The Perfect* Thanksgiving Dinner

30 November 2019 • Personal

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Every year around mid-November, I find myself pouring over blogs, articles, and all of my saved recipes in order to find the perfect dishes for Thanksgiving. I’m telling you that so that you understand what the true purpose of this post is: not a put-down of your beloved recipes, but a storehouse for mine1.

Note: My Thanksgiving dinner is no more perfect than yours; I’m just super happy about how everything turned out this year, and wanted to share the recipes with all of you.

I’ve been making Thanksgiving dinner for my family for about 4 or 5 years now, back when my wife and I were dating/engaged. It’s routinely us, her parents, and my dad at the dinner table, though one year it also included my wife’s sister, her husband, and their three children. Some of us are somewhat adventurous eaters, but I distinctly remember my mother-in-law telling me one year “I just want a plain turkey with salt and pepper. Don’t do anything fancy.” So I’ve known that whatever I make not only has to be great, but it has to appeal to the masses.

(One quick tip before we begin: are you someone that panics and wonders “oh no, when is {thing} supposed to go into the oven?” Use a spreadsheet and plan it all out like I did.)

So, without further ado, here are the recipes that I made this year (plus some commentary, because what’s a blog without commentary):

Gordon Ramsay’s Christmas Turkey + Gravy

(For those that like to read, here is a link to the turkey recipe)

I love Gordon Ramsay. His energy is a combination of a kid in a candy store plus a Wall Street day trader strung out on coke, but that kind of energy is infectious, you know?

To be honest, I never liked turkey before I tried this recipe. It was always dry and gross, no flavor, just a boring meat that nobody should cook. Now? I look forward to this every year. It’s a blast, it’s really not that hard, and the best part is that it’s just chilling on your counter while everything else bakes2.

The gravy is also an excellent one, full of flavor, and you get to make it right in the roasting pan over a couple of burners, which always makes me feel like an actual chef whenever I do it. Pro tip: as soon as you put the turkey in the oven, use the giblets and start making a stock out of them. Replace the chicken broth in Gordon’s recipe with this stock. It’s delicious.

Bon Appétit’s Simple Stuffing

In previous years, I had made a sausage and herb stuffing for Thanksgiving. It always turned out delicious, but I felt that doubling up on the meats lent itself to being really dense and heavy.

Bon Appétit has been on heavy rotation for me lately; they’re one of the handful of YouTube channels that I watch every video of. Tons of inspiration, lots of laughs, and extremely educational. So when they said “oh, THIS stuffing is THE stuffing”, I knew I had to give it a shot. And wouldn’t you know, they were right. Absolutely perfect in every way, delicious, and a crowd pleaser. This was one of my 3 new recipes for this year, and one that’ll stick around for a long time.

Bon Appétit’s Ultra-Creamy Mashed Potatoes

Look, you can be as healthy as you wanna be on Thanksgiving, and I’m not going to stop you. If you want bland, boring potatoes that take forever and just kinda sit there on your plate, be my guest.

But if you wanna put in like 5 minutes of extra work to make some heavenly potatoes? These are what you should make. As the 2nd new recipe I made this year (and the 2nd from Bon Appétit), I know there are some things I’d do slightly different next year3, but they WILL be made again next year.

Vegan Green Bean Casserole

This recipe crossed my Twitter feed the Monday before Thanksgiving, and was the 3rd new one I made this year. It seems a little daunting; making soup just for a casserole?!? Where the heck do I even find dried shiitake mushrooms?

Oh. My. God. Y’all, this was SO worth it. That soup was delicious, the casserole turned out amazing, and I will definitely make this again.

(Bonus points: you can make the soup up to a week ahead of time, so you can just assemble day-of and go.)

My mother-in-law’s scalloped corn

We’re gonna end this post on the most not-good-for-you thing on the menu, and quite possibly my wife’s most favorite food in existence. This one’s not posted online, so I’m just gonna write it out here. You need:

  • A pound of Oscar Meyer* thin smokey bacon
  • 2 tubes of Ritz* crackers
  • 2 cans of Delmonte* creamed corn
  • 2 eggs

The prep is super easy too.

  • Cook up the bacon in whatever way you prefer, let it cool, and then dice it up. (You can do this the day before)
  • In a decently sized oven-safe bowl, combine the crackers and the corn. Whisk up the eggs, then add them & the bacon in and combine.
  • Bake at 350°F for about 1 hour.

Note that most of the ingredients call for a specific brand; I’m not the expert on this one, I’ve just been specifically instructed to not f*** this up because using alternatives makes for an inferior tasting product.

And that’s it! That’s the Lake Family Thanksgiving, leaving us with full stomachs, tons of leftovers, and a happy family. Next year, I might make a cranberry sauce from scratch… anything else? Do you have a favorite recipe that you think I should add? Or is your version better than one of the ones I found? Hit me up on Twitter and let’s chat about it.

  1. But really, you’re gonna want to keep reading, because these recipes are absolutely divine. 

  2. Always rest your meats after you cook them. Always. Steaks? Rest ‘em. Chicken on the grill? Cover them with foil. Pork chops? Wait, you fool! 

  3. In the video on their post, the guy uses a potato ricer that only has holes in the bottom. Mine has holes along the side as well, for some reason, and lemme tell you, molten hot riced potato is not something you want to get on your hands. I’m either replacing this or removing the skins before ricing next year.