Belle English and Devon Francis know how to talk turkey. They’re cooking them basically all year-round getting ready for “our Super Bowl,” as Belle calls it. (Read: Thanksgiving.) Recently, they had a virtual class for readers showcasing two super-simple, one-bite appetizers (scroll on!) you can make without tearing your hair out on the big day. Here are some of the most popular questions they get, and their answers.
1. How on earth do I pull off an appetizer, too?
That one’s easy. As Belle says, “Make it ahead!” The warm dates shown here can be made up to eight hours ahead of the feast, and warmed just before serving. And make sure it’s not too heavy; cheeseboards are easy, yes, but they’re also quite filling.
2. How do I make sure everything is warm?
The answer to this one is simple: You don’t! As Belle says, “Don’t stress about everything being warm.” Stuffing is good room temp; Brussels and squash are good room temp.” Mashed potatoes, which are better hot, can be made on the stovetop.
3. Any general do-ahead tips?
Yes! Belle is a big “75 percent” enthusiast. Anything she can do ahead, she does. That includes Brussels sprouts, green bean casserole, and sweet potatoes with marshmallows. While the turkey is resting for 15 to 20 minutes prior to carving, she employs a restaurant trick of “flashing” everything in the still-hot oven. Nice.
4. Any great drink suggestions?
Devon, whose fabulous Brie and cranberry bites are shown above, is also our mocktail queen, and is responsible for a fantastic new chile-infused N/A hot toddy. She’s also a fan of a cocktail featuring winter citrus, which she and Belle agree cleanses the palate before tucking into the rich feast. Devon’s family has a grapefruit juice, gin, sparkling wine, rosemary and simple syrup drink they love. (We like the looks of this one!)
5. When is it OK to take shortcuts?
Belle is a big fan of “cutting corners the right way.” She loves our gravy starter, for one thing, and loves that she can get her gravy done the morning of the big meal rather than waiting for the bird to get out of the oven. She and Devon are both obsessed with our cranberry relish (which is why Devon put it in her one-bite appetizers!) And they agree that frozen puff pastry is the move on such a nutty cooking day. Grab Dufour, if you spy it.
6. How about pie?
Sorry, guys, but there’s a reason they say “as American as apple pie!” It’s lovely to have at least one homemade (or brought by a friend) pie, and our pros agree that most somehow improve after sitting for a day. “The flavor amps up,” as Devon says. You can also make our beloved basic pie dough now, and freeze it. (One test kitchen cook likes to freeze the dough in the pan in which she’ll cook it.) Belle shouted out Christopher Kimball’s no-shrink pie dough.
7. Any leftovers tips? I have a nutty amount.
Brace for it: Belle’s question for you is: “Can you waffle it?” She swears by her waffle maker for the day after Thanksgiving, and makes stuffing waffle turkey sandwiches with gravy, cranberry sauce and a little mayo. (We’ll give you a sec to collect yourself. We know we need one.)
Everybody asks about brining. Belle is a fan, and uses the dry-brine technique for her five-star Never-Dry Roast Turkey. Dry brining doesn’t make a big mess, but you do have to be sure to rinse the bird and dry the heck out of it all over for the crispy skin you covet.
9. Am I stuffing the bird or doing it on the side?
Neither cook stuffs her bird. The thing is, the stuffing has to get to 165 degrees. So you could add it to the mostly-cooked bird, or tent it to make sure it gets there, but the USDA is really clear on this point in order to avoid poultry-related food poisoning. You may have other things to think about on T Day, friend.
10. How do I make it all look perfect?
Don’t. It’s that easy. “When things are too perfect it loses a homey touch,” says Devon. “Imperfection is a great thing.” We couldn’t agree more. Happy Thanksgiving!