The Thanksgiving Plan

So after a lot of back and forth, an official family zoom call, and a consultation with our Thanksgiving secretary, we have a plan. There will be no sit-down feast this year, but the 13 of us will still all be cooking for each other in our separate homes. Everyone is assigned a dish or two or three and is charged with making enough for the rest of the family. There will be a socially distanced dish swap at my sister’s centrally located house — then we will all go back home, warm up our dishes, and toast each other from afar.

The nieces and nephews are ready to revolt, I can tell. Thanksgiving is their favorite holiday because of all the rituals, the quality cousin time, and of course the food. It’s mine, too, because I get to spend the whole day in the kitchen with my mom. No one is happy with this turn of events, but what can we do? Next year, we keep telling ourselves. Next year we’ll do it right.

So for anyone interested, here is the Thanksgiving 2020 Menu:

Gin & Tonics
Shrimp Cocktail or Oysters if we can find good ones
Confit Turkey (My mom is also giving us the breast from the turkey she is roasting, but we are also making this)
Sausage and Apple Stuffing (a riff on Sam Sifton’s “Fresh Bread Dressing” in Thanksgiving)
Mashed Potatoes with Parm and Horseradish (from How to Celebrate Everything) or Mashed Potatoes Casserole (warning: paywall)
Honey-Glazed Brussels Sprouts
Cranberry-Orange Relish (from How to Celebrate Everything)
Black Bottom Chocolate Pecan Pie
Pumpkin Pie
Cranberry-Lime Pie
Chocolate Pudding Pie
Fresh whipped cream

You’ll note there are four pies this year, that is not a mistake. In keeping with tradition, we’re trying out a new one — Erin McDowell’s Black-Bottom Chocolate Pecan Pie. It’s from her pie magnum opus, The Book on Pie

…and it’s a revelation. You probably know Erin Jeanne McDowell even if you think you don’t. Her recipes are everywhere — from Food52 to the NY Times — and when I look at the “saved” tab in my instagram, half of the food photos tag her. This book is perfect for someone like me because it is a full-on drill-down on every aspect of baking a pie, but never manages to veer into the dense and wonky. Take Exhibit A up there with the crimping section. (I’m definitely going Chevron this week.) I love that so much.

Anyway, I’ll be back tomorrow with a few things, but would love to hear what everyone’s plan is for this very oddball Thanksgiving.

Stay safe, wear a mask

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Filed under: Thanksgiving

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

What is 7 + 13 ?
Please leave these two fields as-is:
IMPORTANT! To be able to proceed, you need to solve the following simple math (so we know that you are a human) :-)



Your plan sounds lovely. I enjoy imagining being close enough to the rest of my family to share like that.

We’re staying home. Even our oldest child, who’s working at his first post-college job one state away, isn’t coming home for Thanksgiving. It’s traditionally been my favorite holiday, because what’s more fun than cooking, talking, and giggling in the kitchen with my extended family? Nothing, that’s what. But we’ve decided to acknowledge this year’s weirdness by making a radical break with tradition. We’re getting take-out East Indian food the night before and serving it Thanksgiving day. We’ll miss our family, but have our health, and for that, we’re all genuinely grateful.

Wendy R

We’ve had some angst about what to do, but I think we’ve settled on dinner at home and some outdoor, distanced pie with the extended family. I’m sorry to miss the traditional togetherness, but I’m excited about making the whole meal myself for the first time.


I’m in denial that it will just be the three of us, and one of us would rather get back to his Minecrafting. I’ll be roasting a 12-pound turkey, to go with challah dressing (challah baked saturday), mashed potatoes, roasted brussels sprouts, and cranberry sauce. The day will start off with socially distant drinks in the park (if the rain holds off) with 4 friends, but then I’ll go back home and cook it all up myself (husband is baking a Ritz cracker pie that i am only just now hearing about, after almost 20 years of marriage!). Oh, and a pre-prandial Boulevardier. cheers?


I have 2 college kids coming home plus 1 HS kid and my husband and I already here. We will be feasting just the 5 of us this year with some phone calls to extended family. I’ve never cooked the whole meal before. My plan: roast turkey (ina garten), mashed potatoes (pioneer woman), stuffing on the side, garlic/lemon green beans, cranberry orange sauce, rhodes frozen rolls fresh baked, mini pumpkin, cranberry cheesecake and chocolate chess pies for dessert.


