12 easy recipes for a Thanksgiving beginner

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Melissa Clark’s recipe for a simple roast turkey won’t go wrong. So many readers say this is the best turkey they have ever made. If you want an organically raised bird, be sure to place your order a few weeks in advance and invest in an oven and meat thermometers. (Precise oven temperature is one of the keys to success here.)

Hungry guests are not happy guests. While you’re putting the finishing touches on the meal, whip up a platter of something that’s not too filling and tastes completely different from the rest of the menu, like Alexa Weibel’s bright and spicy marinated feta with herbs and peppercorns (which only takes a few minutes to set up the day before).

See our collection of Thanksgiving Appetizers.

This superb pie from Sue Li is a great vegetarian alternative to turkey or a side dish. Store-bought puff pastry makes it a snap to assemble, and you can use any number of cooked vegetables in place of carrots: onions, parsnips, beets, zucchini, or pumpkin.

Is it stuffing or is it vinaigrette? Whatever you call it, it’s arguably the best part of the Thanksgiving table. This simple version by Mark Bittman, which was inspired by a recipe by James Beard, contains only six ingredients (not including salt and pepper). If you don’t have a food processor to make the breadcrumbs, roughly chop stale bread or use store-bought unseasoned stuffing cubes. (Pepperidge Farm makes them.)

See our collection of Stuffing and Dressing Recipes for Thanksgiving.

This perfect mashed potato only has a handful of ingredients: salt, potatoes, butter and milk. Use more butter and salt than you think is necessary, and less milk which, according to its developer, Julia Moskin, “will smooth out the crisp, earthy taste of the potato.”

See our collection of Thanksgiving Potato Recipes.

You could go to the trouble of mashing up a bunch of sweet potatoes and covering them with a blanket of marshmallows, but that’s not necessary. In this simple recipe from Melissa Clark, baked sweet potatoes are peeled and sliced, then dipped in a combination of melted butter, cider, and maple syrup seasoned with cinnamon, cloves, and orange zest. .

This is the only way you need to cook Brussels sprouts: toss them with salt, pepper and a little olive oil. (Or use bacon grease. It’s been a weird year, you deserve it.) Roast on a sheet pan until golden brown and crispy around the edges and tender inside. This recipe serves two, but easily doubles or triples.

See our collection of Brussels Sprouts Recipes for Thanksgiving.

In the bright and lively category, we have Julia Moskin’s Green Beans with Fresh Ginger and Garlic. The beans can be blanched a day ahead and then refrigerated, leaving nothing to do before the meal but toss everything over high heat.

See our collection of Thanksgiving Side Dish Recipes.

Save yourself the trouble of trying to make sauce in front of your hungry guests. This one from Mark Bittman can be made ahead, so all you need to do is heat it over low heat and add a little turkey jus before transferring it to Grandma’s gravy boat.

See our collection of Thanksgiving Sauce Recipes.

Cranberries, orange juice, orange zest and sugar. Simmer until the berries burst. That’s it. If you want, Sam Sifton says you can add a clove or two, a little freshly grated ginger, or a handful of chopped walnuts.

Real talk: Samantha Seneviratne’s apple crumble tastes like pie, and it’s so much easier to make. When buying apples, choose a combination of tart and sweet, such as Granny Smith and McIntosh. They will cook and soften at slightly different speeds, making the filling both jammy and pleasantly firm.

See our collection of Thanksgiving Dessert Recipes That Aren’t Pie.

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