my optimizers out there (me).
Here is a hopefully helpful video as well (abridged version so you don’t have to sit through all 60 minutes of our cinematic journey).
As far as I’m concerned, this is the reason we are here, and by we, I mean my friends and I who are all eating Thanksgiving together this year. We will make two pans of stuffing for eleven people, but someone has already suggested perhaps making a third, lest we have insufficient leftovers. Not a bad idea.
Classic Celery Stuffing
This one is “The One” for me. There are no other stuffings that are as delicious as a classic and sorry to say, I think this is the same thing I’ll say every year for the rest of my life (one adjustment you could make is to use leeks instead of onions, fennel bulb instead of celery, but celery is right there in the title so maybe just go with it).
If you want less stuffing, well, I can’t relate, but you can always make half the recipe baked in a smaller vessel. As a few people have pointed out, make sure you really cook the wine down as written in the recipe, otherwise the stuffing could be soggy and perhaps a little “wine-y,” also a description for how I will be feeling the morning of November 25th.
Potatoes are like opinions, everyone has them. Or something. In my experience there’s potential for revolt if you don’t have mashed potatoes on the table, even if the other potato on offer is perhaps better, cheesy, crunchy, crispy, etc. People love mashed potatoes and you can’t take them away on this, the day people love to eat mashed potatoes. Just make them. And when you do, you’ll find yourself with a spoon into the pot for 20 minutes thinking “damn, mashed potatoes are so good, why don’t I eat them more often?” Sweet potatoes are a different category (“vegetable”) and will not be mentioned here.
As I’ve said in the past, mashed potatoes, while actually a dip (mashed potatoes are a dip!) are not meant to be pureed smooth. That would be, in my opinion, pommes puree, a very delicious but different thing wherein the potatoes are impossibly smooth, silky and spoonable. In this house we believe that mashed potatoes should have a few lumps and the final texture should remind you of a cloud you once saw. You can adjust the creaminess by adding more dairy based on your personal preference but this recipe linked above is a good place to start. Buttermilk is absolutely a key ingredient and you should fight to keep it if someone asks “do we really need it?” because you do, otherwise I would not have included it in the recipe. Top these potatoes with sour cream and chives or dill or dill and chives.
If you’ve ever cruised the farmers market and come upon impossibly small, adorable potatoes and thought “so cute, but what would I even do with these?” the answer lays before you. The smaller the better to avoid ever having to touch them with a knife, ruining their sweet whole-potato purity. You can skip the butter and do olive oil if you’re dairy-free, making this a good option for those who are dairy-free but still want a special potato on the table (who’s my special potato? You are).
VEGETABLES and SALADS
People (I) need vegetables on the table, and while I’m still not sure “green bean casserole” counts, it’s the category I decided to put it in. Here are my favorites, some version of which I’ll be doing this year, plus a green bean casserole recipe many of you inquired about- this one doesn’t require you to blanch anything, you can make it one skillet and ofc French’s Onions from the container are mandatory.
Green Bean Casserole
I grew up with the original Campbell’s Soup recipe and never quite cared for it. I think it lies within the over abundance of creamy mushroom soup– The word “gloopy” comes to mind, an adjective I try to avoid. That said, green beans: huge fan. Mushrooms: love them. Gravy: spill it all over me. French’s Onions from the container? I’d die for them. So what I’m saying is that green bean casserole is inherently good, and it can be whatever you want it to be. This is what I want it to be: a skillet of sauteed green beans, caramelized onions and beautifully browned mushrooms barely coated in a creamy gravy topped with French’s Onions from the container. My sister cried one year when she found out there was soy sauce in the original recipe, and guess what Carleigh, there’s some in this one, too!
This recipe was developed using an 8” cast iron skillet, but you can do it in whatever you want, and if at any point you feel like your skillet is too small and things get a little too full or you feel like your skillet is too large and the casserole will be lonely, you can always transfer to a baking dish to bake.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper
1 pound mushrooms, such as cremini, button, oyster or maitake, quartered
1 pound green beans, stems trimmed, cut in half or coarsely chopped, if you like
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 ¾ cups whole milk
2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
1 clove garlic, finely grated or chopped
An undetermined amount of French’s Onions, from the container
1. Heat olive oil in a large (at least 8”) skillet over medium–high heat. Add onions and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally (I use a wooden spoon this whole time), until they start to soften and brown, 10–12 minutes.
2. Reduce heat to medium, add mushrooms and season again with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until they shrink, soften, brown and concentrate their flavors, another 10–12 minutes (the onions will be very dark and caramelized at this point, too, which is what we want).
3. Add green beans (the skillet will be a little full now, but just give it time, the green beans will soften and shrink as they cook), season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they’re bright green and totally tender, 8–10 minutes.
