Here is a blueprint for cooking an entire Thanksgiving meal over the course of one day in an oven and on the four burners above it. Just set the oven to 400 degrees. You’ll need to shop ahead of time, of course, but the rest of the work is sequential and not very difficult.
You can knock it out alone in about eight hours with breaks and lunch included, but an extra set of hands makes the work more enjoyable and the conversation better. It serves roughly eight to 10 people, with leftovers, even if you don’t make every dish.
8 a.m. The Day Begins
Make coffee. Take a pound of butter out of the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature. (You’ll need it.) Turn your oven to 400 degrees. Drink coffee. Start making lists. Then, season your turkey and put it into the fridge. You’ll retrieve it around 11 a.m., before cooking it at noon.
Sam’s Tip: Reserve the neck for stock. You might need it later in the day.
Make Your Life Easier: If you get a late start, proceed directly to the next dish, the apple gingersnap crumble. You can spatchcock the turkey later and have it done within an hour.
Roast Turkey With Orange and Sage
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
Total time: About 3 hours, plus resting
1 12- to 14-pound turkey, giblets removed
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
Zest of 1 orange
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1/2 of a 750-milliliter bottle dry white wine
2 cups orange juice
10 to 12 fresh sage leaves
1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Pat turkey dry with paper towel and place it on a rack in a roasting pan. In a small bowl or on a clean cutting board, mash the butter together with the orange zest, sage, garlic, salt and pepper to create a paste. Lift the turkey’s skin at the neck and gently use your hand to separate skin from breast meat. Rub about half of the compound butter under the skin, covering the breast meat. Rub the rest of the butter over the skin of the turkey and season with a little more salt and pepper.
2. Fold the wings of the turkey under the bird, and tie its legs together with butcher’s twine. Pour the wine and orange juice into the roasting pan, scatter the sage leaves over the liquid and carefully slide the pan into the oven.
3. Roast for about 2 to 3 hours, basting the bird every 30 minutes with drippings. Start checking the bird 1 hour and 45 minutes into cooking, and tent it with foil if skin is turning too dark. Cook until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh without touching bone registers 165 degrees.
Transfer to a cutting board or platter and allow to rest at least 30 minutes before carving.
8:20 a.m. Make the Crumble
Pictured: Apple gingersnap crumble. (Melina Hammer/The New York Times)
For one thing, it will make your kitchen smell delicious. For another, it sits well on the countertop once you’ve finished cooking it. You’ll want to taste the filling before you add it to the baking dish. The apples should be sweeter than you’d think, and the cranberries a little more tart. It’ll all work out in the oven.
Melissa’s Tip: This is wonderful at room temperature, so just leave it out after baking. If you want to, pop it back into the oven when you sit down to eat.
Make Your Life Easier: Tell someone else to bring dessert.
Apple Gingersnap Crumble
Yield: 12 servings
Total time: About 1 hour, plus cooling
For the filling:
1/2 cup/100 grams dark brown sugar, plus more to taste
1/3 cup/75 grams granulated sugar, plus more to taste
3 tablespoons/20 grams cornstarch
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
6 pounds/2 3/4 kilograms apples, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices (about 11 large)
1 cup/80 grams fresh or frozen cranberries
2 tablespoons/30 milliliters lemon juice
2 tablespoons/29 grams cold unsalted butter, cubed
For the topping:
2 cups/250 grams all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups/250 grams dark brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
10 tablespoons/142 grams unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoon/20 milliliters molasses
For the bourbon cream:
2 cups/473 milliliters cold heavy cream
1 to 2 tablespoons/7 to 15 grams confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon/15 milliliters bourbon
1. Make the filling: Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, stir together brown and granulated sugars, cornstarch, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Stir in apples and cranberries, sprinkle with lemon juice, and toss until combined. Taste mixture: An apple slice should be slightly sweeter than you’d like; the cranberries will seem like they need a little extra sugar. Add more sugar or lemon juice if needed.
2. Scrape apple mixture into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish or a shallow gratin dish, mounding them slightly in the center. (This will even out as it bakes.) Dot top with cold butter cubes. Place baking dish on a baking sheet to catch any bubbling juices that may spill over.
3. Bake for 25 minutes, stirring once halfway through, while you make the topping.
4. Make the topping: In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, salt and lemon zest. Add butter and molasses, and use your fingers to crumble the mixture together to form 1/2-inch crumbles.
