Thanksgiving 101

So you wanna cook a turkey, eh?

If you’re like me and love to cook, I will just preface this with the fact that holiday feasts are on a whole other level. Last year in quarantine, I threw a Thanksgiving for two that could very well had fed a family of four, with leftovers. It was my second time roasting a turkey. And even though I thought I gave myself enough time to cook it, I still didn’t. Why is there never enough time!?

I’d start by making sure you have a roasting pan. Bed, Bath, and Beyond had them right up front, but you could also ask a friend or family member to loan you one if they aren’t using them. I’d also make sure to get a handful of those aluminum baking pans. They came in so handy when making the sides, and they stack up well in the fridge when you’re exhausted and ready to put everything away.

Create the list of dishes you want to serve and start researching which ones you want to use. Maybe it’s an old family recipe or something delicious you saw on Tastemade’s Instagram. Either way, preparation is key — you’re going to want to list down all the ingredients you need so you don’t have to run to the store multiple times when you should be getting everything ready. (P.S. Sprouts came in clutch when it came to buying all my produce.)

Most importantly, get that turkey like, five days in advance. It’s most likely frozen and will need a few days to thaw. We got a brined turkey last year, so we skipped the “marinating” step and saved some time.

And if you want to save more time, look no further. Here’s a list of dishes (with recipes!) I created last year with instructions on how I prepped some sides the day before — so I could just pop them in that piping hot oven the next day and not think twice about what I was missing. (You could also assign everyone to make a dish and bring it to make your life easier. You know — delegate like a boss.)

What’s On The Menu:

  • Classic Roast Turkey
  • Simple Stuffing
  • Stove-Top Green Bean Casserole
  • Cranberry Sauce
  • Apple Pie

Stovetop Green Bean Casserole 

The Green Beans:
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 pound string beans, ends trimmed, beans cut in half
Ice cubes

The Mushroom Base:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

12 ounces white mushrooms, washed, sandy ends (if any) removed, and sliced into 1/2-inch slices

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced (or put through a garlic press)

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup chicken stock

3/4 cup heavy cream

1 cup sour cream

The Shallots:

4 cups canola oil

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

3 medium shallots, peeled and cut into thin rounds

Kosher salt

The day before: 

For the mushroom base: In a 10-inch cast iron skillet, melt the butter and add the mushrooms. Season with salt, to taste, and add the cayenne and mustard. Stir to blend and cook until the mushrooms give off most of their liquid, 5 to 8 minutes. Using a whisk, add the garlic and flour to the mushrooms. When all of the flour has been incorporated, add the chicken stock. Bring to a simmer. Taste for seasoning. Stir in the cream and sour cream and simmer gently. Continue cooking over low heat until the mixture thickens, 12 to 15 minutes. Refrigerate in a 9×13 baking dish. 

The day of: 

For the green beans: Bring 6 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. When the water boils, add the salt to the water and then add the green beans. Cook for 4 minutes.

Prepare an ice bath. Fill a large bowl halfway with ice cubes and add some cold water. Place a colander squarely inside the ice bath. The colander will keep you from having to pick the beans out from amongst the ice cubes in the ice bath. When the beans are cooked, remove them from the hot water with a strainer and transfer them to the colander inside the ice bath. Use a spoon to swirl the beans around in the ice bath so they are sure to cool down immediately. Drain and set aside.

For the shallots: Pour the oil into a medium frying pan. Heat to 350 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour and cayenne. Toss the shallot rounds in the flour and shake off the excess by shaking the rounds in a strainer once they have been floured. Test the oil by dropping in 1 shallot slice. It should begin to bubble and fry gradually.

Prepare a baking sheet fitted with a kitchen towel. Drop a small batch of the shallots into the oil and gently swirl the oil as they fry. This will help them fry more evenly on all sides. When they are light to medium brown, remove them with a slotted spoon and lay them out on the kitchen towel to cool. Sprinkle with a touch of salt.

Stir the green beans and some of the shallots into the mushrooms. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. When ready to serve, top with all of the remaining shallots.

Simple Stuffing

¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter plus more for baking dish

1 pound good-quality day-old white bread, torn into 1″ pieces (about 10 cups)

2½ cups chopped yellow onions

1½ cups ¼” slices celery

½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2½ cups low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth, divided

2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 250°F. Butter a 13x9x2″ baking dish and set aside. Scatter bread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake, stirring occasionally, until dried out, about 1 hour. Let cool; transfer to a very large bowl.

