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"We're going to need a genius turkey," my bosses Amanda & Merrill told me in 2011. We were planning recipes for the Food52 Holiday iPad app, just a few months after my Genius Recipes column had flapped out of the nest. What did I know about genius turkey?
So I set out on Google, fumbling around for any recipe with a compelling technique. Pretty soon I landed on an L.A. Times story by then-Food Editor Russ Parsons about the Judy Bird—and then another, and another. He had written about the same astonishingly simple Judy Rodgers-inspired pre-salting (a.k.a. dry-brining) technique in the newspaper five years in a row, only adding small tweaks and updates.
It's as if Parsons had seen the future and thought, "Oh, I'll show you a genius turkey." (400+ happy Food52 commenters, often tasting their first juicy, well-seasoned turkey, agree.)
With each passing year, I've tackled another Thanksgiving staple or two, the cranberry sauce and brussels sprouts, the more elusive mashed potato (both for the Genius Recipes archives, and my family's own menu—sorry, Grandmother), and my collection is finally complete! Below is my personal ideal of a Genius Thanksgiving, though of course you could can feel free to shop around, perhaps in these 32 Genius Recipes for Thanksgiving, or in our brand new Thanksgiving Menu Genie!
But if you're just looking for a sure thing, this menu—like its anchor, the trusty Judy Bird—is likey to become a yearly tradition, and will never let you down.
a soup & a salad
The soup is vegan; the salad has 2 kinds of cheese. Go figure.
Everything else I want on my table, save the important omission of gravy—but you don't need a recipe for gravy.
The cake and pie are century-ish-old classics; the whipped cream is swift and modern.
the day-after piles
Your next-day secret weapons: tamed alliums (bacony quick-poached garlic cloves in the salad, softened scallions in the fritters).