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No-Fuss Thanksgiving Dinner Menu

To determine what a traditional Thanksgiving dinner menu ought to include, I took an informal and unscientific poll among friends and colleagues.

Just about everyone agreed on a juicy turkey with crisp brown skin and stuffing, of course (although one friend claimed that a tough, dry bird was part of his holiday since childhood, so he purposely overcooks his).

With the exception of mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce, though, the “must haves” for side dishes varied, from green-bean casserole to candied yams with marshmallows.

Of course, everyone wanted a delicious and special feast, but not a back-breaker — they wanted time to spend with family and friends. So I pulled out some of my own family’s favorite dishes and looked at some seasonal classics and made them all a little less fussy — but still gratifying.

As for the bird itself, my years of turkey cooking have proven to me what we all know: The white breast meat tends to cook first and dry out, while the thighs take a bit longer. Try these remedies to keep the meat moist:

If you’re cooking for a crowd, use smaller birds — two 14-pounders, say — and roast one the day before. The next day, take the preroasted bird out of the refrigerator an hour before you put it in the oven, and then heat it at 250 degrees for an hour.

Cover the breast with foil or cheesecloth soaked in chicken or turkey stock. (Remove it during the last 45 minutes of cooking so the skin browns nicely.)

Basting helps, too. I doubt the juices penetrate the skin or add to moistness, but the liquid will evaporate off the skin and cool things down a bit as the bird cooks away.

Brine your bird, or buy a kosher turkey. I rely on brining — I think it delivers a consistently juicy and delicious roast every time.

Thanksgiving Timeline for this Menu

Updated Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

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6 Responses to No-Fuss Thanksgiving Dinner Menu

  1. Elizabeth Fisk November 13, 2008 at 8:45 pm #

    Thanksgiving isn’t complete without Turnip and Boiled Onions…………

  2. George C.- Clapp,Sr November 28, 2008 at 12:51 pm #

    How do you brine a turkey?

  3. Susan Ward November 21, 2009 at 8:31 pm #

    Cornbread stuffing? Look out, Yankee Magazine–you’re turning into Southern Living. Corn meal is for johnnycakes, not stuffing! My Rhode Island and Massachusetts grandmothers always used a firm white bread such as Pepperidge Farm (or homemade), lots of onions, salt and pepper, and plenty of Bell’s Seasoning, made in East Weymouth, Massachusetts. Now, that’s a Yankee recipe!

    • Marilyn Wilcox November 23, 2014 at 8:31 pm #

      No corn bread here! We’re on the west coast, but my family recipe comes out of Missouri roots. Good fresh white bread cubed and dried for a couple of days – with dried herbs, onions, celery, and the addition of sausage. My grandmother always used Bell’s seasoning, but I haven’t seen it in our markets for years! She also used the giblets – but that’s what we replaced with the sausage. Couldn’t ever quite enjoy the giblets like our older generations did! 😉

  4. Kathleen Sexton November 29, 2009 at 5:21 pm #

    I agree with the stuffing disagrement re: cornbread. I think my stuffing is made excellent by the fact that I use ONLY Bell’s seasoning, plus dried herbs. I once made the “perfect” stuffing with the addition of frozen peas to the simmering onions and celery in butter, and have been trying for over 25 years to recreate that stuffing! That said, I still make a wonderful stuffing, and I find that cornbread, while good, is not a classic fresh bread Northeast stuffing. My children agree. Hudson Valley Kathleen

  5. Joan B Smith November 7, 2013 at 8:12 am #

    Having lived overseas, in the South and now for 25+ years in Connecticut, my family’s hands-down choice for Thanksgiving is Southern cornbread dressing. Our dressing is made with the drippings from the cooked turkey (not use brined turkey) along the chopped giblet and whatever meat can be gotten from the neck, poultry seasoning & celery, the mixture is very wet when it goes onto the oven – resulting in a wonderful turkey-flavored dressing casserole. But since dressing is my favorite dish I also each year make a more south of the Mason-Dixon style of white bread with cranberries or raisins, sausages, etc. I love ’em all.

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