5. After 25 minutes of baking, stir the apples and mound slightly again. Gently press down on them with a spoon or spatula. Scatter crumbles evenly on top of apples.
6. Bake until topping is crisp and filling bubbles up around the sides of the dish, an additional 30 to 35 minutes. If the top starts to look too dark before the juices are bubbling, loosely cover top of crumble with foil. Transfer to a rack and let cool for at least 30 minutes before serving. If you made it ahead of time, you can also reheat the crumble at 400 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes.
7. Within an hour of serving, make the bourbon cream. Using an electric mixer or a whisk, beat together cream, confectioners’ sugar and bourbon until soft peaks form. Chill if not serving immediately. Serve with apple crumble.
9 a.m. Prepare the Cranberry Sauce
While the crumble bakes, get the cranberries going on the stovetop. They need a few hours to set up in the refrigerator. If you’d prefer a classic version of the dish, omit the red wine, ginger and black pepper, and add a cup of orange juice.
Sam’s Tip: If the sauce doesn’t seem to be thickening, cook it for a few minutes longer, so that more berries burst, releasing the pectin that causes it to jell.
Make Your Life Easier: Make the cranberry sauce a few days ahead. It keeps well in the refrigerator.
Red Wine Cranberry Sauce
Yield: 10 to 12 servings
Time: 30 minutes, plus chilling
2 (12-ounce) packages fresh cranberries (6 cups)
1 3/4 cups dark brown sugar
1 cup dry red wine
3 tablespoons honey
4 (1/4 -inch-thick) slices fresh ginger, smashed
Pinch of kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
In a medium pot over medium heat, combine the cranberries, sugar, red wine, 1⁄2 cup water, honey, ginger and salt. Simmer gently until most of the cranberries have popped and the sauce is thick and syrupy, 20 to 30 minutes. Stir in the black pepper. Chill thoroughly before serving.
9:30 a.m. Take a Break
Make more coffee. Read the newspaper. (Thanks!) Or, just as likely, go to the store for the ingredient you forgot.
10 a.m. Make the Dressing
This is a very flavorful side dish that comes together quickly. Cover it when it’s done, and you can reheat it later, uncovered and drizzled with turkey stock or drippings from the roasting pan. It should be crusty on top and moist beneath.
Sam’s Tip: Buy chorizo that is cured and dried. The fresh version works but is not as flavorful.
Make Your Life Easier: The better the bread you use, the better the dressing. We include the thick crust, but you could certainly omit it.
Chorizo Dressing With Leeks
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
Total time: 1 1/2 hours
5 to 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 (1 1/2-pound) loaf crusty bread, halved and sliced into thumb-thick slices
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large leeks, trimmed, cleaned and sliced into 1/4-inch half-moons (approximately 3 cups)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
6 ounces dry (cured) chorizo, skin removed, quartered lengthwise and chopped
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon sweet (dulce) smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3 to 4 cups chicken or turkey stock, divided
1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Generously butter one or two large sheet pans. Spread the bread pieces out on the pan or pans. Bake in the oven, tossing occasionally, until well toasted, about 15 to 20 minutes, rotating the pans and turning the bread about halfway through. Remove sheet pans and allow to cool.
2. Place a large skillet over medium heat and swirl the olive oil into it. When it shimmers, add leeks, salt, black pepper and red pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks have softened, about 10 to 15 minutes. (If the leeks begin to stick to the pan, you can add a couple tablespoons of water here to prevent them from burning.) Add chorizo and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until it softens and begins to redden the leeks, an additional 5 to 7 minutes. Add vinegar to the pan to deglaze it, cook for a minute or so, then dump mixture into a large bowl.
3. Add smoked paprika and oregano, mix well, then tear and crumble the toasts into bite-sized pieces, add them to the bowl and stir to combine. Add turkey or chicken stock, a cup at a time, mixing as you go, until the dressing is moist but not entirely wet. Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter, drizzle it over the bread mixture, and gently fold to combine.
4. Transfer the dressing to a well-buttered 9-by-13-inch baking pan and bake in the oven for 45 to 50 minutes, until crusty on top and at the edges. Add a little more turkey stock as needed to keep it from drying out.
11 a.m. Bake the Sweet Potato Gratin
Sweet Potato and Gruyère Gratin. (Melina Hammer/The New York Times)
You can arrange the potato slices precisely, as if auditioning for a job in a kitchen in France, or you can do so more casually, as if living in France. Don’t forget to take the turkey out of the refrigerator, so you can cook it at room temperature.
