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The Definitive Genius Recipes Thanksgiving Menu

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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?

Russ Parsons' Dry-Brined Turkey (a.k.a. The Judy Bird)
Russ Parsons' Dry-Brined Turkey (a.k.a. The Judy Bird)

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.

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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.

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a soup & a salad

The soup is vegan; the salad has 2 kinds of cheese. Go figure.

Paul Bertolli's Cauliflower Soup

Paul Bertolli's Cauliflower Soup by Genius Recipes

Northern Spy's Kale Salad

Northern Spy's Kale Salad by Genius Recipes

the turkey

Russ Parsons' Dry-Brined Turkey (a.k.a. The Judy Bird)
Russ Parsons' Dry-Brined Turkey (a.k.a. The Judy Bird)

the sides

Everything else I want on my table, save the important omission of gravy—but you don't need a recipe for gravy.

Diane Morgan's Classic Mashed Potatoes
Diane Morgan's Classic Mashed Potatoes
Thomas Keller's Leek Bread Pudding
Thomas Keller's Leek Bread Pudding
Michel Richard's Glazed and Glistening Haricots Verts
Michel Richard's Glazed and Glistening Haricots Verts
Canal House's Cranberry-Port Gelée
Canal House's Cranberry-Port Gelée
Jessica Fechtor's Five-Fold Challah
Jessica Fechtor's Five-Fold Challah

For dessert

The cake and pie are century-ish-old classics; the whipped cream is swift and modern.

Meta Given's Pumpkin Pie
Meta Given's Pumpkin Pie
Nancy Silverton's Whipped Cream

Nancy Silverton's Whipped Cream by Genius Recipes

Teddie's Apple Cake

Teddie's Apple Cake by Genius Recipes

the day-after piles

Your next-day secret weapons: tamed alliums (bacony quick-poached garlic cloves in the salad, softened scallions in the fritters).

The Silver Palate's Turkey Hash Salad
The Silver Palate's Turkey Hash Salad
Bert Greene's Potato Scallion Cakes (Fritterra)
Bert Greene's Potato Scallion Cakes (Fritterra)

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].


Did someone say "Thanksgiving"? Our menu genie is here to help.