Essential Thanksgiving dinner recipes

Thanksgiving Central

Prepare a crowd-pleasing holiday spread with these Turkey Day recipes and techniques.

Published on November 7, 2016

Our collection of Thanksgiving recipes gets better every year, with many dishes that can be made in advance and more vegetarian and vegan offerings. Our special staff potluck choices for 2016 are included in this handy guide. Plan your Nov. 24 menu, watch how-to videos and join WaPo Food for a special two-hour online Free Range discussion on Nov. 23. We’ve got you covered!

FAQs: How big a turkey should I buy? What can I do with the leftovers? And more.

More menus: Make-ahead, last-minute, super-simple and other collections.

For more Thanksgiving recipes, visit the Recipe Finder.

This is how you carve a turkey.

Play Video

Carving a Thanksgiving turkey is easy. Seriously. Here's how to do it. (Jennifer Chase for The Washington Post)

The garlic that roasts inside this brined turkey creates a mellow, flavorful addition to the Thanksgiving plate.

We tested this with and without an oven roasting bag; the turkey had moist meat and crisped skin either way, but the bagged version cooked faster, was easier to clean up and softened the garlic more thoroughly. So we recommend using the oven roasting bag, per its package directions. We also recommend removing the wishbone before you roast the turkey; it makes for easier carving.

You’ll need an instant-read thermometer for monitoring the turkey and a nylon oven roasting bag large enough to accommodate a 14-pound bird. The manufacturer of the bag we bought does not recommend placing a roasting rack inside the bag, which is the technique we used; it didn’t cause problems for us, but if you want to make sure the bag doesn’t tear, seat the turkey on a bed of vegetables in the bag rather than in a rack.

Foolproof roast turkey

Play Video

(Washington Post Video)

POTLUCK TIP: To avoid spills, pour the pan drippings into a lidded container. Transport the turkey on the roasting rack, in a roasting pan, tented with aluminum foil. There is no need to reheat the turkey. (In fact, it might overcook the bird.) Reheat the turkey drippings on the stove for gravy or stuffing. Bring a carving board, carving tools and a serving platter.

Make Ahead: The turkey needs to be refrigerated in its brine for 8 to 12 hours.

Servings: 12

Ingredients:

FOR THE BRINE

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 bunch thyme
  • 2 heads garlic, each cut in half horizontally
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 8 cups ice

FOR THE TURKEY AND GARLIC CREAM

  • One 14-pound turkey, giblets and neck removed
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature; may substitute Amish smoked butter)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Peeled cloves from 4 heads garlic
  • Flour, for dusting
  • Kosher salt
  • Maple syrup

Directions:
For the brine: Combine the water, thyme, garlic, peppercorns, salt and brown sugar in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring until the salt and brown sugar have dissolved. Let cool until barely warm, then transfer to the receptacle you will use for brining the bird. Add the ice, then the turkey, breast side down. Cover or seal tightly, making sure the bird is submerged, and refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours.

Discard the brine, pat the turkey dry with paper towels and place it (breast side up) on a V-rack seated in a roasting pan to air-dry while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

To remove the wishbone, pull up the neck skin and use your fingers to locate the Y-shaped bone. Use a thin, sharp knife to make cuts along the curve of the bones on the inside and outside. Loosen the wishbone and pull it out.

Slather the bird inside and out with the butter, then season liberally with the pepper. Place the garlic cloves in the turkey cavity.

Dust the inside of the oven roasting bag with flour, then carefully place the turkey, on its rack, inside the bag, inside the roasting pan. Cut several slits in the top of the bag, and tuck in the bag all around in the pan. Roast for about 2 1/2 hours or until the internal temperature of the breast meat is 165 degrees and the temperature of the dark meat taken away from the bone registers 170 to 175 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.

Discard the bag and reserve the pan drippings (for gravy or stuffing). Let the turkey rest for 20 to 30 minutes before carving; meanwhile, transfer the softened garlic cloves to a food processor. Add a drizzle of maple syrup (to taste) and season lightly with pepper, then puree until smooth. Serve warm.

(Jennifer Chase for The Washington Post)

This rich gravy is mostly done in advance, which makes it potluck-friendly. The secret to its depth of flavor is a very dark roux. Madeira adds complexity.

The recipe is based on one from chef Ian Boden of the Shack in Staunton, Va., whose in-laws tasked him with re-creating a gravy he had never tasted from a matriarch he’d never had the chance to meet.

We tested the recipe with homemade and with store-bought broth, and we strongly recommend using homemade.

Make Ahead: The gravy can be made a day in advance; reheat over medium-low heat, with fresh roast turkey drippings stirred in just before serving.

Where to Buy: Raw turkey necks are available at Harvey’s Market in the District’s Union Market.

Servings: 12; makes 5 cups

Ingredients:

  • 2 to 3 pounds raw turkey necks and/or wings (not smoked)
  • 6 cups homemade chicken broth (see headnote)
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 small red onion, minced
  • 6 tablespoons Madeira
  • 8 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more as needed
  • 1 cup strained, defatted turkey drippings (may substitute 1 more cup of broth)

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place the turkey necks and/or wings on a baking sheet; roast for about 1 hour or until dark brown.

Bring the broth to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the roasted turkey parts, then reduce the heat to low and cook, partially covered, for 2 hours. Strain, discarding the solids. The yield is 4 cups.

Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the onion and cook for about 6 minutes or until it softens. Increase the heat to medium-high; add 2 tablespoons of the Madeira and cook for about 2 minutes or until it has evaporated. Transfer the onion to a plate.

Reduce the heat to medium; add the remaining 7 tablespoons of butter. Once that has melted, stir in the flour. Cook for about 30 minutes to develop a very dark brown roux with perhaps a few black flecks, stirring occasionally.

Quickly whisk in 1 cup of the broth; as soon as that is incorporated, whisk in the remaining 3 cups of broth. Return the onion to the pan, whisking to incorporate. Increase the heat to medium-high, whisking to form a thickened gravy. Add the teaspoon each of salt and pepper and the remaining 4 tablespoons of Madeira, whisking until smooth. Remove from the heat.

At this point, the gravy base can be refrigerated.

Just before serving, reheat over medium heat, stirring a few times to keep the gravy from scorching. Whisk in the cup of drippings. Taste, and add salt and/or pepper, as needed. Serve warm.

This recipe works as a base with three ways to customize, depending on your holiday crowd. For vegetarian options, see the VARIATIONS, below.

You’ll need two 9-by-13-inch baking pans.

Make Ahead: The bread cubes need to be left at room temperature to dry out for 3 days. The additions you choose may be prepared up to 1 day in advance. The stuffing can be assembled and refrigerated a day in advance.

Servings: 12

Ingredients:

FOR THE BASE

  • One 1-pound unsliced challah (see headnote)
  • Leaves from 12 stems fresh thyme (about 3 tablespoons)
  • Leaves from 3 stems fresh rosemary, minced (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)
  • 8 small sage leaves, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 cup packed, chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the pans
  • 3 cups no-salt-added vegetable or chicken or turkey broth
  • 1/2 cup turkey drippings or melted unsalted butter

FOR SAUSAGE-APPLE-ONION STUFFING

  • 1 pound maple breakfast sausage, casings removed
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups diced celery
  • 2 cups diced onion
  • 1 pound mixed apples, peeled, cored and diced (about 2 cups)

Directions:
For the base: Cut the challah into 1 1/2-inch cubes; leave them to air-dry in a large pan at room temperature for 3 days, tossing them a few times during that period.

Transfer to a very large mixing bowl along with the thyme, rosemary, sage, parsley, salt and pepper. Use your impeccably clean hands to combine. Pour the butter and broth over the bread and stir well without breaking it up too much.

For the sausage-apple-onion stuffing: Line a plate with paper towels.

Drop pinches of the sausage into a large, wide skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, just until the sausage loses its raw look; do not brown. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sausage to the lined plate.

Wipe out the skillet and return to medium heat; add 2 tablespoons of the butter. Once it has become melted and foamy, stir in the celery. Cook for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a mixing bowl.

Add 2 more tablespoons of the butter to the now-empty skillet; once it has melted, stir in the onions. Cook for about 5 minutes or until translucent. Transfer to the bowl with the celery.

