It’s the Super Bowl of food. No day of the year has the weight of Thanksgiving. And while for many of us it’s a time to be with family and friends, sit around the table, break (corn)bread, and make memories—being sure to record those memories on every social platform with filters and special effects used unsparingly—for those hosting, it can be as stressful as game day is for pro players.
How do you cook a magazine-cover-ready bird, along with stuffing/dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, sides, and pie, and have everything ready at the same time? For 20 people? With a table set, wine uncorked, and flowers arranged? Yes, it’s tough.
As the main (OK, only) real cook in my extended family and friends group, it has always fallen to me to produce Thanksgiving. And a production is what it has become. After days of shopping, cooking, and cleaning, I find myself giving thanks when it’s all over.
This year, it’s going to be different. I’m finally going to wise up and get advice from the pros—and actually follow it. For starters, I asked three chefs for their own turkey recipes, ones that they actually make at home on the big day. (I also got some of the chefs’ favorite gravies.) While fairly straightforward, their recipes offer innovative twists that make them stand out from the classics. David Guas of Bayou Bakery in Arlington, Virginia, soaks his turkey in an apple-cider brine before deep-frying it. Emily Brekke of North End Grill in New York City has been perfecting her technique since she was a teen, using a Champagne-stock mixture to great effect. Luke Verhulst of Reserve Wine & Food in Grand Rapids, Michigan, ups the creative factor by making a decadently moist yet crisp turkey confit.
When we tested the recipes in the Fine Cooking kitchens, we were beyond impressed. The birds were moist, crisp, and flavorful—that is, all the things turkeys generally aren’t. You’re going to be surprised by how exceptional these birds are. They might just replace your old standby. I know this year, one of them will replace mine.
Before you get started, though, read the chefs’ tips. They’ll ease the stress of the day and, yes, help you score big at the Super Bowl of food.