Thanksgiving is, perhaps, the most tradition-bound of holidays. Many of us, for example, had a fairly good idea in, say, the year 2002 what we’d be eating on the fourth Thursday in November 2012. And if the culinary exigencies of this holiday are stressful for the cook, well, that’s tradition, too.
It’s time to mess with the stress and take a tip (or two) from Ina Garten, a.k.a. “The Barefoot Contessa.” In her new book, “Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust” (Clarkson Potter, 2012), Garten describes a “foolproof” recipe as one that not only works (“that goes without saying”) but also results in “a dish that’s deeply satisfying to eat.” Her chapter on a “Foolproof Thanksgiving” offers a number of tips, including:
• Choose a menu that fits your oven space. Pick recipes for side dishes (such as those below) that can be made ahead and kept warm on top of the stove or reheated in the oven while the turkey rests.
• Use a meat thermometer. The turkey is done when you get a reading of 165 degrees in the breast and 180 degrees in the thigh. Remove the turkey from the oven, cover it tightly with aluminum foil and let it rest 25 to 30 minutes. Carve and serve drizzled with pan juices (no need for last-minute gravy making).
• A stuffed turkey takes longer to cook, which in turn means the turkey will be drier. Instead, throw a quartered onion and lemon into the cavity and make the stuffing on the side.
• Don’t serve appetizers. Offer a glass of wine or champagne, plus some salted cashews and good olives.
• Ask each friend to bring a dessert. They’ll feel that you trusted them to bring something special, and then everyone gets to enjoy his or her favorite.
Go ahead, mess with the stress. Consider it the beginning of a new tradition.