4. Add butter and let it melt in the skillet. Sprinkle flour over everything and stir for 2 or 3 minutes to toast in the fat and browned bits of the skillet. Slowly add milk, letting it thicken between stirs, until it’s all added. Add soy sauce and garlic, stirring to blend. Let the gravy come to a simmer, thickening in the skillet around the vegetables, making sure everything is evenly dispersed and coated. Season again with salt and more pepper.
5. Preheat oven to 425°. Top green beans and mushrooms with French’s Onions from a container and bake until golden brown and bubbly around the edges, 20–25 minutes.
DO AHEAD: Green bean casserole can be made without the onion topping a day ahead or a few hours before (refrigerate if making a head more than a few hours).
I’ll be honest and let you know I don’t see the appeal of a bread basket at Thanksgiving. There’s already SO MUCH FOOD. So much! That said, lately I haven’t been able to stop thinking of the dilly bread my Grandpa Bob used to make, and I got an above average number of requests for “a good cornbread,” and “a dinner roll,” so, here we are, (a very good) cornbread and a dinner roll. A dilly dinner roll!
This is a version of the dilly bread I grew up eating every Thanksgiving made by my late Grandpa Bob. I don’t know if he used a mixer or not with his bread, but I developed these rolls to not require one, effectively a no-knead bread that has a weak-ish crumb, somewhere between a fluffy roll and a fluffy biscuit, a crunchy exterior and pillowy interior. It defies logic and tastes amazing, what else can I say. Feel free to bake them on a sheet tray spaced apart if you prefer the spherical little bun shape vs. the squished roll-in-a-dish look. If dill is not a flavor you enjoy, you could certainly leave it out (the onions give a lot here, too), but also, they’re called Dilly Rolls?
1 ¼ cups whole milk
2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
3 cups AP flour
½ cup finely chopped fresh dill
½ small white or yellow onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons dill seed (I’ve also used 1 teaspoon caraway or celery seed, both taste great), (optional)
2 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the pan and pot
1. Heat milk in a small pot over medium heat to a nice warmer-than-lukewarm temperature. Remove from heat and whisk in yeast and sugar, mixing to dissolve both in the milk; set aside.
2. Using a wooden spoon, stir flour, dill, onions, dill seed and salt. Mix in warm milk mixture, creating a rough ball of dough. Add in 6 tablespoons melted butter and continue to mix, using the wooden spoon to kind of knead the dough (it will be soft, but decidedly a dough not a batter) until smooth and elastic, 5 or so minutes.
3. Leave the dough in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let it double in size at room temperature, about 90 minutes–2 hours, or, if baking tomorrow, refrigerate overnight.
4. To bake the rolls, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide into twelve even portions (I find the easiest way to do this is to divide in half, then keep dividing each piece in half, rather than guess what 1/12th of the dough looks like).
5. Tuck each piece of dough into a tight little ball, smoothing the seam on the countertop. Place each piece of dough in a buttered (or oiled) 3 qt. baking dish (I use a regular 9x13), three across, four down (alternatively, bake them on a rimmed baking sheet spaced further apart for a rounder roll shape).
6. Preheat oven to 425°. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place (on top of the oven) for 45–60 minutes, until the balls of dough are puffy and touching :).
7. To bake, you can brush the rolls with anything you want, but they need something: melted butter, heavy cream, buttermilk, milk or an egg wash (I like egg wash for the shine).
8. Bake rolls until they’re deeply golden brown on all sides, have baked up into what looks like one large-ish roll (unless you’re baking them individually), and feel crunchy and firm when the tops are tapped, 35–40 minutes.
9. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. These rolls really are best eaten the day of, but can be rewarmed in the oven or eaten at room temperature or whatever honestly who cares, they’re rolls filled with butter and dill, they’re perfect whenever.
DO AHEAD: Dough, before rolling into balls, can be made 2 days ahead
I love this recipe and yes, there is mayonnaise inside of it. Sue me! Or just make it and apologize for second guessing me!
Honestly, this year it’s gotta be cranberries from a can, fancy style. Here’s a “recipe.” Maybe I’ll make a sauce if I see fresh cranberries– they’re tough to resist. If I do, I’ll do it simply in a pot with some sugar, cooked till they pop.
This year I’ve outsourced the apple dessert because I’m finally accepting I do not have to do everything. As for the chocolate, I don’t think chocolate belongs at the table, but I’ll probably buy some Reese’s and keep them in the freezer for late night snacking.
As for the dessert I promised, here is the Caramelized Maple Tart from Sweet Enough (out 3/28/23! Available for pre-order now!), for anyone out there who wished they liked pumpkin pie but just doesn’t. You’re not making a caramel, instead just reducing maple syrup until it’s reduced by about half and therefore more deeply concentrated and beginning to, well, caramelize. It’s on the fussier side of desserts in this book (you gotta make a crust, bake it, make the filling, bake it), but it’s still pretty low maintenance as far as pies go.