Follow our planning, shopping and cooking strategies for a dinner full of traditional favorites.
by Michael Brisson
Thanksgiving dinner is tricky: You've got to please everybody with traditional favorites, but you still want the food to be special. And cooking a huge menu midweek translates into a lot of work. That's why, to create a menu that's both elegant and do-able, I tackled the project the way I would at my restaurant on Martha's Vineyard. My kitchen is quite small, and I have to be really organized. I start by making a list of the ingredients I'll need, and then I make a work list for each of the dishes, prioritizing it by how far in advance each of the steps can be done.
This menu is challenging—which is also why it's so delicious—but it's very do-able, and everyone from your pickiest family members to your most sophisticated guests will enjoy it. The do-ahead recipes, like the buttercup squash soup, and our timeline will help free you up so you can cook your best and enjoy your meal.
Download a pdf
of this menu, including all recipes, shopping list and timeline.
Start early to make life easier—and the food taste better—on Thanksgiving Day.
Because this menu is all about advance preparation, the shopping list is broken down by day instead of types of groceries.
This elegant yet comforting Thanksgiving dinner gives you plenty of latitude in choosing wines that will please everyone. For this all-American celebration, drink American, too. If you can splurge a bit and uncork some truly fine bottles, you might even unglue those diehard armchair quarterbacks from the TV.
For the soup, bring out the buttery, roasty flavors of squash, sherry, and butter with a big, buttery Chardonnay like Ferrari-Carano or Rutz (both from Sonoma) or Cakebread from Napa. “Buttery” Chardonnays get that way through a winemaking step called malolactic fermentation, which creates a smooth, creamy mouth-feel and the same flavor substance found in butter. Buttery Chardonnay pairs beautifully with the turkey, picking up on the apples, butter, and pecans in the stuffing, as well as with the side dishes. Except for the salad and dessert, Chardonnay covers the whole menu.
If you’d rather cut through the richness with something tart, go with a crisp Pinot Gris such as Oregon’s Adelsheim or Erath. A high-end domestic sparkler such as Le Rêve from Domaine Carneros, Etoile from Domaine Chandon, or L’Ermitage from Roederer Estate will go with both the soup and the main course while adding to the festive mood.
But if you prefer red, a peppery Pinot Noir would be delicious. Look for Saintsbury Reserve of Carneros, Gary Farrell from Sonoma, Oregon’s Domain Drouhin, or Fox Run from New York’s Finger Lakes.
For the fruit crisp dessert, pick a wine with good, tangy acidity and sweetness to match the topping. Try Husch’s late harvest Gewürztraminer from Mendocino, Vignoles from Stone Hill Vineyards in Missouri, or Château Elan peach wine from Georgia. —Rosina Tinari Wilson
Photo: Photo: Ben Fink
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