Like, I suspect, many families, we'll be splitting our Thanksgivings this year. Today we drive to Connecticut to my family's for our annual Thanksgiving in the woods, with whatever my cousins and uncle and nephews and nieces have decided to make this year in their annual cooperative/competitive cooking ventures. I am glad, I admit, that the propane tank and turkey deep-frying apparatus has long been consigned to a storage shed. Every piece of deep-fried turkey, from no matter how deep in the bird, tastes deep-fried and industrially processed. I don't think anybody liked it, and we all voted for roasted disequity. (We, like every cook I've talked to this year, prefer the presentation of whole birds, whatever the wisdom of separately roasting the delicate breast and the longer-cooking drumsticks and thighs.)
Tomorrow we wake up for our own morning marathon of cooking for a combined-families Thanksgiving with my stepchildren and their mother and assorted friends, and we're planning our own cooperative/competitive cooking ventures this morning. My stepson just reported in that he's begun a broccoli-egg souffle-casserole, with a friend; my stepdaughter has ordered sweet potatoes and organic, gluten-free marshmallows for the combination that, however health-minded, she understandably insists on; their mother has wisely ordered a turkey long in advance from our favorite local store, City Feed, and will kindly roast it.
Of course, this all requires advice and guidance. And reading. For enlightenment and did-you-know table talk, don't miss Alexis Madrigal and Rebecca Greenfield's delightful slideshow of nine wild inventions for Thanksgiving prep that never quite made it off the drawing boards, for reasons you'll understand; James McWilliams's thoughtful consideration of the intelligent, sociable turkey, just the thing to bring up as your most carnivorous relatives dig into the piece they fought everyone else to get; and John Hendel's first-off-the-block summary of the New York City Health Department's getting Butterball to play ball with its sodium-lowering initiative.
If you want initiate a gross new tradition, follow the questionable example that Katherine Mangu-Ward and I admit to regarding canned cranberry sauce in our Bloggingheads Thanksgiving match-up. We both had confessional fun, and then tussled over tap water and Four Loko (she writes for Reason and is an avowed libertarian). And for some pie-crust reassurance, you can hear the always calm and confident Joanne Chang on a pre-Thanksgiving special I got to co-anchor with Emily Rooney on her daily show (I'm a regular guest, which is fun). As always, I've got a carful of pies from the annual Community Servings Pie in the Sky, from generous bakers all over Boston. Not too late to make a donation!
For your own cooking, look first at our Thanksgiving extravaganza, which should answer any last-minute need for mains, sides, and dessert. I myself am longing to make and try Aglaia Kremezi's Greek and Italian versions of cornbread, either orange-scented or savory with cheese and hot peppers. And might ransack the pantry and freezer for the ingredients.
To allay right-now cooking angst, apply to Sam Sifton's now-annual, and always funny, Thanksgiving help line at the Times, which began the day this way:
Good morning, everyone. Just finished the cranberry sauce for later, put it in the fridge to set up, and biked to the IRT to come to work. Sat on the platform for 45 minutes waiting with the whiners trying to get to Penn and wondering if they should leave the station and go find a yellow cab, reading the tabs and realizing how different my life is from theirs.
And how you doing?
He's always got reassuring advice on the most vexing questions, which seem to be thawing and roasting birds and getting cranberry sauce to jell.
My immediate concern? The Brussels sprouts and cauliflower I got at the Jamaica Plain farmers' market, all of it still beautiful if getting smaller, and I bet more intensely flavored, as cold weather sets in. Planning to blacken the halved sprouts in a hot cast-iron pan in bacon fat, but also tempted for the all-over-browned intensity of roasting. Votes? Tell us everything about your own cooperative/competitive ventures—and happy cooking!
Corby Kummer and Reason's Katherine Mangu-Ward discuss canned cranberry sauce, Four Loko, Michelle Obama, and more during their Thanksgiving Bloggingheads.tv matchup: