Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it’s so simple and so pure. It’s about cooking, eating and sharing. Period.
Unlike some holidays, Thanksgiving results in very little waste (apple and onion peels can be composted), and as for leftovers—well, leftovers are kind of the point, aren’t they? Turkey sandwiches, pie in the fridge and reheated stuffing. Yum.
I also have a lot of respect for the Thanksgiving traditions. When I think of the effort it must have taken to pluck, clean and roast a bird or to bake a pie 400 years ago, I’m in awe. And when it comes to this celebration, many of us—no matter how busy we are—have the urge to get back to those basics and mindfully prepare a nourishing, heartfelt meal.
Returning to basics, in fact, was the inspiration for these recipes. I took my cue from the folks at Slow Food, a group that advocates eating seasonal, local and organic foods as much as possible. Founded in 1986 in Italy, the now international Slow Food movement encourages us to make smart choices at the market—choices that affect our physical and emotional health and the planet’s well-being.
As farmer poet Wendell Berry says, “eating is an agricultural act.” This year, why not try an heirloom bird, some old-fashioned apples or maybe just some local honey? Each step makes a delicious difference.
Organic and heirloom birds have a more pronounced (read: less bland) “turkey” flavor. (Organic poultry is raised on certified organic feed or grass and contains no antibiotics, growth hormones or artificial flavors and colors.) Basted with a cider-Port mixture, the skin bakes up brown and slightly sweet. Apple-flavored gravy is rich and tangy. You will need to make the stuffing and glaze first.
The sage, thyme, leeks and sausage in this stuffing serve as savory foils to the slightly sweet gravy. The stuffing can be prepared up to a day ahead, but don’t place it inside the bird until ready to roast. Bring the stuffing to room temperature (for an hour) before stuffing the turkey.
This sweet-tart condiment, made with both fresh and dried cranberries, can be prepared up to four days in advance.
This version of a Thanksgiving classic has a jazzy cookie crust and rich topping.