We are staying at home. My in-laws made the decision, and we whole-heartedly agree. Everyone is cooking what they want, and we will have plenty of video calls with the gang over the course of the day. The kids will probably occupy a lot of time, playing video games via video call. We’ll be making ham, mashed potatoes, stuffing and a kale salad with a lemon vinaigrette, toasted almonds and cranberries.

Amanda H.

We normally only get together with my parents and did that this past weekend, since my daughter’s school had been virtual for the past three weeks, returning to in-person today. My husband and I both work from home, so just stayed put for two weeks leading to the weekend. We opted to make ham and scalloped potatoes though, since both my parents and us want to do a full Thanksgiving spread on the actual day. We’ll just each do it in our own respective houses (3 hours apart, so not close enough to do a dish exchange, but close enough to have driven up and not stopped anywhere over the weekend!). I helped my Mom decorate her house for the holidays while we were there, and am looking to turning my own house into a Christmas extravaganza the moment the dishes are clean on Thanksgiving afternoon!


I’m DELIGHTED that I convinced my immediate family – husband, 2 girls ages almost 9 and 14 – to do tacos and pie. If it’s not going to be like a normal year, why not make food that we REALLY love??

Our menu: grilled chicken tacos, grilled skirt steak fajitas, charred tomatillo salsa, chips, and guacamole. Dessert: chocolate pecan pie, apple galette, and brown butter speckled sugar cream pie from MWM


I am trying something new this year because I can! With just our 4 person nuclear family to please it seems a good year for experimentation. I am sous vide-ing my turkey (well really half a turkey and putting the rest in the freezer for December). I found a recipe for this on Chef Steps and it has the added bonus of being ready whenever you need it as it comes out of the sous vide and into a pan for just a few minutes and then on the table. Because you de-bone it, you can also use the bones to make stock for gravy. I think it is going to be really yummy…..


Seems like a year to try something new so my husband is smoking the turkey. I’m trying to decide if I look unsupportive if I keep a pork tenderloin in fridge as a backup. I’m a big fan of multiple desserts and your pie choices look wonderful.


We smoked a turkey last year & will do it again. It’s so good! And, it frees up soooo much space in the oven. Happy Thanksgiving to you 🙂


Love this and appreciate your compromise. So hard but sounds right! We called off the 10 hour drive to see my parents in person for the first time since last Christmas. I’m sure we all could have been safe (outdoors in southern CA) but it seemed prudent to follow recommendations at this point. So three of us will make a big roast chicken, our favorite elaborate holiday salad (endive, arugula, Pt Reyes blue cheese, champagne vinegar dressing and pomegranate seeds), mashed potatoes, and deliberating between the traditional stuffing and a savory bread pudding. And three pies because the fourteen year old loves to make pies! Hopefully some wassail pre dinner, socially distanced with neighbors, and maybe we can pass on some pie to others….?


Staying home and not hosting the usual huge feast. We live in SoCal and can therefore eat outdoors even in late November, so we have invited my almost-80 widowed father-in-law to join us and sit at the other end of the back porch 10 feet away— he’s thinking about it. The kids will not be allowed anywhere near Grandpa if he joins us. Or we might just bring him a nice meal and drop it off at his house before we eat. My husband’s siblings and mine are doing their own thing this year. Quiet and careful, basically— this is one hell of a virus.


On Wednesday I’m meeting my Mom and sisters to swap all of our traditional foods for our Thanksgiving meal.
On Thanksgiving day/Friday we rented a camping cabin about 45 minutes from our home for just the 4 of us. It will be a logistical feat as we need to bring everything from kitchen ware to linens (and no oven!). We will hike, have our traditional meal, have a fire pit and hopefully make this most unusual Thanksgiving memorable. Highly recommend this year’s Beaujolais Nouveau for your Thanksgiving table.
PS We will also find a way to watch “Elf”…a Thanksgiving tradition!


Pumpkin pie: Unbaked pie shell, or pre-baked? If unbaked, is the crust sufficiently “crusty” (not soggy)?