Mark Bittman insists there's a way to make Thanksgiving a relaxing holiday, even for the person who has to do all the cooking. First, says Bittman, author of How to Cook Everything —the seminal cookbook whose 10th anniversary edition was just released—most people tend to overthink the meal: "If you're having 10 people over, you don't have to cook a dozen things. That would be like a runner who does a couple of miles a day and then tries to do a marathon. All you really need is a turkey, two or three sides, and a dessert, and you have a good, solid menu."
Another sanity-saving strategy: You can produce a perfect turkey in less time than most people realize—and you don't need to brine it the night before. Bittman's recipe is incredibly simple to pull off, and the bird comes out moist and luscious after roasting for just about two and a half hours. Follow his steps for making a quick, ultrasilky gravy and an irresistible bacon-nut stuffing , and you have a masterful main course. For anyone who cringes at the time or mess involved in cooking a turkey, Bittman has a recipe for an even speedier alternative: a 45-minute turkey , flattened so it roasts ultrafast. It may not look like the usual Thanksgiving bird when you put it on the dinner table (serve it only to nontradition-bound guests), but it comes out juicy and with a crisp skin.
The side dishes on our Thanksgiving menu can be made in a flash too (and they're so good, you'll serve them all year). Star chef Ina Garten—a.k.a. the Barefoot Contessa—shares a brilliant alternative to the usual candied yams: maple-roasted, pancetta-studded butternut squash , from her new Back to Basics cookbook. (Garten saves time by prepping the dish the night before, and sometimes by pre-roasting it until it's half-done, then finishing it in the oven right before serving.) From the recently published Giada's Kitchen comes one of celebrity chef Giada de Laurentiis' favorite Thanksgiving dishes: spicy, Parmesan-spiked green beans with kale . Pioneering San Francisco chef and cookbook author Joyce Goldstein takes care of the salad: A zingy mélange of endive, radicchio, and orange with mint vinaigrette , from her latest volume, Mediterranean Fresh. And for dessert, pumpkin mousse with crunchy gingersnaps —a thrilling departure from the usual pumpkin pie—comes from Chanterelle, the new cookbook by David Waltuck, chef and co-founder of the iconic New York City restaurant. This dessert is a bit more elaborate than the other recipes on this menu, but you can start it a few days ahead and assemble it at the last minute.
If preparing Thanksgiving dinner gives you the shakes no matter how simple the menu, de Laurentiis has an aperitif that will calm your nerves: a cranberry-and-pomegranate-spiked Bellini . And what's the holiday meal without wine—especially if, thanks to Chicago-based wine guru Brian Duncan, choosing the right bottle is as easy as the rest of this menu.