If much of your family’s Thanksgiving menu originated with Ina Garten, you wouldn’t be alone. Ina’s puréed lemony potatoes, her cacio e pepe cheese puffs and her turkey breast roulade with garlic and rosemary are classics with a twist. They are why she’s so beloved, especially around the holidays.
This year, New York Times Cooking asked Ina to try something a little different. We challenged her to recreate Thanksgiving classics using premade ingredients like seasoned stuffing mix, canned cranberry sauce and refrigerated, packaged mashed potatoes.
The article and the delightful video reveal the results. Spoiler alert: She approved! After the exhaustion she and many home cooks have felt over the last few years, Ina said, “Whatever you need to do to get Thanksgiving dinner on the table is OK.” Permission to chill this holiday, granted.
Her recipes include Parmesan mashed potatoes; a wonderfully chunky cranberry sauce; a rich mushroom and Gruyère bread pudding; Bourbon chocolate pecan pie; cranberry martinis with plumped dried cranberries added to the glasses; and, as the centerpiece, a make-ahead roast turkey with gravy, onions and sage (above).
Roasting your turkey earlier in the day is a sensible strategy for preparing the bird, in contrast to some of the wackier methods cooks have devised over the years. There’s been the flaming bag, the wet T-shirt and the unreliable plastic pop-up gizmo of my youth that, as the culinary historian Laura Shapiro notes, is “a solution that doesn’t solve a problem.”
Kim Severson goes deep into these gimmicks in her latest piece for The Times. Ever since an 1824 cookbook suggested rubbing cold lard on the turkey for crisper skin, Kim writes, Americans have searched for innovative ways “to make a bird five times the size of a chicken taste delicious.”
Although cooks have been trying to re-engineer the turkey for generations, stuffing hasn’t received that kind of attention. Eric Kim sought to rectify this. In a brilliant gambit, he made 20 different stuffings (and dressings), and then decided which components to reconfigure into his essential American Thanksgiving stuffing recipe. There’s a charming video, too.
But you still have over a week’s worth of meals before Turkey Day. You could try Ali Slagle’s latest pasta recipe, with a marinara containing 40 cloves of garlic (yup, you read that right). Nargisse Benkabbou has a new recipe for Moroccan chicken mhammer, the legs braised in a sweet and savory sauce. And for something sweet, spicy and chile-laden, J. Kenji López-Alt’s Sichuan chile crisp sundae takes you far, far away from pumpkin spice land.
You will need a subscription to get these along with the other thousands of recipes available at New York Times Cooking. (And remember, for a limited time your subscription is on sale.) You can also find us on Instagram, YouTube and TikTok, where you can learn how to make our ever popular Thanksgiving side dish, roasted brussels sprouts with garlic (the recipe is here).
Strange to say, but Thanksgiving isn’t my only November obsession. I am also an enthusiastic autumn leaf collector. I start in October, when the first red-gold beauties swirl down on windy afternoons. By November they’re everywhere, scattered on stoops, atop car hoods, under park benches. The best ones end up in my leaf press, but I have exacting criteria — contrasting colors like blueish-green edging on an amber cherry leaf and shapes like dancing spiders. It’s the last vibrant explosion before the branches go bare for the winter plant nap, like a lavish Thanksgiving pie course before everyone dozes off.
You’d think any leaf lover would be sad to see trees wrapped up like gimmicky turkeys, but you’d be mistaken. The artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, who have a long history of wrapping trees, are the subjects of five wonderful short documentaries on the Criterion Channel. Watch these for an excellent break this holiday season now that Ina has given you back some time.
Sam will be here to greet you on Friday, and I’ll be back on Monday.