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter to the same skillet; once it has melted, stir in the apples. Cook for a few minutes, until slightly softened, then transfer to the same bowl.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease the baking pans with butter. Cut parchment paper to fit the pans and grease one side of the parchment with butter.

Add the cooked, drained sausage and the apple-onion mixture to the bread mixture, stirring gently to incorporate.

Fill the baking pans, pressing very gently to pack the stuffing in place. It will puff up slightly while cooking. Place the buttered side of the parchment directly on the surface of the stuffing, then cover tightly with aluminum foil.

Bake (middle rack) for 45 to 55 minutes. Remove the foil and parchment and drizzle the top of the stuffing with turkey drippings or melted butter. Slide the pans back in the oven, uncovered; bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the top and edges are crisped.

VARIATIONS: To make mushroom-celery-onion stuffing, melt 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 pound of mixed stemmed and sliced mushrooms. Increase the heat to medium-high; cook without stirring until the mushrooms have browned on one side, then toss to cook evenly. Add 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper and 1/4 cup brandy (may substitute sherry, vermouth, dry white wine or water), using a spatula to dislodge any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Let cool, then add this mixture to the base ingredients and proceed with the recipe above.

To make apple-celery-pecan stuffing, omit the sausage in the sausage-apple-onion recipe, then follow the recipe to create the mixture. Add 1 to 2 cups toasted pecan halves (see NOTE) as the last step before combining with the base mixture and proceeding with the recipe above.

NOTE: To toast the pecan halves, spread them on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in a 325-degree oven just until fragrant and lightly browned. Cool completely before using.

Cheese and oil, instead of butter, add extra richness here.

Be sure to add the oil gradually, so it’s evenly incorporated.

Make Ahead: The mashed potatoes can be refrigerated up to 3 days in advance; to reheat, cover and steam in a heatproof bowl over a pot of barely bubbling water, stirring occasionally until warmed through.

Watch: Make the perfect mashed potatoes

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A simple kitchen gadget is the key to the most buttery, creamy spuds.

Servings: 12

Ingredients:

  • 2 heads garlic, top third of each cut off
  • 1/4 cup Spanish extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 6 pounds baking (russet) potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 8 ounces young Manchego cheese, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • Chopped chives, for serving (optional)

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Drizzle the exposed garlic lightly with oil, then wrap each head in heavy-duty aluminum foil. Roast for about 1 hour, until the garlic is soft. Squeeze the cloves from the skins into a medium bowl and mash with a fork to a pastelike consistency.

Meanwhile, place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with water by a few inches. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and add a generous pinch or two of salt. Cook for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Heat the cream in a separate saucepan over medium-low heat or in the microwave until warmed through.

Drain the potatoes and return them to the pot over medium-high heat. Cook for 1 minute (to evaporate any excess moisture), then mash with a potato masher. Add half the heated cream, mashing until well incorporated. Add the remaining cream, stirring to incorporate, then add the cheese, stirring until it has melted.

Gradually stir in the mashed garlic and 3 tablespoons of the oil until well incorporated. Taste, and add salt as needed.

Just before serving, transfer the warmed potatoes to a bowl. Top with the remaining tablespoon of oil and the chives if using.

(Jennifer Chase for The Washington Post)

This beautifully pale, silky-smooth soup has advantages beyond its good looks and bright flavor. It can be made in advance; it can be served chilled, hot or at room temperature (we prefer hot); and it welcomes a variety of garnishes (see NOTES, below).

Make Ahead: The soup can be made up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container. The optional parsley-chive oil needs to steep for at least 4 hours and preferably overnight in the refrigerator. The optional roasted mushroom chips (see NOTES, below) can be prepared up to 2 hours in advance; they will soften if allowed to sit for much longer.

Servings: 12-18 appetizer servings; makes about 9 cups

Ingredients:

FOR THE PARSLEY-CHIVE OIL (OPTIONAL)

  • 1/2 cup packed parsley leaves and tender stems
  • 1/4 cup packed chopped chives
  • 1/3 cup olive or grapeseed oil

FOR THE SOUP

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, or more as needed
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, or more as needed
  • 2 medium leeks (thoroughly cleaned), white and light-green parts coarsely chopped (2 cups)
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
  • Sea salt
  • 2 large or 4 small celery root (celeriac; about 4 pounds total), peeled and cut into 3/4-inch chunks (8 cups)
  • 1 large Granny Smith or other tart apple, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 3 cups homemade or no-salt-added chicken broth, or more as needed
  • 2 cups water, or more as needed
  • 1 cup apple juice (may substitute apple cider)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons white pepper, preferably freshly ground
  • Scant 1/8 teaspoon chili powder
  • Roasted mushroom chips, for garnish (see NOTE)

Directions:
For the optional parsley-chive oil: Have a bowl of ice water at hand.

Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add the parsley and chives; cook for 30 seconds, then immediately drain through a fine-mesh strainer. Transfer the blanched parsley and chives to the ice-water bath and allow to cool. Drain, and use paper towels to pat the herbs as dry as possible.

Combine the parsley and chives with the olive or grapeseed oil in a blender; puree until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl and allow the mixture to sit at room temperature for up to 4 hours; or cover and refrigerate overnight. A few hours before serving, pour the herbs and oil into a coffee filter set over a drinking glass or other collection vessel. When all the oil has dripped through (this will take longer than you think), discard the herbs. Transfer the oil to a squeeze bottle, if you like.

For the soup: Heat the butter and extra-virgin olive oil in a large pot over medium heat and stir to combine. Once they are hot, add the leeks and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently and adjusting the heat so the leeks do not brown. Add the garlic, season lightly with salt and stir to incorporate. Cook for about 4 minutes or until the leeks and garlic are soft and translucent but not browned. If the pot begins to brown on the bottom, add a little butter or olive oil.

Add the celery root, apple, broth, water and apple juice. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, so the liquid is moving and bubbling very slowly but not boiling. Partially cover and cook for about 45 minutes, until the celery root can be easily pierced with a paring knife. Add the white pepper (to taste) and the chili powder.

Let the soup cool for a few minutes, then transfer it in batches to a blender — removing the center lid and placing a dish towel over the opening to contain splash-ups — and puree until extremely smooth. (You may use a stick blender, but it won’t give you the same silky texture.) Taste, and add more salt and/or pepper as needed. If the soup is too thick for your liking, thin with a little broth or water.

Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled, drizzling each portion with the parsley-chive oil, if using, and topping with a few roasted mushroom chips or with other garnishes, if desired. (See NOTES, below.)

NOTES: Instead of or in addition to the parsley-chive oil and roasted mushroom chips, each portion of soup can be topped with a drizzle of plain olive oil; crisped bacon or pancetta pieces; a sprinkle of smoked flaked salt; raw or sauteed diced apple; a dusting of nutmeg; or a few truffle shavings.

To make the roasted mushroom chips, cut 4 ounces of cremini mushrooms (ends trimmed) into very thin slices. Spread on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet, brush lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt; roast in a 400-degree oven for 15 minutes, then turn the slices over and roast for 5 minutes or until they are dry and crisp. Use as soon as possible.

(Jennifer Chase for The Washington Post)

This roasted stack of vegetables takes on holiday flavors from a sage-infused pesto and smoked Gouda cheese. To make it vegan, substitute a vegan cheese of your choice; we recommend Chao by Field Roast.

You’ll need three 17-inch-long flat metal skewers.

Make Ahead: The eggplant needs to rest, salted, for a total of 1 hour. The roasted “beast” can be cooled and refrigerated for up to 3 days; wrap it tightly in several layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Leave it wrapped for reheating in a 300-degree oven until warmed through, about 30 minutes.