Melissa’s Tip: Use a mandoline to slice the sweet potatoes, holding each one in a dish towel to protect your fingertips.
Make Your Life Easier: Peel and slice the sweet potatoes the day before, and store in a sealable plastic bag in the refrigerator.
Sweet Potato and Gruyère Gratin
Yield: 12 servings
Total time: 1 1/2 hours
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pan and foil
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
2 cups heavy cream (or half-and-half)
3 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
3 fat cloves garlic, grated or minced
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 pounds sweet potatoes (about 4 large or 5 medium), peeled
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 2/3 cups/6 1/2 ounces grated Gruyère
1. Heat oven to 400 degrees and generously butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan or shallow gratin dish. Butter a piece of foil large enough to cover top of pan. Sprinkle Parmesan all over bottom of pan.
2. In a medium pot, bring cream, sage, rosemary, garlic, nutmeg and a pinch of salt to a simmer. Simmer until reduced by 1/4, about 10 minutes.
3. In a large, heatproof bowl, whisk eggs just enough to break them up. Slowly pour hot cream into eggs to combine, whisking while pouring, and reserve the mixture.
4. Meanwhile, using a mandoline or sharp knife, slice the potatoes into 1/8-inch-thick rounds.
5. Place 1 layer of potatoes in the pan, slightly overlapping as you go, using about a third of the slices. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste, then pour 1/3 of the egg mixture over potatoes. Top with 1/2 cup Gruyère. Repeat with another layer of potatoes, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, pepper and 1/3 egg mixture. Top with 1/2 cup Gruyère. Top with remaining potatoes, 1/4 teaspoon salt, pepper to taste, and remaining egg mixture (but not the remaining cheese). Press down to compact the potatoes. Cover with foil and bake until potatoes are tender, about 40 minutes, then remove foil, sprinkle top with remaining 2/3 cup Gruyère and bake until browned and bubbling, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool slightly, then serve.
Noon. The Turkey Goes Into the Oven
You’re about four hours from dinner. How are you doing? You may have missed breakfast. It’s time to eat lunch.
1 p.m. Do the Mashed Potato
A crowd favorite. We like a mix of baking potatoes and large Yukon Golds, and plenty of milk and butter. You can reheat them just before serving.
Sam’s Tip: If you’re careful not to overprocess the potatoes, which makes them gummy, you can use a stand mixer instead of a hand masher.
Make Your Life Easier: Don’t peel the potatoes. Some don’t like how that looks, but the taste is marvelous. Say you’re feeling rustic.
Classic Mashed Potatoes
Yield: 8 to 12 servings
Time: about 45 minutes
5 pounds potatoes, preferably a combination of russet (baking) potatoes and large Yukon Golds, or all Yukon Golds
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, more for dotting
2/3 cup whole milk
1. In a large pot, bring a gallon of water and 4 tablespoons salt to a boil over high heat. Peel and quarter potatoes and keep in cold water until ready to cook. (This can be done up to 4 hours in advance.) Add potatoes to boiling water and boil about 15 to 20 minutes, until soft; a knife should go in with almost no resistance. (It is better to overcook than to undercook.)
2. In a saucepan or microwave, heat butter and milk together until butter melts and mixture steams. Drain potatoes well and return to pot. Using an extruding masher or a ricer, mash hot potatoes until smooth. Lightly mix in about half of hot butter mixture, just until blended. Taste for salt and add more butter mixture until seasoned to your liking.
3. Stop here for fluffy potatoes. For creamy potatoes, keep stirring potato mixture, using a sturdy spoon to press it against sides and bottom of pot. Mix until dense and thick. For whipped potatoes, use a stand mixer to mash hot potatoes just until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add all the butter mixture and salt to taste, pulsing machine in short bursts at medium speed. When light and creamy, stop mixing immediately. (Potatoes can quickly become sticky.)
4. To keep hot until ready to serve, transfer to serving bowl, dot top with butter, cover tightly and keep in a warm place, like the back of the stove. Potatoes will stay hot for at least 30 minutes. To keep longer, place covered bowl in a pan holding about an inch of gently simmering water. Before serving, mix well.
1:30 p.m. Time to Make the Kale
The long, gentle braise infuses the greens with dark, smoky flavor, so don’t stint on the time needed to caramelize the tomato paste and pimentón.
