Thanksgiving Recipes 101

Basic Stuffing
Makes 8 servings

2 cups onion, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage or 1 teaspoon ground sage
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
12 cups white bread (or whole wheat bread) (about 1 pound), cut into half inch cubes and toasted in a 400F oven for 5-7 minutes or until slightly golden.
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 cups chicken or turkey broth (homemade or store bought)

Cook onion and celery in a large skillet over medium heat in the butter until soft. Transfer to bowl, add all the remaining ingredients and toss well. Either stuff the mixture inside the turkey cavity or bake it in a shallow casserole at 350 degrees, covered for 1/2 an hour. Uncover, and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes to get crispy.

Optional Variations – add:

  • 1/2 pound cook crumbled bacon or pancetta, or cooked crumbled sausage, or chopped Canadian bacon or prosciutto,
  • 1 pound sliced mushrooms that have been sautéed in 2 tablespoons butter.
  • 1 cup chopped toasted walnuts and 2 golden delicious apples that have been peeled, chopped and sautéed in 2 tablespoons butter.
  • 1 cup dried fruit
  • or a combination of the above

Make Ahead Gravy
Makes 8 servings
I recommend making about 1/2 cup gravy per person. You need that much gravy to pour over everything, and for leftovers. So here is the formula for make ahead gravy: For each cup of gravy you will need 1 cup broth, 2 tablespoons butter, and 2 tablespoons flour. Here is a sample recipe for 4 cups gravy serving 8 people:

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
½ cup all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken or turkey broth, heated *See Sara’s Video about making broth!
½ cup dry red or white wine
reserved liquid from turkey roasting drippings
reserved liquid from turkey resting platter

In a medium saucepan over moderately low heat melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and cook it, whisking, for 5 minutes. Add the broth in a stream, whisking and bring the mixture to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and simmer 5 minutes. Let the gravy cool, transfer to a bowl, cover and chill overnight. Note: the gravy will be thick but you will be adding liquid which will thin it down.

On Thanksgiving day, after you have transferred, the turkey to a platter and covered it loosely with foil, pour off the drippings from the pan into a fat separator and discard the fat in the separator. Put the roasting pan on two burners on the top of the stove, and turn the burners to medium. Add the wine and the reserved drippings to the pan and scraping up the brown bits at the bottom of the pan. Whisk in the premade gravy, any juices from the resting turkey and salt and pepper to taste.

Turkey Broth
Makes about 4 cups
The giblets and neck from one turkey (save the liver for another use, such as sautéing and serving on a piece of toast).

4 cups chicken broth (good quality canned is fine)
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 small carrot, cut in half
1 celery rib, cut in half
1 small parsnip (optional), cut in half
1 thyme sprig
1 parsley sprig
1 Turkish bay leaf
4 cups cold water

Combine the giblets and neck with the chicken broth in a saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil. Turn down immediately and simmer, skimming and discarding the scum (this is just the protein solids from the giblets and neck, but it will cloud the broth if you leave it in) that rises to the surface with a slotted spoon. After about 20 minutes, when there is no more scum rising to the surface, add the remaining ingredients and bring the liquid back to a simmer. Simmer the broth, adding water as necessary to keep all the ingredients submerged in liquid, for 2 ½ to 3 hours. Strain and skim off any fat that settles at the top (You can use that fat for your pan gravy).

Mashed Potatoes
Serves 6 to 8

3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
Kosher salt to taste
1/2 to 3/4 cup whole milk, heated
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons and softened
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Quarter or halve the potatoes, depending on size. Place in a large saucepan and pour in enough cold water to cover by 1 inch. Add salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until tender when pierced with the point of a sharp knife, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain the potatoes and return to the pan. Reduce the heat to low and stir to dry out for about 2 minutes. Transfer to a food mill fitted with the finest blade or to a ricer and puree. (Or just mash them with a handheld potato masher.) Stir in 1/2 cup of the milk, the butter, and salt and pepper to taste. Thin with additional milk if you like a lighter texture. (I like my mashed potatoes pretty soft.) Serve right away.

If you want to make the potatoes a day ahead, follow the instructions up to the point that you puree the potatoes. Then transfer them to a glass bowl, cover them with plastic and park them in the fridge overnight. On Thanksgiving day, soften the butter, heat the milk, nuke the potatoes and whisk in the other two ingredients along with salt and pepper to taste.