Servings: 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium Italian eggplant (1 pound), sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large red bell peppers
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts (may substitute slivered almonds)
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 15 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 cups lightly packed parsley leaves and tender stems
  • 1/2 cup packed sage leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 5 large portobello mushroom caps
  • 1 small (1 pound) delicata squash
  • 1 large white onion, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 6 ounces (4 large slices) smoked Gouda (may substitute smoked mozzarella or a vegan cheese)
  • Cooked couscous or orzo, for serving
  • Balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
  • Rosemary sprigs, for garnish

A vegetarian main so epic, you won't miss the turkey

Play Video

Serve this roast beast at your Thanksgiving, and vegetarians will not feel left out. ((Jayne Orenstein, Joe Yonan/The Washington Post) )

Directions:
Sprinkle the eggplant slices on both sides with 2 tablespoons of the salt and set them in a colander in the sink. Let them sit for about 1 hour, until they give off moisture, then rinse, gently squeeze each slice between your hands to rid it of extra moisture, and pat them dry.

Meanwhile, position an oven rack 6 inches from the broiler element; preheat the broiler. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the peppers on the baking sheet; broil until charred black on all sides, turning them with tongs as needed. Transfer to a heatproof bowl and top with a plate to steam. Once the peppers are cool enough to handle, rub off and discard the charred skins. Tear each pepper carefully in two, removing and discarding the stems and seeds.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Line a large roasting pan with foil, then seat a V-rack inside it.

Set a small skillet over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and toast, tossing them in the pan occasionally, until they are lightly browned in spots and fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Immediately transfer them to a plate to cool.

Return the skillet to medium heat and pour in the oil. Once it shimmers, add the smashed garlic and cook until just browned, 4 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.

Combine the pine nuts, parsley, sage, vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt in a food processor. Pour in the garlic and its oil (from the skillet), and pulse until the ingredients are well incorporated but still a little chunky. Transfer the pesto to a large bowl. Add the portobello caps and eggplant slices, and gently turn them in the pesto to coat, using a rubber spatula to smear the pesto all over the vegetables. You’ll have pesto left over; reserve this for serving.

Use a sharp serrated knife to cut the squash into 1/2-inch-thick rings. (Leave the squash unpeeled; the skin is tender enough to eat when roasted.) Use a spoon to scoop out and discard the seeds and pulp from each ring.

Lightly season the squash rings, onion slices and roasted red pepper halves with the pepper and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Thread the vegetables onto a skewer: If you’d like, stand the skewer on your counter with the sharp end pointing straight up and the ring end on the counter, and thread from the top down. Start with a mushroom cap, with the outside of the cap facing the ring end of the skewer, and follow with a slice of eggplant, a squash ring, half of a roasted pepper, a slice of Gouda and a slice of onion. (The first skewer will not pierce the flesh of the squash rings, but try to keep them even with the other vegetables as you work. You basically will be making a giant kebab.) Repeat this pattern more times, packing the kebab tightly as you go. End on a mushroom cap, this time with the outside of the cap facing the pointed end of the skewer. Press the stack tightly together and pierce all the way through it at an angle with the two other skewers, using them if possible to go through the flesh of the squash rings. (Reserve any extra vegetable slices for another use.)

Transfer the kebab to the rack and roast, turning it every 10 minutes, for 30 minutes, until the vegetables are browned and almost tender, and much of the cheese has dripped out.

Use a serving spoon to scrape up the cheese and lay it back on top of the kebab, and baste the kebab with the pan juices. Cook for an additional 20 to 30 minutes without turning, continuing to scrape up the cheese and baste every few minutes, until the eggplant and squash offer no resistance when pierced with a fork.

Remove the kebab; scrape up any more cheese and spoon it on top, along with pan juices; tent with foil and allow it to rest for 10 minutes. (Some cheese may have burned on the foil; that’s okay.)

Transfer to a platter of couscous or orzo, pouring any remaining juices over the top. Spoon the reserved pesto over the top, then drizzle with balsamic vinegar and garnish with rosemary sprigs and sage leaves.

(Jennifer Chase for The Washington Post)

Greens with a little zip provide a nice counterpoint to a table laden with traditional Thanksgiving dishes.

Make Ahead: The finished dish can be refrigerated for 2 or 3 days in advance; reheat, covered, in a 300-degree oven.

Servings: 12

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 3 pounds Tuscan kale (cavolo nero; stems removed), rinsed well
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 or 3 dried arbol peppers, stemmed, seeded and each cut in half
  • 2 1/4 cups sliced onions (from 2 large onions)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

Directions:
Bring a large pot of water with 1 tablespoon of the salt to a boil over high heat. Working in batches, blanch the kale in the rapidly boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and cool, then squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Coarsely chop.

Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the rosemary sprigs and dried arbol chilies (to taste). Let them sizzle in the oil for a few minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the onions, 2 teaspoons of the salt and the black pepper. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring often, and stir in the sliced garlic. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring often with a wooden spoon, until the onions start to pick up color.

Add the kale, tossing to coat. Season with the remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt; reduce the heat to low and cook for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring often, until the greens turn a dark, almost black, color and get slightly crispy on the edges.

Discard the rosemary sprigs and the arbol chilies before serving.

(Jennifer Chase for The Washington Post)

Squash and crunchy kale channel the season in this Indian-influenced salad. Red quinoa gives this salad a hearty chew; for something lighter, use white quinoa.

You’ll need a large, flat-bottomed serving dish.

Make Ahead: The quinoa can be cooked a day or two in advance and refrigerated. The quinoa’s vegetable mixture should be folded in just before serving. The pecans can be buttered up to 2 days in advance; drain off excess butter and store at room temperature in an airtight container. The dressing can be made and refrigerated up to several hours in advance. The baked kale can be re-crisped in a 300-degree oven for a few minutes shortly before serving.

Servings: 8-10

Ingredients:

FOR THE QUINOA

  • 5 cups cooked red quinoa (from 2 cups dried; see headnote)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 small carrot, scrubbed well and diced
  • One 2-inch piece peeled fresh ginger root, grated
  • Finely grated zest of 1 grapefruit
  • Finely grated zest of 1 orange

FOR THE SQUASH

  • 1 medium kabocha or acorn squash (about 1 1/2 pounds total)
  • Seeds from 2 green cardamom pods
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar

FOR THE KALE

  • 1 bunch lacinato kale (1 pound), stemmed
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil

FOR THE PECANS

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 1 cup raw, unsalted pecan halves
  • Pinch kosher salt

FOR THE DRESSING

  • 12 ounces (1 1/2 cups) mascarpone
  • 1/4 cup red miso
  • 1/4 cup water

Directions:
For the quinoa: Place the quinoa in a large mixing bowl.

Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, stir in the onion, carrot and all but 1 teaspoon of the ginger; cook for about 4 minutes or just until the onion has softened slightly but the carrot is still firm. Stir in the citrus zests.

If serving right away, fold the vegetable mixture into the quinoa, then spread the mixture on the bottom of the serving dish. Otherwise, cool the vegetable mixture and store it separately from the quinoa.

For the squash: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and fibrous bits. Cut the squash into 3/4-inch pieces.

Combine the cardamom seeds, coriander, turmeric, cumin, brown sugar and the remaining teaspoon of grated ginger in a mixing bowl. Whisk in the oil and vinegar until the brown sugar dissolves. Add the squash and toss until evenly coated. Use tongs to transfer the squash pieces to the baking sheet, spacing them well apart; discard any leftover oil-and-vinegar mixture. Roast for about 30 minutes or until lightly caramelized.

If serving right away, arrange the squash pieces atop the quinoa mixture; otherwise, cool, cover and refrigerate. You’ll be using the baking sheet again, as is.

For the kale: Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees.

Rinse the kale and pat dry with paper towels. Cut into bite-size pieces and spread them on the baking sheet, then drizzle with the oil and toss to coat. Separate the leaves on the sheet so they’ll crisp evenly. Bake for 5 minutes, then use tongs to turn the kale over. Bake for 5 minutes or until crisped. Let the leaves cool.

For the pecans: Melt the butter in a small, ovenproof saute pan over medium-low heat, taking care to let it just turn brown but not burn.

Meanwhile, remove the rosemary and thyme leaves from the sprigs, pressing their leaves slightly between your fingers to release their oils. Add to the brown butter and cook for 30 seconds, then add the pecans and salt. Turn off the heat; toss the pecans to coat evenly.

For the dressing: Whisk together the mascarpone and red miso in a bowl. Add the water and whisk until well incorporated.

When ready to serve, layer the crisped kale on top of the squash. Top with the buttered pecans, then drizzle with half the miso-mascarpone dressing. Pass the remaining dressing at the table.

