The Smart Cook’s Guide to Interactive Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is every American's biggest cooking event of the year, highly anticipated for all its tryptophanorific goodness. There are two ways to enjoy our delicious Thanksgiving menu for 8 to 10 guests that puts seasonality at the forefront (no green beans, no corn). First, you could do all the cooking yourself, totally stress out while destroying your kitchen and frightening your kids, invite friends over, and try to enjoy along with them. Second, you could invite your friends over, make them cook, and actually enjoy the meal yourself. This is the logic behind the potluck, except in this case—we call it "interactive Thanksgiving"—you're doing the meal planning and the shopping, but on the big day, you'll be putting the last-minute touches on the table as you pour yourself (and your friends doing all the grunt work in the kitchen) a second glass of Riesling. After all, you've got a lot of eating to do: Make sure you enjoy it.

Illustration by Tristan Elwell


Puritan’s Pride


This booze-free cocktail is something even kids and nondrinkers can sip at the table. (It’s delicious, too, so even the hardened tipplers around the table will love it.) It’s a fall-friendly mix of cranberry juice, ginger syrup, and fizzy (nonalcoholic) apple cider. Get our Puritan’s Pride recipe.

Watercress-Walnut Dip


This is like pesto without summer outside the windows. It’s basically more food processing than it is laborious cooking. You stuff a couple of bunches of cleaned watercress in the food processor, add mustard, lemon, garlic, shallots, salt, and walnut and olive oils, and turn the machine on. You’re done. Get our Watercress-Walnut Dip recipe.

Black Pepper Lavash


Here’s where you have to do a little cooking, but it’s totally worth it just to say you’ve made your own crackers. Mix flour, butter, salt, and sugar in a stand mixer, then add water and a beaten egg until you get a nice, smooth dough. Roll out, sprinkle with coarse-ground black pepper, bake, and voila: You’ve made delicious crackers. Get our Black Pepper Lavash recipe.

BBQ Turkey


Here’s where you need to enlist a friend who loves hanging out on the deck, and popping outside every once in a while to lift the lid on the kettle barbecue to check on the turkey’s progress. Find one of your friends who’s a tinkerer, and who will take seriously the job of keeping the coals at a constant 275°F to 325°F. Everybody’s counting on her or him. Get our BBQ Turkey recipe.

Mushroom and Fennel Bread Pudding


Go ahead and call this stuffing if you want to—it’s a delicious, crunchy-topped casserole of diced bread, Pecorino cheese, cremini mushrooms, and fresh fennel, moistened with cream and broth and baked until the kitchen smells even more amazing than it already did. Stuffing, savory pudding—words are unimportant in the face of so much goodness. Get our Mushroom and Fennel Bread Pudding recipe.

Celery Root and Squash Gratin with Walnut-Thyme Streusel


A dish called Celery Root and Squash Gratin with Walnut-Thyme Streusel—you pretty much know what you’re getting, and what you’re getting is going to be delicious. It involves a fair bit of peeling hard squash and celery root, scooping seeds, and slicing thin, but the end result makes every peeler-swipe worth it. Get our Celery Root and Squash Gratin with Walnut-Thyme Streusel recipe.

Chicory, Tangerine, and Pomegranate Salad


The one thing a Thanksgiving table needs is relief: small islands of things that are crisp, cold, fresh, and acidic, to cut through the poultry richness, butter, cream, and extended family proximity. That’s where this beautiful and tasty salad comes in. The chicories supply the right amount of bitterness, and the tangerine segments and pomegranate seeds add key points of juicy-tart sweetnesss. Get our Chicory, Tangerine, and Pomegranate Salad recipe.

Cranberry and Citrus Sauce


Think of this as fruitiness squared (or doubled: math was always our week subject). Cranberries are simmered in the usual cranberry-sauce way, with sugar, orange juice, and some orange zest. But—and here’s what makes this recipe distinctive—fresh grapefruit segments are stirred into the cooked, still-warm sauce, to meld flavors and soften. Get our Cranberry and Citrus Sauce recipe.

Pumpkin Pie with Spiced Crust


Spices in pumpkin pie are essential, but—like a cheese pizza with cheese-stuffed crust—pigging out is not about taking small measures. Here, spices are not only added to the filling for pumpkin pie, they’re lavished on the dough (well, sprinkled into the dough, but whatever). This is pumpkin pie in spice 3-D. Get our Pumpkin Pie with Spiced Crust recipe.

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream


Yes, you can go to the supermarket freezer aisle and choose from, like, nine brands of vanilla ice cream. Non of them, however—not one—would be as good as this simple, creamy, and achingly smooth recipe. It’s heavy with egg yolks, cream, scraped vanilla pods, and holiday intention. Scoop with abandon. Get our Vanilla Bean Ice Cream recipe.