Sam’s Tip: Do you have smoked paprika in your pantry already? Throw it out. It’s probably stale. This dish benefits from the punch of fresh spice.
Make Your Life Easier: Wash, dry and cut the kale the day before, and store wrapped in paper towels and a loose plastic bag until ready to cook.
Smoky Braised Kale With Tomato
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
Total time: 1 hour
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Spanish onions, peeled and diced
8 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 teaspoon hot smoked paprika (pimentón)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 cups turkey or chicken stock, ideally homemade or low-sodium
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, plus more to taste
4 (3/4-pound) bunches washed kale (any kind), thick stems discarded or cut into thin strips, leaves cut into thick strips (about 16 packed cups total)
1. Place a large, heavy-bottomed, high-sided pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add olive oil. When it shimmers, add onions and garlic and cook until they soften and begin to turn translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes.
2. Add tomato paste and smoked paprika, reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring frequently, until the paste begins to caramelize, about 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then add stock and vinegar, and allow to come to a boil.
3. Add half the kale, cover, and cook for a minute or two, until it wilts. Repeat with remaining kale. Stir to incorporate the onion mixture into the soft kale and simmer until tender, 20 to 30 minutes, partly covered. Season to taste with salt and pepper, drizzle with a little more vinegar, and serve.
2:15 p.m. Do You Really Need Salad?
Fennel-apple salad with walnuts. (Melina Hammer/The New York Times)
Melissa says yes. Sam says absolutely not. If you’re with Melissa, this is the moment to get one started. You’ll dress it right before serving.
Melissa’s Tip: Use a vegetable peeler to shave the Parmesan into wide, paper-thin strips.
Make Your Life Easier: Dressing can be made the day before, as can the toasted walnuts.
Fennel-Apple Salad With Walnuts
Yield: 10 servings
Total time: 10 minutes
3 tablespoons lemon juice, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 large fennel bulbs, thinly sliced on a mandoline
2 Granny Smith apples, halved and cored, thinly sliced on a mandoline
3 celery stalks, thinly sliced on a mandoline
1/3 cup fennel fronds or roughly chopped parsley leaves
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
2 1/2 ounces Parmesan, shaved with a vegetable peeler (about 2/3 cup)
1. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, salt and pepper. Slowly drizzle in oil, continuously whisking, until dressing is emulsified. Taste and add more lemon juice and/or salt if needed.
2. In a large bowl, toss the dressing with fennel, apple and celery. Fold in fennel fronds or parsley and walnuts. Top with Parmesan just before serving.
3 p.m. The Turkey Is Ready, or Nearly So
Roast turkey with orange and sage. (Melina Hammer/The New York Times)
Its internal temperature, taken at the deepest part of the thigh, should be around 160 degrees. It will rise to 165 while resting.
3:15 p.m. The Rest Is Gravy
Make the gravy with the drippings from the roasted turkey in the pan in which it was cooked. Combine flour with the fat to make a roux, and build your sauce from there.
Sam’s Tip: Use a finely ground “instant” flour to prevent lumps in the gravy, and add to its luxuriousness with some heavy cream at the end.
Make Your Life Easier: You can make a gravy ahead of time out of chicken stock and roux, and enhance it with turkey drippings on Thanksgiving Day.
Classic Pan Gravy
Yield: 5 to 6 cups
Time: 25 minutes
7 tablespoons turkey fat, left in roasting pan
6 tablespoons flour, preferably instant or all-purpose
1/2 cup white wine
4 to 5 cups turkey stock or chicken stock
Kosher salt and black pepper
1. Pour off all but 7 or so tablespoons turkey fat from the roasting pan, and set the pan on the stovetop over medium heat. Sprinkle the flour over the fat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is golden, 8 to 10 minutes.
2. Increase heat to medium-high and add a little white wine, whisking as you go to let it reduce. Slowly add stock, stirring constantly, until the mixture is smooth. Cook, continuing to stir, until the gravy has thickened, about 8 to 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3:40 p.m. Almost There
Put everything that needs to be reheated back in the oven for 15 minutes, covered, while you get ready to carve and serve. In the final minutes, carve the turkey, dress the salad, get everything out of the oven, put the gravy into a boat or two, and prepare to give thanks.
4 p.m. Dinner Is Served
Gather everyone around the table. Your work is done.