Meanwhile, melt 3/4 cup butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add onions and celery. Stir often until just beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Add to bowl with bread; stir in herbs, salt, and pepper. Drizzle in 1 1/4 cups broth and toss gently. Let cool.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Whisk 1 1/4 cups broth and eggs in a small bowl. Add to bread mixture; fold gently until thoroughly combined. Transfer to prepared dish, cover with foil, and bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of dressing registers 160°F, about 40 minutes. (Note: Dressing can be made one day ahead up to this point. Uncover the dressing, let cool, then cover again and chill. The next day, proceed with the final bake as described below.)

Take a portion of the dressing and stuff into turkey while roasting. Bake dressing, uncovered, until set and top is browned and crisp, 40-45 minutes longer (if chilled, add 10-15 minutes).

Classic Roast Turkey


1 18-lb. frozen turkey

Fresh herbs (such as thyme, rosemary, and sage)

2 large carrots, coarsely chopped

2 celery stalks, coarsely chopped

1 onion, coarsely chopped

Nonstick vegetable oil spray

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter


½ gallon hot tap water

⅔ cup sugar

8 lb. ice (which is a gallon of water)

16 cups (128 oz.) vegetable broth


1 cup water

1 cup low-sodium chicken broth



Place wrapped turkey in a 5-gallon cooler with a drain spout. Place cooler in a bathtub and cover turkey with cold water. Drain and replace water every 2–3 hours, keeping water temperature below 40°, until turkey has thawed, 8–10 hours.


Clean cooler with soap and water, then pour in hot tap water, salt, and sugar. Stir thoroughly to dissolve salt and sugar. Then stir in ice and vegetable broth.

Unwrap thawed turkey and remove any parts (such as neck, organs, etc.) that may be inside cavity. These may be saved for gravy.

Place turkey in brine breast side up. If turkey floats, fill a 1-gallon resealable plastic bag with water and place it on top of turkey. Set cooler, lid closed, in a cool place, turning turkey over once if possible, 8–12 hours. Check brining liquid periodically with probe thermometer; if temperature is above 40°, add a few freezer packs that have been enclosed in resealable plastic bags.

Remove turkey from brine, rinse under cold water, and pat dry with paper towels. Do not stuff turkey.


Remove all oven racks except for one. Set this rack in the next-to-the-lowest position. Preheat oven to 500°.

Loosely pack turkey with a combination of herbs, carrots, celery, and onion. Keep packing loose.

Place turkey, breast side up, on a V-shaped rack set inside a large roasting pan. Cut a piece of foil big enough to cover the turkey’s breast. Mold piece to breast. Remove foil, then grease with spray.

Rub butter between your hands until liberally greased (you may use disposable gloves if desired). Rub butter into turkey. You may need to re-butter your hands a couple times in order to get a nice, even coating.

Place turkey in oven, neck end first and breast up. Roast turkey until nicely browned, 30–40 minutes. Apply foil to breast of turkey. Insert thermometer probe directly through foil into deepest part of breast.

Reduce oven temperature to 350° and return turkey to oven, foil securely in place. Do not open oven to baste turkey. Roast until probe registers 161° for breast and 181° for thigh, 2–2½ hours.

Cover turkey with foil and let rest 30 minutes. Save pan drippings for gravy.

Carve turkey.


Mix pan drippings with water, chicken broth, and cornstarch. Heat in a small saucepan over medium until thickened.

Cranberry Sauce

12 oz. cranberries
1 c sugar

1 strip orange or lemon zest

2 tbsp. water

Sugar, salt,  and pepper to taste 

Empty a 12-ounce bag of fresh or frozen cranberries into a saucepan and transfer 1/2 cup to a small bowl. Add 1 cup sugar, 1 strip orange or lemon zest and 2 tablespoons water to the pan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and the cranberries are soft, about 10 minutes. Increase the heat to medium and cook until the cranberries burst, about 12 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the reserved cranberries. Add sugar, salt and pepper to taste and cool to room temperature before serving.

Apple Pie

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

6 to 7 cups thinly sliced peeled tart apples

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Pastry for double-crust pie

1 tablespoon butter

1 large egg white

Additional sugar

In a small bowl, combine the sugars, flour and spices; set aside. In a large bowl, toss apples with lemon juice. Add sugar mixture; toss to coat. 

Line a 9-in. pie plate with bottom crust; trim even with edge. Fill with apple mixture; dot with butter. Roll remaining crust to fit top of pie; place over filling. Trim, seal and flute edges. Cut slits in crust.

Beat egg white until foamy; brush over crust. Sprinkle with sugar. Cover edges loosely with foil. 

Bake at 375° for 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly, 20-25 minutes longer. Cool on a wire rack.


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