The Atlantic Daily: Five Easy Ways to Reset Your Thanksgiving Menu

We take a quick break from the news cycle, 13 days before showtime. Plus: why Taylor Swift’s new album is “a turducken of nostalgia.”

A closeup of a pumpkin pie with walnuts and a slice missing
Corbis via Getty

For many people, cooking Thanksgiving dinner means reaching for the tried and true. But even the classics can benefit from a refresh sometimes. (Just ask Taylor Swift.)

In other words, you have our permission to rotate in a new dish or update your favorites. Below, Atlantic cooks offer personal tips and inspiration. Just be sure to get your plans in order before the holiday rush on grocery stores.

Make your main vegetarian.

If your family is thinking about skipping meat at Thanksgiving this year, a great substitute is Deborah Madison’s mushroom galette, from her indispensable cookbook Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. The galette itself is delicious, but what I really love is that it includes a rich tomato-mushroom gravy that you can use to dress each slice. Something about having gravy on the table gives the meal a traditional Thanksgiving feel, even without a turkey in sight.

— Rebecca J. Rosen, senior editor

Tame your cranberry sauce.

This year, when you’re making your cranberry sauce, throw a couple of pounds of peeled and diced apples into the pot while it’s simmering, and proceed as normal. The result is sweeter and milder than the traditional Thanksgiving side, so it won’t repel picky eaters, and it gets better the longer it sits in the fridge, meaning you can prep it whenever you have a spare half hour. Just try to save some for the actual holiday.

— Karen Ostergren, deputy copy chief

Soup up your gravy.

MSG is basically the cooking equivalent of that moment in action movies when the hero presses a button, and his car starts going a gazillion miles an hour while shooting flames from the exhaust pipe. It’s been a staple of East Asian cooking for decades, and is now becoming more widely available at well-stocked U.S. grocery stores. A teaspoon or two will make your gravy taste Facetuned and your guests lose their mind trying to figure out how you did it.

— Ellen Cushing, special projects editor

Swap turkey for duck.

Turkey, whether roasted or fried, requires brining, basting, and constant temperature checks. You know a much less labor-intensive bird? Duck. It’s practically all dark meat (which is the best part of any bird), the skin can be made crispy relatively easily, and you will use almost all the meat. And once rendered, the leftover fat is the not-so-well-kept secret to a lot of dishes. I’m partial to using it in potatoes.

— A. C. Valdez, senior podcast producer

Delete dairy from your pumpkin pie.

Baking for the milk-averse may sound complicated. But in this case, it’s a simple two-step process: (1) swapping heavy cream for coconut cream, and (2) adjusting your pie crust, if needed. (Not all pie crusts contain dairy, and even those that do may offer substitutions.) Every year, I make this rum-spiced version of the classic dessert (first recommended to me by my colleague Yoni Appelbaum), and every year I hide half the pan for myself.

— Caroline Mimbs Nyce, senior associate editor and Daily newsletter writer

Orange leaved trees surround a lake in Vermont
Tayfun Coskun / Anadolu Agency / Getty

Explore fall. Our senior editor Alan Taylor offers a tour of autumn around the world, through photographs.

Read. For the science-minded: A pair of new books explore how animals are already adapting to climate change. And The Dawn of Everything offers a dramatic retooling of human history.

If you’re looking for essays, Emily Ratajkowski’s My Body is “a fascinating work: insightful, maddening, frank, strikingly solipsistic,” Sophie Gilbert explains.

Watch. Belfast, in theaters, is a sweet movie-memoir from the filmmaker Kenneth Branagh that “sacrifices some profundity” to stay faithful to his story. Passing, on Netflix, is an unusually gentle movie about a brutal subject.

HBO’s Succession continues to find soul and humor in cousin Greg’s linguistic blunders. Find more options for your streaming queue with our fall TV guide.

Listen. Taylor Swift dropped a rerecording of her 2012 album, Red. The new version is “a turducken of nostalgia,” our critic Spencer Kornhaber tells me, that “makes her lyrics about heartbreak and memory sound even dreamier than they did in 2012.”

Turning to podcasts: Arthur C. Brooks talked with the palliative-care physician BJ Miller for this week’s How to Build a Happy Life episode on living with pain. On The Review, our critics discuss whether the new Princess Diana movie depicts the person or just her public image.

Remember, no one cares. So stop worrying about what other people think.