Easy Fresh Cranberry Sauce
Makes about 2 ½ cups


½ cup water
½ cup fresh orange, tangerine, or clementine juice
¾ to 1 cup sugar or to taste
12-ounce bag fresh or frozen cranberries (3 cups)
1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest

Bring water orange juice and sugar to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add cranberries and simmer, stirring occasionally, until berries just pop, 12 to 15 minutes. stir in zest, then cool to room temperature and chill.

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23 Responses to Thanksgiving Recipes 101

  1. connie trier says:

    This turkey gravy was the best I’ve ever made in the last 50 years. Thanks!

  2. Angela Morales says:

    Thanks so much for these simple recipes! What a relief to have all this in one spot, simple, easy to follow but not lacking flavor–you are the Thanksgiving Day Whisperer! 🙂

  3. Susan says:

    We turned into you on TV today in Fresno California. So easy to follow and you made it feel like a Turkey dinner we would not be afraid of attempting! thank You for your natural presentation. Date= Nov. 18, 2017; time 4:00pm pasic time. Suesan and Phillip

  4. Cindy RISLEY says:

    If you do the make ahead mashed potatoes, do the potatoes turn brown? Do they really taste like they were just made? Thanks

  5. Shelby Redondo says:

    Your Thanksgiving tips are terrific! You reduced the prep time, cooking time, and cleanup time generally reserved for a whole day in the kitchen on Thanksgiving Day! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Can’t wait to see how the gravy turns out!

  6. Robin Devine says:

    Can I make the stuffing ahead and freeze?

    • moulton says:

      I think you can because all of the ingredients are cooked but you must let it come to room temperature before you put it in the turkey.

  7. Nancy Barrett says:

    Thank you for these easy recipes and simple layout above. So easy to print and follow. Saw the gravy on your show last weekend and cannot wait to try this! Thank you very much. Happy Thanksgiving.

  8. Larry Marsh says:

    Thank you so much for the time savers with the potatoes and the gravy…Gives us more time with the family!

  9. Sue Hunnicutt says:

    Sara I’ve watched your show for years and you are the best. You saved my day this past Thanksgiving. The best turkey I’ve ever baked and by far the best gravy I’ve ever made in my life, and I am 80 years old.

  10. Mary Ann Standish says:

    Just saw your pbs show on thanksgiving 101 and I am using your stuffing recipe, you are the best! Thanks for all you do.

  11. Julie says:

    Hi Sara
    I’ve watched you for years and love your show. This year I decided to try the make ahead mashed potatoes since I do 15lbs. I riced my potatoes and heated the next day in the microwave and added softened butter and heated the milk but they never got creamy the had a grainy texture from being riced. What did I do wrong?
    Thank you

    • moulton says:

      I have never done that many potatoes at once so that might be part of the problem. I have 2 thoughts – did you cook them well before you riced them? also, something I have learned recently – add the butter first, then the milk.

  12. Anita says:

    Can you freeze the make ahead gravy base?

  13. Beck & Bulow says:

    Every single one looks so good, Sam – I want to try all of them! Amazing recipe collection! and please visit us: https://www.beckandbulow.com

  14. H. Woodrow Dennis says:

    This cranberry sauce is remarkable! So delicious. You almost just want to grab a spoon and sit down with a bowl of it. Would be fabulous over homemade vanilla ice cream.

    Thank you, Sara.

  15. H. Woodrow Dennis says:

    Sara, I have already left a comment on just how delicious is your recipe for cranberry sauce. Now, I’d like to direct your website team to an error in that recipe.

    What should be the last in the ingredient list, “1 teaspoon freshly grated orange rind,” instead appears as the very first phrase under “Directions.” In fact, the words “rind” and “Bring” run together as one word – “rindBring.”

    It’s a bit confusing, and I almost missed that orange zest was included as an ingredient.

    Miss your very wonderful live hour show when you were with the “Gameshows about Food -Network” formally known as FOOD Network.

  16. Beck & Bulow says:

    Looks awesome. I love thanksgiving recipes and I can see why you are so enamored with your mom’s recipe. I’d be all over hitting the fridge for leftovers of this.

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