Every year, Americans wrestle with yet another round of seemingly ever more complex Thanksgiving dilemmas.
Cranberry sauce — canned or DIY? Mashed potatoes with skins or without? And is a potato “ricer” really that much better than a masher? Make the gravy, or just fake it? What about dinner rolls? Will anyone notice if you serve store-bought? What if they are organic, whole-wheat, store-bought rolls? Or maybe gluten-free?
None of that even begins to address the many turkey-centric issues. Brine it or rub it with salt? Heirloom or free-range? Both? Roasted, smoked, fried or grilled? Stuffing in or on the side? Speaking of stuffing, is the bagged stuff OK, or is it really vital to bake the bread in order to make the croutons to make the stuffing? And if you’re already baking, should you make the pies from scratch, too?
All of that can lead you to the most important question — Is the pizza joint open?
This year, might we suggest a little less overthinking? Boil some potatoes until they are tender, then smash them with anything handy. As long as you add gobs of butter and milk, they’ll be fine. As for the cranberry sauce, nobody will eat it anyway, so stick with the can. The rolls? Delegate and outsource. Tell relatives that if they want a seat at the table, come bearing buns. Now the dilemma is their problem.
For the turkey, the gravy and the pie problems, we have you covered with three ridiculously easy recipes that will ensure you have a fuss-free Thanksgiving. For the gravy, we fake it — with stunning results. For the turkey, we take a just-roast-the-stupid-thing-and-move-on approach. And our apple “pockets” take the pain out of pie baking.
That’s right: Thanksgiving really can be a simple affair.
Back-to-Basics Turkey 12- to 14-pound turkey
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
Salt and ground black pepper
2 large heavy-duty disposable roasting pans
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Remove the giblets and neck from the turkey cavity, if present. Rub the bird all over with the butter, then sprinkle it generously with salt and pepper.
Stack the disposable roasting pans one inside the other (for greater stability). Arrange the turkey in the roasting pan, breast side up. Roast for 2 to 21/2 hours. The temperature of the breast should reach 160 degrees, and the thigh should reach 170 degrees. If the turkey begins to darken too much, place foil over the top.
Remove the turkey from the oven, and cover with foil, if not already covered. Place several towels over the foil to keep the turkey warm. Let the turkey rest for 15 minutes.
Nutrition information per serving: 450 calories; 220 calories from fat (49 percent of total calories); 24 g fat (9 g saturated; 0 g trans fat); 200 mg cholesterol; 0 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 0 g sugar; 55 g protein; 360 mg sodium. Speedy Gravy 1 quart unsalted chicken or turkey stock
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and quartered
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
1 tablespoon low-sodium bouillon paste (sold in a jar near the broths and stocks)
2 tablespoons butter, softened
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
In a medium pan over medium-high, combine the stock with the onion, poultry seasoning and bouillon paste. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the butter and flour to form a thick paste. Use a slotted spoon to remove the onion from the stock, and discard. Whisk in the flour-butter paste, then return the gravy to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, whisking frequently. Season with salt and pepper.
Nutrition information per serving: 40 calories; 20 calories from fat (50 percent of total calories); 2 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fat); 5 mg cholesterol; 4 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 1 g sugar; 1 g protein; 25 mg sodium. Easy Apple Pie Pockets 14.1-ounce package rolled pie crusts (contains 2 crusts)
2 medium apples, peeled, cored and sliced
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg white
1 teaspoon water
Sugar, for sprinkling
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with kitchen parchment.
Cut each pie crust into quarters. In a medium bowl, toss together the apple slices, brown sugar and cinnamon. Divide the apple mixture between the eight pieces of dough, heaping them in the center.
In a small bowl, beat the egg white with the water until frothy. Brush the edges of the dough with the egg white, then gather the edges up over the apple filling and pinch to seal together to form little bundles. Brush the outside of the bundles with more egg white, then sprinkle with sugar. Arrange the pie pockets on the prepared baking sheet, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool slightly before serving.
Nutrition information per serving: 260 calories; 120 calories from fat (46 percent of total calories); 13 g fat (6 g saturated; 0 g trans fat); 10 mg cholesterol; 34 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 10 g sugar; 2 g protein; 190 mg sodium.Start to finish: 3 hours Start to finish: 20 minutes | Servings: 12 Start to finish: 40 minutes (15 minutes active) | Servings: 8