Alex's Thanksgiving Table // 11/17/2020

There's a lot of pressure to get a Thanksgiving turkey right. In 2016 I hosted my first Thanksgiving, and having never cooked a turkey before, I spent weeks researching cooking instructions and reading strongly-worded articles about what *must* be done to achieve the perfect bird. I narrowed it down to two crucial techniques: 

1) dry brining 
2) flipping the turkey. 

• A great recipe for a dry brine. (Just the ingredients, not the method.)

Four turkeys later, I am smugly batting a thousand. I have, however, had to Facetime my mother every time I remove the giblets and neck.

Pro tips: 

1. Buy an organic turkey. Worth it. Special occasion. Also tastes better. I've gotten my turkeys at Trader Joe's in the past. I usually buy them a week before Thanksgiving and keep them refrigerated, not frozen.

3. Recruit two people with strong arms to do the flipping. Not easy, but easier with three people helping. I recommend some meat weapons like these to assist with a successful flip.

Other items you'll never *not* find on my Thanksgiving table.

– Gelson's cornbread stuffing, minus the sausage. The stuffing is my favorite thing on the table. The Gelson's recipe absolutely cannot be topped. If you don't have a Gelson's nearby, I bet the Whole Foods deli counter has a worthy cornbread you could use. 
– Herb salsa. A fantastic condiment. I add grilled onions or shallots to the recipe.
Cranberry sauce. My little women made this last year! I halve the sugar, stir in a cup or so of TJ's cranberry orange relish to make it pop and add a handful of pomegranate seeds at the end. 
Garlic roasted brussels sprouts. The New York Times recipe is foolproof. 
– I love a grain salad. Greens, quinoa or farro, butter toasted almonds, chopped herbs, fried shallots, goat cheese, pomegranate seeds, salt, pepper. Finish with lemon and the olive oil from the shallots. Or something.
– Candied sweet potatoes. Because Nate.

Seeking recipes:

– Haven't found a mashed potato recipe that has wowed me yet.
– I never make rolls because I'm afraid of yeast. Thankfully I have friends and family who are willing to contribute.
– I never make pie because I'm afraid ruining my favorite dessert. I always buy pies from my favorite local bakery. (Heirloom Bakery and The Upper Crust, in previous years.) However, because 2020, I will be conceding and making this salted chocolate tart that I've successfully not ruined a few times. 
– Since we will be having a slightly smaller, family-only thanksgiving this year, my sister will be in charge of a charcuterie board.

The garland:

I love making a floral garland for the table. I just use plain old rope and floral wire and a very simple technique. Usually my garlands are made of dried lavender, fresh thyme and rosemary, and some hearty cheap flowers from Trader Joe's. 

1. Organize your ingredients. 
2. Trim each piece to about 4-6 inches and gather a few flowers into a very small bouquet.
3. Wrap each bouquet with a small section of floral tape – you don't need a ton.
4. Secure the bouquet to the rope by tightly winding floral wire around it.
5. Repeat steps 1 - 3 and nestle the next bouquet below the first, overlapping to cover the stems. 
6. Continue this process with alternating ingredients throughout until the rope is completely covered.
7. Gently place the garland as a runner in the center of the table.