(James M. Thresher for The Washington Post)

The flavors that have made Buffalo chicken wings so popular (minus the chicken) are just beneath an array of colorful chopped vegetables. Leafy celery ribs make the best spread holder, but feel free to use crackers, pita chips or cucumber slices.

Make Ahead: The spread can be assembled, covered and refrigerated a day in advance.

Servings: 8

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (2 1/2 ounces) broccoli florets
  • 1 cup (2 1/2 ounces) cauliflower florets
  • 1 small yellow summer squash, trimmed, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 1 medium carrot (trimmed), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 5 large (3 ounces) red radishes, trimmed and cut into quarters
  • 8 ounces low-fat or nonfat cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup chunky blue cheese dressing, such as Marie’s
  • 1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces) blue cheese crumbles
  • 1 tablespoon Buffalo wing sauce, such as Archie Moore’s brand

Directions:
Process the broccoli, cauliflower, squash, carrot and radishes separately in the bowl of a food processor, pulsing them 7 or 8 times each, or enough to cut them into small pieces about the size of lentils. (A food processor certainly makes life easier; otherwise, chop the vegetables on a cutting board using a large chef’s knife.) Rinse and wipe the bowl of the processor clean for each vegetable. Place each chopped vegetable in a separate small bowl.

Spread the cream cheese in an 8-inch circle at the center of a large, round platter. Spread the blue cheese dressing over the cream cheese. Sprinkle the cheese crumbles over the dressing. Drizzle the Buffalo wing sauce over the cheese crumbles.

Use the tip of a knife to trace 5 evenly sized wedges in the circle; carefully press one kind of chopped vegetable into each of the wedges. (Use a ruler or other straight edge on both sides of the wedge area you’re working on as a guide to make the process is easier and more precise, if desired.) If you don’t care about keeping the colors separate, mix the vegetables together and then press them into the top of the spread.

Serve with celery for dipping.

(Jennifer Chase for The Washington Post)

These complement the herbal flavors and aromas on the holiday table. Be sure to chop the rosemary as finely as possible, for even distribution in the dough and to avoid a bite with tough or chewy bits.

To reduce the need for re-rolling, we used a sharp knife to cut the slab of dough into squares. You can use a 2-inch round cutter as well. These are best served when freshly made.

It helps to roll these on a cold surface; lay a large sealed zip-top bag of ice cubes on your surface for 15 minutes beforehand, then remove and wipe dry before you dust the surface with flour.

Servings: 16 biscuits

Crazy simple biscuits, perfect for Thanksgiving

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Simple rosemary biscuits that come together in the food processor are the perfect bread to bring to Thanksgiving.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour, plus more for rolling
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves (from 4 to 5 stems)
  • 1 cup half-and-half

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner.

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a food processor; pulse a few times to incorporate. Add the shortening and rosemary; pulse just long enough to form pea-size pieces, then add the half-and-half; process just long enough to form a dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

Lightly flour the (preferably chilled) work surface. Transfer the dough there, rolling it out to a rectangle about 8 inches wide and about 9 inches long, with a thickness of 1/2 inch. Use a very sharp knife to cut into 16 squarish biscuits, rerolling scraps as little as possible.

Arrange the biscuits on the baking sheet, spacing them at least an inch apart. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until puffed and golden brown.

(Jennifer Chase for The Washington Post)

This sauce is complex, with a subtle kick from orange liqueur stirred in at the finish.

We also tested an alcohol-free version (see VARIATION, below) but prefer the consistency and boost of flavors from the wine and liqueur.

Make Ahead: The sauce benefits from a day’s rest in the refrigerator and can be covered and refrigerated for up to 1 week in advance.

Servings: 12; makes about 3 cups

Ingredients:

  • 7 ounces dried Mission figs, stemmed and coarsely chopped
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 pound fresh or frozen cranberries (do not defrost)
  • 2 long strips orange peel (no pith)
  • Generous pinch kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon orange liqueur, such as Cointreau

Directions:
Place the figs in a heatproof bowl and cover with very hot (not boiling) water; let them stand for 10 minutes to rehydrate, then drain.

