The Definitive Genius Recipes Thanksgiving Menu

November  2, 2016

"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.)

We're going to need a genius turkey.
food52 co-founders amanda & merrill

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!

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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.

the turkey

the sides

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

For dessert

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).

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].

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Join the Conversation

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Brette Warshaw
    Brette Warshaw
  • Pisanella
  • Jovan
  • AntoniaJames
  • Brenda Strickland
    Brenda Strickland
I'm an ex-economist, ex-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


Brette W. December 21, 2016
I can't believe it's been 5 years. You're a champ.
Pisanella November 9, 2016

OMG, I am still laughing my head off at this! They sound painful!
Jovan November 2, 2016
For one second I read "Jessica Fechtor" as "Jessica Fletcher", and momentarily reveled in the idea of a Murder, She Wrote-themed cooking series. Equally, if not more exciting: five-fold challah. Yum!
AntoniaJames November 2, 2016
Those Fritterra squarely fall into the "unsung hero" category of recipes on this site. We aren't big mashed potatoes eaters, so I make them on the weekends (doubling and freezing 1/2, of course), just for this recipe! I have some in the fridge, in fact, awaiting transformation tomorrow evening. ;o)
Brenda S. November 9, 2016
I'm with you - I'd choose a crispy-skinned baked potato over mashed anytime (mashed potatoes are a vehicle for gravy LOL), but curious - is the texture affected by freezing the mashed potatoes? I don't imagine it matters for the Fritterra, but would be a great time saver for the other in my house who wants mashed all the time.