A Julia Child Thanksgiving
I don’t know about you, but I always start out with a grand design for Thanksgiving in my head. It includes: a whole golden roast turkey with crackling skin on a silver platter, cloud-like mashed potatoes in china bowl, braised greens with the faint scent of smoky hickory, deep red cranberry sauce, and shimmering gravy — it’s how I imagine Julia would do it.
Now for a taste of reality — only five of the 20 people invited actually like turkey, so I simultaneously roast a turkey and a rib roast. Then, there is the sweet or regular potatoes problem: Which potato? Both potatoes? Both potatoes.
By dinner time, it is a mad scramble to get all of the now 15 or so dishes on the table. So this year, I am doing it Julia’s way.
Julia Child, the six-foot-two tall legend, brought French cooking to America in a two volume cookbook. Mastering the Art of French Cooking became the textbook for how to cook classic French recipes at home. Once Child’s first television show, The French Chef, aired on national television in 1963, she became a household name.
Child became the go-to for tough cooking questions. According to a New York Times article, Sheryl Julian, the current food editor for The Boston Globe, who spent a Thanksgiving or two at Child’s home, witnessed just how much people relied on Child’s expertise. “Every time she hung up, it would ring again, and it would be another total stranger with a turkey problem,” said Julian in the New York Times article.
So here are the facts. We know Julia opted for that picture perfect whole roasted turkey with stuffing on the side. As is evident from her recipes, she put an emphasis on simple seasonings, like salt and pepper, but seasoning everything well — as is the French way — and she opted for delicious simplicity over complicated and fussy.
Here are a few recipes that depict how we imagine a Julia Child Thanksgiving menu would look today, with all the fixings, minus the fuss.
Roast Turkey with Pan Gravy
The secret to this exceptional bird is an old-fashioned, inexpensive, enameled metal oval roaster with a lid, found in most supermarkets. It simultaneously roasts and braises the turkey, so the meat stays moist even as it cooks quickly. Uncover the pan at the end to crisp the skin. — Gourmet
Classic Mashed Potatoes
There's no such thing as too many starchy dishes on the holiday buffet table, right? For many families, Thanksgiving dinner wouldn't be right without mashed potatoes. It seems there is always one family member relegated to the task of whipping them at the last minute — an honorable duty. And there is always someone else leaning over his shoulder making sure he adds a bit more butter. If you want to assign mashed potato duty to a family member, but would like to avoid the last-minute chaos in the kitchen, know that it works perfectly well to cook and mash potatoes up to one hour in advance. They can be kept warm in the top of a double-boiler set over simmering water, or reheated in a microwave oven just before serving. If you use a to-do-ahead plan, be sure to add an extra pat of butter, or two! —Diane Morgan
Fresh Cranberry Sauce
Cranberry sauce is the ultimate topping for any dish. It adds a great tart and sweet flavor. You can put it on your turkey, sandwich, mashed potatoes, and more! Making it with this recipe calls for simple steps and store-bought ingredients. — Chef Dana Klitzberg
Brioche stuffing is perfect for your holiday table or as a side at seasonal dinner party. This recipe uses gluten-free brioche, adding another level of richness to the dish. — Lena Kwak
This simple French inspired green bean recipe, adapted from Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, a frequently consulted guide on cooking and etiquette in England published in 1861, was a side dish served at dinner feasts during the Edwardian and Victorian periods. — Will Budiaman
Angela Carlos is the Cook Editor at The Daily Meal. Find her on Twitter and tweet @angelaccarlos.