Meanwhile, combine the sugar and wine in a saucepan over medium heat. Once the mixture starts to bubble, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and the wine has reduced a bit.

Add the rehydrated figs, the cranberries and orange peel; increase the heat to medium and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of the cranberries have popped and the sauce has thickened. Remove from the heat; remove and discard the orange peel, then add the salt and orange liqueur. Use the back of a spoon to mash the mixture until it’s slightly chunky.

Transfer to a container to cool completely. Serve at room temperature, or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. The sauce will firm up when refrigerated; you can stir it with a fork to loosen it before serving.

VARIATION: To make the sauce without alcohol, use water instead of wine and replace the liqueur with 2 tablespoons of fresh orange juice and a generous splash of white balsamic vinegar.

(Jennifer Chase for The Washington Post)

Traditional pumpkin pie may not stand a chance against this tart, with a silky filling that gets a sophisticated addition of caramel. Plus, a press-in crust, short bake time and do-ahead option liberate you (and your oven) on Thanksgiving Day.

You’ll need a 9-inch springform pan.

Make Ahead: The tart (without the nuts on top) can be made 2 days in advance; cover and refrigerate. Hazelnuts can be caramelized 2 days ahead; store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Servings: 8-10; makes one 9-inch tart

Ingredients:

FOR THE CRUST

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 3/4 cup hazelnuts, skinned and toasted (see NOTE)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons ice water, or more as needed

This is the pumpkin dessert you need to serve at Thanksgiving

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Pumpkin-caramel tart has all the familiar flavors of pumpkin pie, but tastes so much better.

FOR THE FILLING

  • Pinch cream of tartar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons peeled, finely grated fresh ginger root
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten

FOR THE CARAMELIZED HAZELNUTS

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts, skinned, toasted and coarsely chopped (see NOTE)

Directions:
For the crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use some butter to grease the sides and bottom of the 9-inch springform pan, and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Combine the hazelnuts, flour, granulated sugar and salt in a food processor; pulse to the consistency of coarse meal. Add the butter and pulse until there are only a few pea-size pieces of butter remaining.
 Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl; drizzle the ice water over and mix, adding another splash or so of water, as needed, just to bring dough together.

Use your fingers to press the dough evenly 1 1/2 to 2 inches up the sides and to cover the bottom of the pan; compact and smooth with a flat, straight-sided measuring cup or glass. Chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

Bake (middle rack) for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden but not totally baked through. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes.

For the filling: Combine the cream of tartar, granulated sugar and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, swirling the pan occasionally (do not stir), until the caramel is a deep amber color. Remove from the heat.

Whisking constantly, carefully add the cream (the mixture will be extremely hot and will bubble vigorously), to form a smooth caramel. Let cool slightly.

Whisk together the pumpkin puree, brown sugar, flour, ginger, cinnamon and salt in a mixing bowl. Gradually add the caramel, and then the eggs, whisking until well incorporated. Scrape the filling into the crust.

Bake (middle rack) for 35 to 40 minutes, rotating the pan from front to back halfway through, or until the filling is set around the edges and the center barely jiggles. Transfer to a wire rack to cool (in the pan).

Meanwhile, caramelize the hazelnuts: Line a baking sheet with a silicone liner or parchment paper.

Combine the granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to medium-high, and cook for a few minutes, without stirring, to form a dark golden caramel. Remove from the heat; immediately add the hazelnuts, swirling to coat, then spread them evenly on the lined baking sheet. Let cool; once the nuts are firmly set, coarsely chop them.
 (If not using right away, cool and store in an airtight container.)

To ensure they stay crisp, scatter the caramelized hazelnuts over the tart just before serving.

NOTE: To skin hazelnuts, bring a few inches of water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add about 1 teaspoon of baking soda and then the hazelnuts. Boil for several minutes, until the water turns dark brown and the skins begin to easily peel off the nuts. (You can test one by removing it from the pot, running it under cool water and seeing how well the skin slips off.) Drain the nuts from the water, let them cool until you can handle them, and then use your fingers to remove the skins. Toast the nuts on a baking sheet in a 350-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden and fragrant, shaking the pan about halfway through. Cool completely before using.

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